Yesterday as I was driving in Port Vila I was reminded of something that has become "unremarkable" to me, but which was a culture shock when we arrived in Vanuatu 5 years ago.
It was around the time shool gets out, and there were hundreds of children walking on the footpaths, some of them holding hands.
I am talking about teenage girls holding hands with another girl, or teenage boys holding hands with another boy.
Now, when I was growing up in the 50's and 60's it was not uncommon to see girls walking along holding hands because they were good friends. But in today's world (at least in Australia) it is just "not done" unless you want to send a certain message as to your sexuality.
Here, however, even women and women or men and men who are "besties" will walk along in public holding hands.
And nobody assumes they are lovers.
I find it rather attractive to live in a country where people are not in the habit of assuming things about others, and where such cultural norms still exist.
Interestingly, the official government Permanent Residency visa application contains this checkbox which must be ticked to show the applicant understands and agrees:
I understand that:
☑️ Vanuatu society values respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual, freedom of religion, commitment to the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, equality of men and women and a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need, and the pursuit of the public good
This is not mere "feel-good" rhetoric. In fact it's refreshing to find that by and large, this is actually how the country is.
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Lance (like it was in the good old days) in Vanuatu
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