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French Polynesia

Culture

The missionaries did all they could to wipe out traditional Polynesian culture by levelling temples, destroying carvings, and banning tattoos and that heady, erotic dancing that Bougainville told Europe about. The missionaries sought to make the Polynesians follow the teachings of the Good Book and their own autocratic commandments, but fortunately some of the traditional ways survived. Recently there's been a strong push to revive old ways and rediscover traditional arts. Traditional musical instruments include pahu and toere drums and the curious nose flute called a vivo. Guitars and ukuleles made their way into Polynesia and the locals developed a unique song style that owes much to country & western music in form but has a distinctive South Pacific island groove. Customary dancing (tamure) has slowly made its way back into French Polynesian life, but, sadly, the art of making tapa (bark paper and cloth), practised throughout the Pacific, has all but disappeared.

Things are pretty laid back in French Polynesia - dress standards are relaxed even in the classiest restaurants and beach wear is often just from the waist down. Church is deadly serious though and Sunday is the day of worship (fully clothed). The Polynesian concept of family is a much broader one than in the West - cousins, uncles, aunts etc are all part of the scene and are called fetii. The family might also have adopted children, faaamu, and children are commonly entrusted to relatives or childless women.

French Polynesia has a unique culinary tradition, with old South Pacific cooking methods combining with French gastronomy and Italian and Chinese influences. This manifests itself not just in the flashy restaurants but also in the cheap roadside mobile snack bars, les roulottes. Food is still cooked in traditional pit ovens that are common throughout the Pacific. A hole is dug in the ground, stones are placed within it and then a fire is lit to heat the stones. The food, wrapped in banana leaves, is placed on top, and then the hole is filled in again with earth. The baking process takes several hours. In French Polynesia this kind of oven is called an ahimaa and the feast is called a tamaaraa.

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We have included French Polynesia in some of our specials to the South Pacific, eg. our Kontiki Voyage and South Sea Dream Voyage. Another option is to create your own package to French Polynesia by utilizing the seperate travel components, like hotels, flights and excursions on the islands.

For a legal wedding the legal requires in French Polynesia that you remain at least 30 days in French Polynesia before the marriage. In practice this means you may only have a ceremonial wedding in French Polynesia (see also Tiki Village).


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