The Republic of the Fiji Islands is an independent nation, the majority of which is located just over the western side of the International Date Line, near the equator. Most indigenous Fijians are actually Melanesians, but for several thousand years Fijians have been sailing to, interacting and intermarrying with Polynesians, especially the people of Samoa and Tonga and other smaller island groups near there. Like the Polynesian people of Samoa and Tonga, modern Fijians have held on to many aspects of their traditional culture: For example, most still speak Fijian, as well as English, and many Fijians still live in the types of houses seen at the Polynesian Cultural Center. They also prefer to wear the traditional wrap-around sulu or sarong, especially on formal occasions.
Just under half of the population of Fiji are the descendants of contract laborers imported from India by the British government over 100 years ago. Fiji today still maintains some aspects of its historical British association, including a parliamentary style of government - which is advised by the Great Council of Chiefs, driving on the left-hand side of the road, and a deep love of rugby and soccer [football].
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