Kiribati Culture

To experience our culture and lifestyle will be a memory you will have for the rest of your life. The culture of Kiribati is complex and diverse, with each island having its own unique ways. Though a living body, many people remain true to the century old traditions and practices that define what it means to be I-Kiribati.

Cultural practices such as community meetings under the maneaba (traditional meeting house) to socialize and feast (a botaki), respect of elderly people, guest hospitality and importance of family remain important facets in the culture of Kiribati.

We warmly welcome visitors in many of our customs and activities, and are proud of our way of life and its celebration. The way of living is very simple and people plan theirliving for a day only, without worrying about their future, living with the moto “Tomorrow is another day”. Survival revolves around strength, motivation and ambition to live within that particular day. Daily lives revolve around the rise and fall of the tide, dictating fishing conditions and timing and availability of transport. Sustainance is from the coconut and breadfruit trees, and the ocean.

The traditional dances of Kiribati are a unique form of art and expression. The movement of the feet, hands and of course the whole body imitates the movement of the frigate birds while walking and flying. The costumes are made out of local materials. The frigate bird symbolizes many important things in the traditional living context of the I-Kiribati. It provides navigation to fishermen while lost at sea, provides weather information for the people and also gives a sign of peace and harmony.

Visitors can experience I-Kiribati culture in many shapes and forms. However we do recommend the best way is to take the plunge and live on an outer island for a week and to immerse you fully in our daily culture. To plan such a visit we have included a number of suggested itineraries that can help you, as well as a number of fact files on many of Kiribati’s outer islands.

Kiribati Language

Kiribati has evolved as a result of sparse geography – a landscape of seclusion and beauty, which is no surprise given the country has the biggest water to land ratio in the world, with land masses of which 32 atolls and 1 ocean island scattered across the pacific equatorial region. Although part of a wider pacific island community, it offers a unique, complex and beautiful culture and language ; and much of this has been maintained because of this isolation. As a traveller, learning some local words and being observant of cultural norms and customs shows respect for the local community and can help preserve its beauty.

Language

English is widely spoken in Kiribati, and as a visitor you will have no problems communicating with the local people. Nevertheless, using some local words is certainly appreciated by the local community, and will put you in good stead for making new friends.
Note: in Kiribati language, “ti” is pronounced “ss”. For example, “Kiribati” has to be pronounced “Kiribas”.
Mauri Hello / Welcome – this is the word you will hear and use most while in Kiribati – an embedded sign of the friendliness and welcoming nature of the Kiribati people.
Eng Yes – also commonly used is “Ngaia”, which means “okay”
Iaki No
Ko rabwa Thankyou – Kiribati is a very polite and friendly society, and using “Ko rabwa” is always appreciated.
Taiaoka Please – very useful in Kiribati and great to create a polite impression of guests with the local community. Can also be combined with “ikai” (here) to ask the bus driver to stop for you ; or if you need to squeeze past someone in a crowd..
Ngkoe You (the person you are talking too)
Ngai I (yourself)
Tiabo Goodbye