What is Vanuatu
Vanuatu is a tropical island state in the Pacific. 83 islands belong to the state. Only 67 of them are inhabited. The largest island is Espiritu Santo. It is about four times the size of the German island of Rügen. The entire state is three times bigger. The highest mountain is 1879 meters high. Many mountains are volcanoes. In addition, there are often earthquakes and cyclones.
The former name of the islands was New Hebrides because they reminded the explorer James Cook of the Scottish Hebrides Islands. The current name comes from the local language Bislama and means "forever our land".
Most of the people make a living from agriculture, fishing and tourism. They mainly grow coconut palms, bananas, corn and peanuts. They also keep cattle and pigs. But most of the products people need for themselves. They buy more food abroad than what they sell abroad themselves.
In Vanuatu there are not many taxes that we know in most other countries. Many foreign companies therefore operate an office here or put their money here in the bank so that they can save taxes in their country of origin. Vanuatu is therefore called a “tax haven”, like some other countries. Vanuatu itself earns a lot of money with it.
In 2015, a hurricane destroyed large parts of the island state. He had a wind speed of more than 300 kilometers per hour. Hardly a storm was ever stronger. In the capital Port Vila, 90 percent of all buildings were destroyed or badly damaged. The president blamed climate change.
What is special in Vanuatu?
Vanuatu has about 267,000 residents. That is just twice as much as the city of Bern. The people speak one of 110 native languages. Nowhere on earth are there more languages per inhabitant. The official languages are English, French and Bislama. Bislama is a young language. It originated when the British and the French ruled the archipelago together. Both languages have left their mark. When someone wants to say thank you, they can say: “Tank yu tumas.” This comes from the English “Thank you too much” and means “Thank you very much!” A New Year's celebration is called “bonane”. This comes from the French “bonne année” and means “good year”. Apart from the vocabulary, Bislama doesn't have much in common with European languages.
Barter is still going on on a particular island. There, for example, a shell, a wild boar or the tusk of a wild boar has a value that is converted into the currency Vatu. Even good advice or an old story can be converted into money. Those who are old and can no longer work tell about their life experiences. So everyone has something that they can exchange. A vatu is worth about as much as a pig's tusk. Whoever owns pigs is considered rich. A particularly good pair of tusks can be worth thousands of euros. A wild boar's tusk can also be seen on the Vanuatu flag.
Bungee jumping comes from Vanuatu. Legend has it that a young woman was persecuted by her jealous husband. She climbed a tree, but he climbed up too. Then she jumped into the depths. When her husband saw that, he jumped after, because he didn't want to live without her any longer. However, the woman quickly tied lianas around her ankles and survived the jump. But her husband died. Today many tourists want to see this spectacle. You have to pay around 100 euros. Film teams are charged up to 10,000 euros.
In 1974 the British Queen Elizabeth the Second attended this ceremony. A jumper had a fatal accident. Members of an Oxford club for dangerous sports were still enthusiastic about it and wanted to try it out for themselves. With rubber bands they made jumping safer. Four club members then jumped from a 76 meter high bridge in the English city of Bristol. That was the beginning of bungee jumping.
Bungee jumping comes from Vanuatu. The jumpers are only secured by lianas.
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