Here´s another complicated post to write. On the last one I sounded “homoweird” and now here comes one in which I may sound racist. But here it goes anyway. It refers to Polynesians and Melanesians. And my statement is that Polynesians seem to be much more admirable people than Melanesians. As a warning I will say that my contact with both groups is the very limited experience of a bike riding tourist, still these are my observations from travelling around a week in Melanesia (New Caledonia) and over a week in Polynesia (Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora and Tikehau) and riding rented bikes: in short Polynesians appear to be a much more “advanced” culture than Melanesians. This is what I mean. In New Caledonia Melanesians make about half the population of the country, the rest being Europeans, mostly French, and some Asians, mostly Chinese. In Polynesia the blend of people in the islands seem to be about the same. About half of the people are Polynesians and the other half Europeans, including tourists, as there´s much more tourism in Polynesia than in Melanesia. But there the similarities end.
While in New Caledonia Melanesians don´t seem to make much part of the local economy, Polynesians are everywhere. In Noumea you get a hair cut from a European, buy your groceries from a European or Asian, rent your car from a European, overall I would say that 90% of the people I came into contact with were Europeans. Melanesians are rarely part of the formal economy. In Polynesia the opposite is true. The hotel in which we are staying belongs to a Polynesian family, the airlines have a mix of European and Polynesian crew, most employees everywhere are Polynesians, when you see people practicing sports or enjoying recreational activities most are Polynesians, while running in Noumean, New Caledonia we did not cross a single Melanesian jogger, Polynesians instead are remarkably fit good looking people who find time both to work and to enjoy themselves. When we asked New Caledonians of European descent as to why the Melanesians, being half of the population of the island, don´t seem to hold any jobs, we were told that Melanesians preferred to lead simple lives and work as little as possible. While I normally would call this statement racist, all I can say is that the difference between New Caledonia and French Polynesia is striking. In many respects New Caledonia was as good looking a place as French Polynesia. The difference lies in the Polynesians. They are an amazing group of people that make travellers want to come here. Something that the Melanesians seem to have no interest in accomplishing.
Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars