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They said we should blog about it…

As we get ready to move to the other side of the globe, friends kept saying “you should blog about it”.  So here it is….

The story in brief: After a layoff in 2010, I had difficulty finding permanent, fulltime work. In an effort to stay in the good graces of my unemployment $$$, I applied for everything (almost literally!) in my field. Including international jobs, because, hey, after a year or two finding nothing locally, you start to fantasize about ditching it all and going elsewhere to start over. You never expect to actually get an interview, and once you do, you never expect to get an actual OFFER.

And then I was offered a 3 year contract job in my field at a university in Suva, Fiji. My husband already works from home, and we figured if we could re-patriate our 3 cats, sell our house, sell our cars, downsize, and walk away from 10 years in the northwest to move to a country we visited 3 years ago on our honeymoon where we know no one….we could do this.

And so we are.

Herein are our wacky expat adventures.

 

34 Comments
  1. Tina Perera permalink

    Our family, me, husband and our adult daughter will be moving to Suwa, Fiji on a 2-year contract. Our worry is to find a suitable fully furnished apartment, in an apartment block (We were advised that living in a separate house is not suitable). Can you advise me on this and recommend a apartment block or a real estate agent ?

    • Hypatia permalink

      Hi Tina,
      You will probably not have a difficult time finding something suitable. I recommend not committing to anything until you arrive because you’ll want to see what the neighborhood is like.

      There’s a facebook group called “Suva expats” that frequently has listings for furnished rental properties (with photos).Most apartments that have multiple units don’t have names or webpages like they might in the US. The only apartment building I know of that has a webpage is this one: http://suvapointapartments.com/index.html which is a little pricer than other options and the location is not really near any stores/amenities, but it has a security guard/gate, which is a desirable feature.

      A lot of people seem to find places through other expats that are leaving or know of a vacancy in their buildings.People at whatever job your coming here for may also be able to help.

  2. Tina Perera permalink

    I really appreciate your response and yes, this information is quite useful. Suva apartments is the kind we are looking for and In case you know of any other, please let me know.

  3. Your writing is beautifully done, loved the note on the new Damodar (?) Centre. Will I be able to secure services of a cook if living > 1 year in Suva as expat? Thank you.

    • Hypatia permalink

      Thanks for the kind words. Cooks that only cook are not so common, but “housegirls” (even grandmothers are sometimes called “housegirls” despite being way older than teenagers) who clean and cook are generally easy to find. If having a housegirl spend more time cooking than cleaning is what you need,ask around for a “housegirl who cooks well” and you should find someone. The Suva Expats facebook group is great for this, as people who are leaving Suva often want to find their housegirls new positions and can give her a good reference. Or you can post a “housegirl wanted” message there and get recommendations.

      Also,if you have dietary preferences (vegetarian, no deep-fried food, prefer Western meals, cooking for a family with children, etc) I’d state that upfront. Some of these women are awesome cooks but will have a fairly standard Fijian or Indo-Fijian menu.So if you like dahl soup and lamb curry or dalo and fish in coconut cream, you’ll be fine; if you want lasagna, bean burritos or seafood gumbo, it will be harder (but not impossible) to find a cook that will be up to the task. The key (like so much in Fiji) is managing your expectations. 🙂

  4. Hi, Hypatia. Your mom is over here at the bishopric and just informed about your blog. I’ll be rummaging through it to enjoy your experiences from my easy chair.

  5. rhose hughes permalink

    Hi, I just found your blog as we (Americans currently living in China) have a choice to move to Nadi. What ever happened with taking your dog? Did you leave it at home or end up taking it? We have our dog here with us and are scouring the internet to find out the best thing to do. Any advice would be great! Thanks

  6. Hi
    Congratulations on the excellent blog, you’ve included a wealth of useful information. I’m moving out to Fiji in a few weeks to live and work for a couple of years and had a question I was hoping you’d know the answer to. I’ve heard that taking money out of the country can be tricky. Is this something you’ve found whilst you’ve been there? I’m going to be paying a mortgage back home with my Fiji salary and I’m concerned this might be a problem. I was planning to regularly transfer money electronically, not actually take cash out of the country. I can’t seem to find any guidance on this matter anywhere!
    Thanks in advance for any info you might have.
    Cheers

    • Hypatia permalink

      I have not done this and thus have no advice on this. You can take up to $10,000 in cash out of the country on your person while flying with no tax/penalty. No idea what the bank rules are for electronic transfers. the two largest banks in Fiji are WestPac and ANZ, both of which are based in Australia. I would email their customer service departments and ask what the rules are and what you need to set up; your current bank might be able to help as well. good luck!

  7. Hi Scottish Sponger (!) you can set up an “external account” with the major banks (ANZ, Westpac for starters) and this account permits the inwards payment of your salary which may be in a currency of your choice but essentially prevents any inwards payments from any other source apart from $200 FJD monthly. From this account you may transfer money out of Fiji without restriction. Of course the inwards payments into the account may be in FJD. To establish the account all the normal and strictly observed requirements exist. You will need your passport, an original copy of the letter granting you a work permit or the work permit as entered into your passport. A letter confirming your employment details, a letter confirming your residential address in Fiji, a digital photo to be taken at the bank, $10 FJD to deposit into the Bank Account. The Bank will also provide you with many forms to complete whilst undergoing the application process. If you are being employed by a Corporate they will have a relationship manager who will help,you, but no matter how grand a person you are attendance at the Bank is essential as the digital image is captured there on line. Once completed you receive very professional documentation, a card which can be used at ATM’s which are numerous but if using an o/s card will charge up to $10 FJD per use. Charges using your new Fiji account are modest. As with everything here, just go with the flow, there are very good reasons for the procedures one must go through in Fiji, these wonderful good natured and open people have learned by bitter experience that many visitors seek only to exploit and demean them. You will love this country. Good luck.

