I am very grateful I got to travel to the Maldives, exploring the Maldivian way of life, getting to know the local people and their culture.
The Maldives is one of the world’s poorest developing countries. Their local language is called Dhivehi, which is spoken in all parts of the country, but not spoken in any other part of the world. It is considered an Indo-European language related to Singhala, the language spoken in Sri Lanka. The alphabets and writing system are similar to Arabic. English is the second language and is widely used in commerce and in many government schools.
The population consists of a mix of people who trace their descent from Sri Lanka, India, Arab countries, and Africa. Because of religious and linguistic homogeneity, there is stability and unity.
A disproportionate share of government expenditures directly benefits Malé and ensures its residents a standard of living that is substantially higher than that in the atolls. Status is derived primarily from wealth rather than family, although family ties and connections are important in determining the availability of opportunities. One’s position with the government also confers status, while education is less important.
Fisheries and international tourism are the main industries. The economy has changed from a reliance on fisheries to a service-sector-based economy driven by international tourism. The main primary sector is fishing. The secondary sector consists of construction and manufacturing. In the tertiary sector, tourism, government administration, and transport are the dominant industries. Manufacturing output consists primarily of processed fish; apparel and clothing; cottage industries such as woven mats, coir rope, and handicrafts; and boat building industries.
You can read more about the history here.
Rice and fish are the staple foods. Fish is the most important source of protein in the average diet. Very few vegetables are eaten. Betel leaf with arecanut, cloves, and lime, known asfoh,is chewed after meals. Old people smokeguduguda,an elongated pipe that goes through a trough of water. Most food served in tourist resorts is imported.
Meat other than pork is eaten only on special occasions. Alcohol is not permitted except in tourist resorts.
The Maldives is threatened by global warming because of its very low elevation. They do have a litter problem from all this waste that is washed up on the beaches, their environment does suffer from the mass tourism and it is not a very wealthy country in general. But this does not mean the people are unhappy. On the contrary! I have learned so much from the locals – it is incredible!
For me as a European their land is simply magical. 50 shades of blue all over the ocean, beautiful lonely white beaches, the most beautiful sea creatures, coconuts, fruit, delicious fish and so much more. But it was the people that made it even more special to me. Getting to chat and mingle with locals and immigrants, diggin’ their way of life made me realize so many things.
We should all be a bit more humble and cherish the little things in life. For many countries it is not possible to have enough drinking water, they cannot drink tap water. Electricity, a secure health system, a safety net by the government, the luxury of sooo many incredible food choices and even more things to buy – we should not take these things for granted.
I for myself once again realized: happiness comes from within. If you feel good about yourself, have wonderful friends, an amazing family and are healthy – this is all you need. We don’t need to crave for fast food, need to buy the tenth dress this month, get the latest iPad or 4k television. God damn, it is all about the little things in life and we should appreciate these more. I for myself try to live a more humble lifestyle over the next few weeks, remembering this amazing experience I had in the Maldives.
My definition of luxury
You wanna know what my kind of luxury looks like? Having an amazing family and wonderful friends that are all healthy (well, at least not dangerously ill), a roof over my head, sufficient food and water and being able to explore the world, meeting different people and learning about their culture. The moment I felt the happiest in the Maldives was when I could simply sleep in, wake up looking at the sun and the ocean, listening to the waves crushing and just keep breathing. That’s all it took to put a smile on my face. And I wanna keep this feeling for as long as possible.
The most inspiring people I met
Sanjay from the Canopus Retreat in Thulusdoo. OMG – he was literally one of the kindest and most considerate person I have met. Very humble, cordial and so friendly and helpful. He told me so much about the local way of life, managed to let me experience the whole surfer lifestyle and really made me feel at home. So this is just a recommendation for travelers. Service is not about looking at how many stars a hotel or resort has. NOT AT ALL! Screw this system, since it’s basically just a big tourism scam, anyways. At the Canopus Retreat I experienced much better service than at some resort islands.
Rifaa from Kandima. Wow, you know this feeling when you meet someone and it just clicks? That’s how it was for me with Rifaa. She grew up in the Maldives and is such an amazing person. She is the Deputy Director of Sales & Marketing at Kandima and is one of the most inspiring, hard-working and passionate people I have met. You know, for a Maldivian woman it is not taken for granted that they will get huge jobs in the managing department or at the government. Not at all, they need to work really hard for it. Just one night with her and some glasses of wine got me so inspired that I immediately started working on my storyangles. Her heart sureley is in the right place.
Ammadey from Kandima (left in the picture above). He showed me his home island Hulhudheli, taught me so much about the local school system, their traditions, the best local food and hooked me up with people from his town. Thanks to him I could go on the spurs of the Maldivian version of Romeo & Juliet, creating my own “love story” in the Maldives. He and his family are so extremely friendly, very open-minded and also so humble and peaceful. If all people were like this, the world would be a much more peaceful and happy place.
Rashaadh Ibrahim and Ali Riza from Hulhudheli. They taught me so much about the local craftsmenship, culture and history and silversmith Rashaadh made me my best souvenir ever – a handmade ring for me, made of real silver. I will never forget it. Thank you!
So, if you ever plan a trip to the Maldives, consider wisely where you wanna go and think about it, if you just wanna stay at one of these resort islands or if you would also like to experience the Maldivian way of life. I would certainly always go for the latter. My recommendation: go for a combination – pick your favorite resort island and make sure they offer excursions to local islands. Or do it the other way around: Stay at a local island and then book a nice little wellness package for a few days at a resort island.
sources: Visit Maldives, V’s World, Countries and their Cultures