What's it going to be like working in Vanuatu?
October 29, 2007 10:50 AM   Subscribe

About to start travelling to Port Vila, Vanuatu on business. What do I need to know?

I'm about to start heading to Vanuatu for short stints with work, and wondered if any MeFites could help with the basics. What does one wear to business meetings (i.e. is it still formal, despite climate)? What's the real deal on health/vaccinations (I've read some websites and am getting a conflicting view)? Tipping? Any other major things I should know about as a woman travelling alone?
posted by szechuan to Travel & Transportation around Vanuatu (6 answers total)
You might check out the Peace Corps Welcome Book for Vanuatu. It has sections on health information, professional dress, etc.

The Peace Corps Journals website also has a section devoted to volunteers in Vanuatu. You may be able to pick up some tips perusing their blogs/journals.
posted by cog_nate at 12:02 PM on October 29, 2007

Directly out of the welcome book:

A foreigner who wears ragged, unmended clothing is likely to be considered an affront. Most Ni Vanuatu are conservative in their dress. Since each job has different clothing requirements, you should consider your particular job when deciding what to bring. Volunteers who are assigned to classrooms, offices, or health posts have a greater need for professional clothing than do those who spend most of their time in the field. However, all Volunteers need an assortment of clothing for work and relaxation. Although T-shirts are suitable for days off and swimsuits are fine for the beach, you should have at least one or two nice outfits for special occasions, even if your work site is in a rural area.

Although attitudes about women’s dress are more liberal in Port Vila and Luganville and some Ni Vanuatu women in villages go without tops, female Volunteers must dress modestly. Wearing large blouses with skirts is a local fashion, so it is worth bringing such blouses with you. If a dress or blouse is transparent, a camisole or slip is necessary. It is never appropriate for women to show bare thighs (except at tourist pools and tourist beaches), and short-shorts for women are considered improper. When swimming in nonresort areas, women should wrap a lava-lava (a sarong-like wrap) around their waist. Many female Volunteers find that it is most acceptable in rural areas to wear a “Mother Hubbard”—a dress that is sold locally and may be given to you by your pre-service training Ni-Vanuatu host family.

Lightweight but durable cotton or cotton-blend clothes are the most comfortable in Vanuatu’s hot and humid climate. Local methods of washing clothes can be very hard on them. Note that leather is subject to mold and mildew and elastic tends to lose its elasticity. Since you may not have electricity for an iron, you may have to get used to wearing more wrinkled clothes than you usually do.

In the hot, direct tropical sun, protective hats are a must. You should also bring raingear (a rain hat is especially desirable if you wear glasses) and a windbreaker for cooler weather. You will need some warm clothes, such as sweatshirts and sweaters, for the cooler months, particularly at night.

For most of the year, sandals without socks are the normal footwear for men and women (sandals like Tevas not only are very comfortable and durable, but are a Peace Corps tradition). Many Volunteers also like to wear regular shoes and socks in the cooler months. You will be doing a lot of walking, so think comfort and durability when you buy shoes (i.e., light hiking shoes or sneakers). Local people work and play in flip-flops.

All types of clothing are available in Port Vila and Luganville, but they can be expensive. However, many Volunteers find bargains at the used-clothing stores in Port Vila and Luganville. It is helpful to learn your sizes in the European metric system.
posted by cog_nate at 12:05 PM on October 29, 2007

Read this book.
posted by Wet Spot at 12:13 PM on October 29, 2007

Some reading you might find interesting: A (male) friend of mine has been there for the last few years building Internet infrastructure, and another (female) friend has been there for the last week or two visiting him and has been writing quite a bit about what she's seen.
posted by mendel at 9:49 PM on October 29, 2007

I never heard of this island nation until last weekend when I read this blog post about it, featuring photos of a "middle class family" there, taken by (I think) the person mendel mentioned.
posted by mathowie at 10:01 PM on October 29, 2007

Oop, the second link of mine there is probably better expressed like so.

(And yeah, mathowie, that radar post is from/about Kirrily aka Skud, the second person I linked.)
posted by mendel at 10:32 PM on October 29, 2007

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