Hey there, I’m Sharon and I’m Umi and welcome to the Round Table. This is a space dedicated to young women of the Pacific who are trying to figure out life just like we are and we are going to ask questions that you’ve always wanted to ask to a new guest every episode and leave the vail for unspoken topic. We talk about everything from personal image to personal relationship and everything in between. Come and join us. Ale yumi storian.

This project is made possible with the support of the We Rise Coalition and PACMAS. So, this episode we will be exploring relationships and how sudden relationships can happen in  Vanuatu while skipping the process of actually getting to know the other person. So, we have chosen this topic because it is so interesting how two people can make a connection usually in a short period of time and not really getting to know each other but also choosing to be in a relationship. The process and steps are so fake and the dating part is basically skipped because it seems we form the relationship first and then we begin the dating part and getting to know someone instead of being the other way around. Yes, we wanna discuss how relationships start out and what they actually like here in Vanuatu. Yeah, for example how do guys approach women or girls when they are interested in them. We skip a lot of steps when it comes to dating and relationships. Yeah, like the teenagers they skip the talking and hanging out stages and get right into being an official couple. They don’t care to get to know each other a little bit more before committing into a relationship. Yeah, and this can result in realizing little things that would normally be like a deal breaker. They hadn’t got to know each other first. So, the purpose of this conversation is just to explore and discover the nature of dating and the relationship culture here  in Vanuatu. We are not saying that it’s wrong as we know that this is normal here in Vanuatu. It is just the matter of exploring how or why we do things the way we do when it comes to relationships. So given the insight on this we have our guest Elsy Molu on the Round Table. Elsy is from Erromango and is currently working at an NGO. She will be studying for a bachelor of law at USP. We have chosen Elsy for this because she is  a modern young woman and she has witnessed and experienced how relationships are being carried out in Vanuatu. Elsy welcome and thank you so much for joining us. 

So Elsy, why do you think we have a unique way of dating and getting into relationships here in Vanuatu? Just based on what we have just spoken about, can you share your experiences and if not yours what you witness similar to what we are trying to talk about. 

I think, well if I was to share my personal experience like everyone has their own experience, their own perspective of everything uhm especially getting into a relationship, getting to know each other. Uhm but I think growing up it was you know you try to hide your romantic relationship because I was thinking about this today. Uhm it’s like you don’t wanna be judged. You know why? Because from my personal perspective and home its education comes first and you not allow a boy to come around and distract you from that. And so, when I was seeing someone, I would hide it and I wouldn’t tell my mum and dad. But I would tell you about my little cycle of friends but you said it was oh he was my boyfriend and then after that I would get to know them. But I think it’s also because of the feeling of you being judged by your parents from your you know adults you know it’s also we don’t have the dating culture here in Vanuatu. You don’t like oh I’m just on a date I’m getting to know this person. I think I like them because we don’t have a dating culture. So people, young people think oh let me just get into this relationship with this guy or this girl and we’ll figure things out and will figure things out from there. 

That’s usually how it starts eh. And Elsy do you think it is because we have not really seen examples of dating growing up so we really just don’t know what dating is supposed to be like?

Yeah, and I was like. So, I was talking about this with my little sister as well. I was like our parents don’t really kinda talk about how they got to know you know mum dad and if they do it’s kinda a joke oh you know our eyes cross the room and we just fall in love and we sure that was the case. But they don’t kinda go through like this is what you should be expecting from your partner or this is what you should be expecting from someone you like or someone you wanna be with. So there’s no that kind of openness or like space uhm in homes for you know children to kind of not realize okay if I do or when I am ready to get into relationship this is what I should be expecting from this other person. 

And do you agree that people jump, especially as teenagers they jump into relationships. This relationship is so quick instead of enjoying the beauty of dating. Do you think that’s a thing or is that actually happening? 

I think from my personal perspective as well as peer pressure.  You know your friend has a boyfriend and a girlfriend and like oh let me try and relate and find someone as well. And so you like pressure like oh yeah I wanna you know within a group I wanna say oh well this is my issue at the moment kinda situation. So there’s peer pressure as well, especially in Teens.

And what was your experience like? How old were you when you were dating for the first time? Like we would like to know who approached who and how was it done?

