The other side of the Ni Vanuatu postcard


As a tourist in a foreign country, very often, we are enchanted with what we discover.

Living abroad is different. It's a rich experience but there are also some difficulties to face.

When people ask me for advice on living abroad, I then tend to say that one should also look at both sides of the postcard.

As an expat in Vanuatu, how would you describe the two sides of your Ni Vanuatu postcard?

Thank you for sharing your experience,


Leaving ones family/friends, country can be a little overwhelming. We moved to Port Vila in 2009 to get away from Wellingtons incessant rain, and traffic that was getting worse by the day. We could have moved out of Wellington, but that's too safe. Life is for seizing the moment, being spontaneous, experiencing new cultures etc.
We love living in Port Vila, there are frustrations, at times one could drag their hair out. The slowness of everything, service is poor, and it amazes us just how laid back/apathetic most expats have become who are in business here. But maybe that's the whole idea, to get away from a frentetic society. One of the greatest disappointments for us is the incessant theft. If it wasn't for that, it would almost be nirvana.
I recently did a list of what we loved about Port Vila, something that was prompted by this expat  Blog website, we were asked 5 reasons  why we love our adopted home. I just could not leave it at 5, there's so much to love about our new life here. I got growled at by a lady within, which I thought was a tad petty, surely enthusiam helps new expats make informed choices.
Of course health is something alway's in the back of most expats mind, I for one would not choose to go to hospital in PV. The staff do a wonderful job, but it's very limited, so one should have expat medical insurance.
But the positives out weigh the negatives, to wake every morning to aqua waters lapping only 12 foot away, sunshine, no traffic lights, no parking meters, the list goes on, but I had better reign myself in, or risk another telling off :-) :-).

Mookelama's kid :

I for one would not choose to go to hospital in PV. The staff do a wonderful job, but it's very limited, so one should have expat medical insurance.

We lived in Vila (the official British name for it then; Port-Vila was the French version) in 1972-75. My wife had her appendix out at the hospital on Iririki - and survived! Below is a brief extract from - and a link to - an item I posted on my personal blog last September, reminiscing about the health arrangements way back then. I would guess things are a bit more sophisticated now...

The Paton Memorial Hospital (“PMH”) was a short boat ride across from where the populace lived, followed by a long and steep stairway up a rocky hill. A ferryman was on call 24/7, at least in theory. One had to phone him at his home, and wait at the dock while he got dressed (if he was in bed) and rode his bike down. His duties then were to help manhandle the patient on board and off at the other end, and help him or her up the exhausting stairs – to the hospital if still breathing or to the mortuary if not.  The hospital had an excellent survival ratio, but the path didn’t. … garet.html

We made the move from NZ and only managed to last under 1 year as business was tough there tourism was quite hard, most of the expats kept to themselves which was such a shame, but I was warned of that by my mum who lives in Fiji,(some expats are strange not as friendly as you might think) (except you Mariya if you see this lol, you have been wonderful and I enjoy our conversations)  but on the bright side we ended up adopting a baby and to have the experience of moving across the pacific was a great adventure. We are moving back but on different terms and at least we know what to expect this time round. Maybe things will be different umm will see I sure do hope the expats are friendlier :-)
And of course there is lots of other wonderful things about living on an island, the locals, beautiful water, the simple relaxing life, and much more.

I have thought a lot about Dyna's review, and have decided to reply. I see 4 different types of people who move to Vana's, and probably other places in the world.
(1) People who have been transferred there for work, they complete their contracts and leave. Hopefully, some of these stay.
(2) Tourists that have seen a gap in the market, so come back to try their luck, a lot of these fail.
(3) People with an agenda, who jump through the hoops, to gain something they want from Vanuatu.
(4) Wealthy retiree's or not so wealthy. This group have worked long and hard for 30 - 40 years, they have done all the corporate entertaining bull shit, or the business owners who has entertained for years to advance their  business.
Therefore, by the time they retire, the last thing they wish to do, is the hard work of entertaining.
I don't think the Vanuatu expats are unfriendly, speaking for myself we don't want to invest our valueable time in people who are there one day, gone the next.
So by the time you have been an expat for 5 years (that's the minimum, that shows committment) you will find you have a lot of lovely expat friends.
Best of luck.