  8. Scottishsponger permalink

    Thanks for the replies Hypatia and namastesepitara. I just wanted to check what exactly you meant by an external bank account namastesepitara? Is this a particular type of account I have to apply for in Fiji? Or do you mean an Australian account set up before I leave?
    Thanks

  9. Thanks for the replies Hypatia and namastesepitara. I was wondering if you could clarify further what you mean by an “external account”. Does this have to be set-up in Fiji like you described, or can it be established in Australia before I leave? With the banks, Westpac and ANZ, is there one in particular that you’d recommend? Also, should I set up an account in Australia with one of these banks to transfer the money back here, or will I be able to transfer to any bank over here?
    Thanks for your help!

  10. External Account is the name applied here, can only be opened here in Fiji and permits transfer of money out of Fiji to any bank account overseas. I used ANZ and they were very good, can’t speak for the others.

  11. Just wanted to know how long it takes for these universities to offer a job there in FIJI???\
    I applied in FNU in Feb 2014, they took interview in sep 2014, now just few days back they asked for some documents, Their website shows job status as RECOMMENDATION.

    I have no idea what’s going on.

    Do you know how long does it take usually?????

    • Hypatia permalink

      Hi PP,
      that’s not too weird. I applied for m job in October, interviewed in February and heard nothing until I suddenly got an offer in May. So if they’re asking for documents the months after the interview, that’s probably a good sign.

      • Thanks a lot for ur prompt reply. I will wait for their response.

        Regards

  12. Tully permalink

    Hi there! My partner and I are in a similar situation, but still waiting on our visas. I’m wondering how long it took you to get your work visa approved. Please forgive me if I’ve missed this info somewhere on your blog 🙂

  13. Tully permalink

    Thanks so much for the response! We’ve been waiting about 16 weeks now and are getting a little anxious to move. Really appreciate this info, along with your blog entry about bringing pets!

  14. Mine took 8 weeks but it required a lot of clearances from regulatory authorities. Depending upon your circumstances you could use PwC to assist the process. It’s a well known path to them but, in my case at least, a time consuming and frustrating one until I gave in and used them. The partner there is Jenny Seeto, jenny.seeto@fj.pwc.com She is lovely and helpful and would give you an idea both of cost and duration of the process. Peter.

  15. Amanda permalink

    Hi, I’m applying for a grant to Suva, Fiji and I needed some info for a budget. I was wondering roughly how much it cost to rent a 1 bedroom or furnished studio apartment in Suva?

  16. Amit permalink

    Hey Hypatia, i found this blog really useful. I am planning to move to Apia in Samoa (not Fiji), and was wondering if you know of some place or someone to get detailed information about living and working in Samoa. Thanks

  17. Amit permalink

    Thanks Hypatia. I will explore these links.

  18. Tess permalink

    Hi there! I have a random question for you since internet searches have failed me. We just moved to Fiji and are looking to buy a kayak, but can’t seem to find any for sale anywhere. Any recommendations on where to look?

    • Hypatia permalink

      try asking on the facebook groups “suva living” or “suva expats market”. there’s also buyinfiji.com. one of the sporting goods stores in MHCC or downtown might be able to point you in the right direction; I’d also ask Bob’s Hook line and sinker (across from MHCC) since they sell snorkel/scuba and fishing gear, they may also sell kayaks or know who does. good luck!

    • Tess I use a Hobie Kayak in Denarau. There is a shop in Lami and one in Denarau that sell them. Denarau has a used twin Hobie for sale, google hobie dealer fiji. Also suva yacht club may help.

      • Fiji Kayaks
        Tradewinds Marine Ltd
        Address: 4 Vetaia Street Lami
        Phone: + 6793361522
        Mobile: +6799997718
        Fax: +6793361035

  19. Alia permalink

    Thanks so much for this blog! It’s loaded with info, thank you! Sadly for you, it’s so informative that I can’t help but think of you as a human Suva-Google, hence my query: Hi there, I’ve just moved to Suva from NZ. I’ll be living here for the year (as a volunteer = modest stipend) My kids and partner will be here over the next month and I am looking for an apartment and good local primary school (we’re not doing the international school). Any suggestions/recommendations of schools and especially nice neighborhoods would be tremendously appreciated! Thanks so much!

    • Hypatia permalink

      I have no school advice, sorry. I suggest you join the “suva living” facebook group and the suva parents FB group and ask there. expat friendly neighborhoods are Flagstaff, “knollywood”, Domain, Samabula, namadi heights and tamavua but it all depends on what’s for rent when you are looking. FB is especially helpful here. good luck!

  20. Hypatia – Hello from the frigid PNW! 🙂 I’d like to visit friends in Suva this March, but have an important obligation to stay in touch 20-30 hours a week, remote. I’m searching for any info I can on the internet, speed and reliability. I have lived in Roatan, Honduras for 3 years, so I know nothing is 100% reliable. But aside from that, what information could you provide?

    I’ve even found a website that will test the local speed for you; Speedtest.net

    • Hypatia permalink

      internet in Suva hotels tends to be reliable. there are also a fair amount of gaming cafes if you require access and for some reason wifi is sketchy. so you should be fine.

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