Okay ah I think my very first serious relationship ah he approaches me, I kinda worry like ah I like this guy kinda likes you okay if he likes me, he can tell me. Cause I didn’t do anything I was like oh okay cool but then it was lets you know yumitu save fren, we can get into a relationship. I was like okay sure so we started dating. We were a couple and then after that we kinda knew each other and I’m no longer in that relationship. 

So, you would say it’s kind of similar to that kind of relationship that we are talking about right now or?

Yeah, it was like peer pressure oh my close friend is in a relationship, I’ll be in a relationship. It’s like everyone is kind and everyone is doing it. So I don’t wanna be single I wanna relate, I wanna know how it feels like. 

Um – Yeah that’s really interesting cos like from where I was in high school, it turns out for me like I’m seeing nothing really changed and even adults do it. Yeah it’s crazy, they’ll just cross the road and say hey sister save pasem namba blong yu? Few hours later you were talking on the phone or chatting and then another question pops up: yumi save fren? As soon as the girl says yes it’s official you guys are together, you don’t even know your last names but that’s okay you are together.

So I know you just mentioned that you’ve been in a relationship and you are no longer in that relationship anymore, uhm so have your relationship like throughout the years all being different in the way of dating or have they been similar?

So the relationship that I have been talking about was my very first relationship, currently in my second relationship uhm I think I’ve learned a lot from the previous and it’s been you know a learning process but yeah. 

Umi – You learn what you like and what you don’t like from the first one. So there’s this saying that goes time you frenem mi you sta frenem family blong mi mo ol fren blong mi tu. For those listening in who don’t understand in Bislama, this just means if you are in a relationship with me, you are in a relationship with my family and friends as well. It is apparent in our culture. 

What is your opinion on that and is that there or is it something we need to accept culturally?

 Uhm okay. Uhm yeah I’ve heard that saying and I think from  the very time when I was in my teens I never agreed with it because in the back of my mind I was like okay but I’m in a relationship with you I’m not in a relationship with your family. But I kind of understand what they meant and I think it’s trying to say that to know this is serious you have to take it seriously but then some people will take it to the extreme. Does that make sense?

Like could you elaborate a little more on?

Like I don’t know sometimes I feel like they say it in order to dismiss negative behavior for example in violent or being controlling and they are like but you’re already with me basically you know my family knows about you and everything so you just gonna stick around. 

Umi – That’s interesting that you said that cause I was actually, I was thinking about that a lot is a lot of guys would make their girlfriends in an early stage he will get her involved with his families and friends so that you know like the more she is with them it will be harder for them to leave. You know like but my family did know about you. Yeah I get it. 

So umh Elsy in your opinion, what do you think it’s the appropriate age to date and what do you think is a healthy way to date and cultivate a relationship?

Elsy – Uhm I don’t know what is an appropriate age. I think obviously when you come into your teens that’s when young people will start to know oh let me, I have a crush or thinking about dating you and kind of situation. I can’t say you know what the appropriate ages uhm but I think it’s important you know for young people if they do wanna start dating that they found someone that they trust if its a friends or their parents on of the parents that they trust that they talk about it with them and I know its like easier set and done. You know with our culture and everything here you can say that and then  but not to and just try to hide and be in a relationship. But I don’t think this is gonna help. I think I started dating when I was 15, 16 uhm but like that you know I was in the relationship with him for several months and then just kind of. I told my mum about it because she is the person I trust umh but as soon as the guy and I got into the relationship I was telling all my friends like I’m in a relationship. You know I can’t say what is the appropriate age to start dating. 

Umi / Sharon – I mean either way like they are still going to ask for their numbers and you know yumi save fren? And I feel like people take it so seriously sometime like you know how in Vanuatu its like most household did education first and boyfriends later I think because our parents when they are younger, they dated to marry and what they don’t understand is like we are teens we are just doing it for the heck of it. We are just exploring life.

So, speaking of that, do you think a Ni-Vanuatu culture, community and church contributes to the relationships that get serious too soon?

Yeah definitely I think with all the number of reasons that you said. Like with cultures you have some relationships where they’ve already introduced you to the family and now basically that’s it you got to stick to it, do everything because the family knows oli mekem custom finishes. And it’s like okay I can’t really leave right now can I? And then you’ve got the church aside from it as well to think about. Like you know especially if it’s a good church boy.

