Archive for the ‘Languages’ Category


February 3, 2009

Many languages have phrases with more than one meaning – such as “Bonjour,” “Ciao,” and even “Aloha.” They are usually greetings that can mean hello, good day, see you later, or goodbye, all depending on the situation. A couple of years ago, my friend Sarah and I had a 10-hour layover in Fiji on our way from LA to Australia (torture, I know!), and we were at first delighted to hear everyone and their mother excitedly shout “Bula!” (pronounced boo-la) to us. We quickly learned this was their common greeting, and started saying it back to everyone who said it to us.

Since we had decided to rent a room for the day and lounge by the pool of the Sheraton for a few hours until we headed back to the airport, we encountered a fair number of staff / locals during our short stay. We passed some maintenance crew on our way to our hotel room (Bula!), we got lunch poolside (Bula!), I passed a maid in the hallway (Bula!). You get the idea. We started to think Bula had a deeper meaning, or, that people were just mocking us (we’re skeptics from NYC). But no, people in Fiji just love to say BULA! And you would be surprised how happy it makes you to hear it (especially when on vacation).

I did some research on this phenomenon and found that the phrase Bula, which is actually short for “Ni sa bula vinaka,” also means happiness and health. So you’re not just getting a polite hello from someone in passing, you’re getting a genuine blessing for a good life. What good karma!

So if you ever find yourself in Fiji, you’ll be well prepared for understanding why everyone is happily shouting BULA!

If this was your home, you'd shout BULA! all the time too.

If this was your home, you'd shout BULA! all the time too.