Tell me Mookelama kid, I found it ironic that you where one of those expats a fellow kiwi who kept in touch via email while I was in NZ but the moment we moved there you didn't want any thing to do with us, so you tell me what group do you think we fell into that you mentioned?
We have made some lifelong friends there in vanautu mainly the ones that have lived there all there lives like I said for some reason most of the expats like keeping to themselves (apart from you Mariya lol)

I know this thread has taken a different direction to the one the OP intended but I would like to give my personal opinion in regards to the posts about the friendliness, or lack thereof, of the expat community here.
I have been here for 2 years. I have a small but lovely group of expat friends ranging from people that were born here to people that have been here for more than 25 years to people that have just arrived or are still in the planning stages to move here. 
At first it was hard going so I will agree with dayna and dave that many expats keep to themselves and I also couldn’t figure out why.   
I am happy to say though that this is not the case for all expats.  Within my circle of friends we have very different criteria for extending the hand of friendship.  If you are a good person, we will welcome you.  If you like to chat and have some interesting stories, we will welcome you.  If you enjoy going out for a meal, coffee, a drink, BBQ, swim, bike ride, drive….we will welcome you.  Kids?  No kids?  Retired?  Working?  Young?  Old?  Doesn’t matter, we will welcome you. We won’t care if you have been here for a minute or a decade. If you are looking for new friends to welcome you and help you settle into your new life then look us up 
(Please note: If you are a scammer or a ripoff artist or a racist or something equally nasty, we will drop you like a hot potato but that is normal all around the world ;))
If you need advice on running a business here, schools, jobs, accommodation, medical,,,we have experienced these things and will give it for free.
Moving your whole life to a new country, whatever your motivation for that move is hard enough without the isolation and loneliness that an arbitrary and inexplicable ‘probation period’ would create. 
As for meeting people that may only be in our lives for a short time, when I hear this I am always reminded of this poem.

Reason, Season, Lifetime

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON,
it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty;
to provide you with guidance and support;
to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON,
because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.

It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.
— Unknown

Awesome reply BellaM, and love that poem it's an all time favourite of mine, you truly are a wonderful person and anyone that does move to vila should look you up as you would be a kind helpful true friend to any newcomer or existing expat there.
I know Dave and I will welcome any friendships on the island (when we return) either newbies or existing expats and that's what island life should be all about

That certainly is a lovely poem Bella, very apt.

So lovely BellaM your words are so true and loved the poem...I am very fortunate that I met you on this site and a friendship blossomed :)
I have been here nearly 18months and have a hand full of friends which I would call "lifetime" friends...I have found it hard making friends as my children go to the local Vanuatu school where there aren't many expats there so I feel this is the only reason.
I have met others here to just say hello to and always find them friendly to me and if they weren't I would still smile anyway lol.... I have only found it hard because of my personal circumstances as I came from a small town In Australia and being a local girl with a large local family living there everyone knew me so I have never had to go out and make friends, this experience is all new to me ..... Like I said though the friends I have made are truly amazing people and everyone has a story which I always love to hear.
Living in Vanuatu has its challenges like anywhere, but I would say everyday is different here and that's why I love this country so much... I love the relaxed nature and our lives have changed for the better since leaving Australia, less stress and we have lots more family time which is a big plus!
I just want to say thanks to BellaM, I'm glad I found this site a while back, because I found a friend on here ( BellaM) that has always been there for me if I ever needed her..

I like that you gave us an idea of what to expect.  Thank you.


Bella M, it's great to have you as a friend and we appreciate the great support you've shown us in our decision to have a slow transition to Vanuatu, it's a shame that we're settling on the Island Of Espritu Santo - oh well you'll just have to come visit :)

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