Umi -Especially when it’s a good church boy, you know even if you change your mind halfway through the relationship you were like oh you don’t like him anymore but you can’t because he’s a good church boy. Why do you wanna finish with him? Yeah they don’t allow you to change your mind. And I think it’s like in church if you aren’t even serious about it everyone will not be paying any attention to it but if you then you know you take it to the oldest and now it’s like you decide if you wanna be a part of this and all of that. 

Casual dating is fully not a thing here eh. I don’t think so. Do we have a standard? But it’s just like we are not there. So Elsy what are the three red flags that you can give? Like if you were first meeting a person what are three red flags that you think? Well three or more. 

That’s a hard one. I think everyone has their own uhm kind of list of their red flags to look out for. From experience and other friends’ experiences if they don’t communicate you know not on regular bases but you know coincidences. If they are not communicating with you that’s a big red flag. I also think not to try to get to know you. Like they don’t.

Umi – Actually, I feel that on so many levels. I feel like them, especially for the boys like they have absolutely no interest in getting to know you and your personality, they just want to. I don’t know like oh yeah, I think she is pretty I wanna make that one mine. That’s my girlfriend but I don’t care about her personality. And the worse part is some girls don’t really speak about it, they can’t really tell the guy like uhm like do you really bring it up?  Exactly. Like easy sets and done . 

Yeah, and communication and you know not trying to get to know you but this is gonna be kind of uhm offensive but I think if they don’t keep themselves clean that’s kind of uh for me that’s the red flag. 

Of course I think every girl listening right now, I would agree with you. 

It’s just like ah kind of. You know, keep yourself clean, neat and tidy. 

Any more Red Flags?

Elsy – Okay I’ll give another one. If they don’t wanna be kind of interactive for example If you are like oh come and meet my friends or hang out together. That kind of thing and he is like no I’m good. You know this is me giving you the opportunity to meet the people that are close in my life and if they are like no, I don’t really like to and then what are you doing here? Like come on this is me giving you the opportunity and you don’t take it. 

Umi – And I feel like they’ll get to know us more if they are around our peers, like our friends because they tell them like oh this is how Sharon is oh this is how Umi is and experience how we live our lives as well. See that also comes up back to the interest of getting to know someone like the person like had that person and just get to know you they would wanna meet your friends. What better way to get to know someone and hang out with their friends. 

Elsy – What about you Sharon, what are your Red Flags?

Sharon – Uhm One Red Flags for me is, okay you know how I’m gonna go for communication but to be specific uhm how he thinks you know if we are not thinking on the same level like I’m gonna be like how’s the weather up there? And he’s like yes thank you and I’m like nope definitely a Red Flag for me. 

Umi – Oh I might as well give some, for me some of my Red Flags will be do you guys hated when you just wanna hold his hands and they pull it away. Oh my gosh this is like. Another one for me you know you just have been talking for two weeks and then say goodnight on the phone one night and randomly I don’t he goes love you.  And then you sort of freeze out. For someone like me I just freeze out and don’t respond. Other girls I know they feel pressured to say even don’t they don’t want to. I seriously can’t go on and on, oh the ones that you usually start with and they start saying stuff like you’re never going to be anyone else, they think that it’s gonna make me special like, you know what I am saying. It kind of sounds violent like are you gonna beat me. I see a lot of guys doing it to some of my friends. You know when they are hanging out like crab their faces and going like you never gonna like live me. Like in a joking way but at the same time red flags. 

Okay so we just talk about a lot of these red flags right, but still these same boys are still getting girlfriends. Why do you think girls just settle for it? Do you think it’s a selfish thing? Do you think it’s a confidence thing? Do you think they are just settling for whoever is interested in them? 

Yeah I think it’s a selfish theme thing. It’s a confidence thing, it’s a kind of that you know peer pressure I think again of what if he’s all the red flags. Seeing them I don’t like them but I don’t wanna start again. You know and it’s like ah it’s such a process going through with him like I don’t wanna do this over again. Yewah as crazy seeing all these guys, you know all these annoying, sorry guys. Sorry but all these guys are like you know they mistreated previous girlfriends but still they getting. I think it just the all yeah wanting to be in a relationship and we’ve kind of being brought up to think that you know you are in a relationship to get married or you are in a relationship to start a family. That kind of situation. 

So from your answer, can you tell us what we can do to change this thinking?

Okay uhm you know it’s hard to say we gonna change it overnight. Kind of situation but it’s more like if you know or you have the experience just be able to share it like with your friends with your sisters just in general telling them that you should get to know a person first before jumping into the relationship. But I feel like more and more like our age group and younger people coming up we’re just more like aware of the you know like things changing, the realization of that we need to get to know each other before jumping into relationship so it’s more of sharing that and just stressing out the importance and providing you own kind of experiences that they can learn from it but then at the end of the day it’s up to them either they want to and it could be they completely okay with jumping in to the relationship and getting to know that person later on.

Umi – And I feel, I just feel this needed to be out there. I feel like so many girls are much more lineal with pretty voices, you know the better looking the boy is the more lineal the girl is. Like she is more likely to forgive him because the thought of him being with another girl is just yeah. I’ve seen it and I have done that like the cuter the boy the more lineal we are. 

I’ve heard some kind of situations where it wasn’t a pretty boy and he was a sweet talker and there’s this sweet talker. Like sometimes they can have the looks or you know they can have the words. Smooth talkers and they are the dangerous ones. 

Umi – And you know what the other side of it I think they know. 

Elsy – Of course they. How come they do not?

Umi – And they played to their advantage. 

Okay so Elsy what are the three positive traits to look out for in a person? Obviously you’re interested to date. 

 Yeah that’s clear, obvious ones. Positive traits yeah one would be your interest to them that you want to get to know them more. Spend time with them.

Umi – Okay would it help if I gave you an example like for me a positive trait and someone I would be interested in is that he’s nice, he has a nice attitude, nice personality, and nice to other people you know that’s a trait and a guy that I like.

Okay, one is obviously interested in them, spend time with them. I think one for me personally would be for them to be caring towards me and towards the importance of people in my life. One more is respectful, he has to respect us, neutral but then you know for him to show that respect to you. That would be a positive trait for me. 

Umi – I think this is something a lot of girls need to think about more. You know I feel like cause as  a teenager I sure did not think of these things. I did not care for it but I think girls nowadays need to think about it before you start getting into something. You actually need to sit down and think what kind of guy do I want, not what kind of guy can I get or what kind of guy do I want? 

Sharon – Okay so a positive trait for me would be uhm he knows how to treat a woman you know and not just me but like just any woman, a girl or a mother or a grandmother. 

Umi – What do you mean like opening doors and helping them carry heavy things, stuff like that? 

Yeah these little things, I like that. So yeah that’s one for me.

Umi – Is that a non-negotiable?

Sharon – Yeah that would be a non-negotiable for me.

Umi – Interesting, mine mostly lines up with Esly’s. One would also be you do not tell me what to do. You can suggest or ask but you will never demand that I do something or don’t do something. SO me that’s a non-negotiable. Like as soon as you do it we are done. 

Elsyn – So what kind of that look like. Like what they don’t tell you to do?

Umi – Oh like don’t hang out with this person oh don’t drink kava or don’t do that, that honestly. 

Eslyn – That Red Flags.

Umi – No, guys don’t understand it. They don’t understand with the smoking and kava that if you don’t want them to do there’s a way to say it and you have to present your case like you know cause of your health, cause of financial reasons for this and that. But most of them just go straight like they don’t do that or else. They demanded of you honestly the way you talk to me is key.

Sharon – So from this conversation, we talk about red Flags, positive traits, jumping straight to a relationship after the Yumitu fren question and what I really love about this discussion is how Elsy is talking about putting her relationship with her parents above her boyfriend. I found that to be really respectful and heartwarming. It put a smile on my face. Thank you Elsy for being here and being in the Round Table with us. 

Umi – And thanks for allowing us to learn with you and I’m pretty sure that the listeners are learning with us. 

Elsy – Thank you so much for having me. 

Umi – Also guys check us out on facebook, Instagram and Tiktok at Sista Vanuatu as well as on our website sista.com.vu also by following our website you can also listen to more of the Round Table Podcasts that are already on there, including the upcoming episodes. 

This is Sharon and this is Umi from the Round Table ale lukim yu.