Kiki Beach in LifouKiki Beach in Lifou
©Kiki Beach in Lifou|Marine Reveilhac / NCT

Live like a local

in New Caledonia

New Caledonia, nestled in the heart of the Pacific, is a melting pot of diverse cultures. The fusion begins with the language, accents, extends to vocabulary, craftsmanship, and culinary expertise. To truly appreciate the richness of this archipelago and its culture, immerse yourself in authentic experiences that mirror the daily lives of its inhabitants.

Adopt the "new cal style”

To live “New Cal Style” is to put aside daily stress to appreciate the moment and the good things in life. This relaxed way of looking at life is perfectly illustrated by the expression “Casse pas la tête” (literally “Don’t break your head” meaning ‘don’t worry’) which you’re sure to hear during your stay! In New Caledonia, spontaneous gatherings with friends are common, and the unhurried pace of life encourages living day by day.

Embrace the "living together” spirit

The concept of “vivre ensemble” (living together) is more than a mere phrase in New Caledonia; it’s a way of life. Here, everyone is like family, exchanging greetings with strangers on the street and public transport. Even when venturing away from main roads, especially on the east coast, friendly waves are the norm. Caledonians place great importance on respecting others and fostering a cheerful atmosphere. To show your respect and cultivate a special bond with the locals, don’t hesitate to adopt these everyday gestures.

Understand and use typical expressions

Don’t be surprised if someone bids you “tata” when you leave a bar or restaurant! Learning a few local expressions is a fantastic way to blend in with the culture. Here are some common words you’ll hear in New Caledonia:

  • Tata” or “taltoul“: Goodbye
  • Fin valab‘” or “C’est choc“: Excellent
  • Baigner la mer“: In New Caledonia, you don’t go to the beach; you go to the sea. And swimming is a must!
  • Barrer” or “se barrer“: To leave or go away (barrer en Brousse or in Nouméa)
  • Broussard“: Someone who lives in the bush.
  • Cerf“: Pronounced with an “F”
  • Bus“: Pronounced the English way, i.e., “beusse.”

Embrace the sea

Caledonians have wholeheartedly embraced a sea-oriented lifestyle, thanks to their exceptional lagoon and year-round favorable climate. You can join in on the fun with activities like beach picnics, relaxing days on islets, snorkeling, and fishing. Free time offers countless opportunities for watersports adventures in the lagoon, such as kitesurfing, windsurfing, jet skiing, catamaran sailing, towed buoys, and wakeboarding. During your stay in New Caledonia, you’ll have the chance to enjoy a wide range of water activities.

Important Note

The numerous marine reserves in New Caledonia reflect the commitment to preserving the exceptional biodiversity of its lagoon. Please adhere to the environmental regulations in place during your visit.

Experience local nightlife

New Caledonia’s nightlife mirrors its diversity: mixed, cosmopolitan, and multifaceted. Whether you’re in Nouméa, the bush, or a Kanak tribe, your evening outings will vary. In Nouméa, locals gather after work to enjoy ice-cold beers with friends at Baie des Citrons (Lemon Bay)—the place to be. From comfortable sofas and armchairs overlooking the sea, you can enjoy sunset views. In the bush, Caledonians come together for family and friends’ barbecues. Kanak tribes often enjoy bingo games. If you can’t participate, consider visiting the Bingo de Nouméa!

Enjoy Culinary Delights

Getting to know the Caledonians happens best around the dining table. Here, good food is celebrated, blending Oceanic flavours like fish salad with Asian dishes like nems or samoussa. Main courses are often accompanied by curry or coconut. Rice and tubers, including the celebrated Kanak yam, play prominent roles in local cuisine. From café brunches to beachside lunches and dining at the finest restaurants in the capital, there are ample opportunities to explore local gastronomy. Don’t miss the chance to learn how to prepare bougna during your visit to a Kanak tribe—an enriching and interactive experience!

Explore local fairs and festivals

New Caledonia, with its diverse heritage, loves to come together at local festivals and fairs. On the west coast in the Brousse (the Bush), the Foire de Bourail (Bourail Fair) is a popular choice among the Broussards, the French Cowboys of New Caledonia. Locals gather to witness livestock contests, beauty pageants, and various awards for local products, along with thrilling rodeos. Across Grande Terre and the islands, you’ll find local festivals, cultural events, and sporting activities that showcase traditional culture, craftsmanship, and local products.

Participate in outdoor activities

New Caledonia’s stunning natural surroundings provide the perfect backdrop for outdoor activities. Nouméans take morning strolls along bays and swim at sunrise. Beaches, parks, and river water holes are popular family weekend destinations. While fishing and hunting are beloved pastimes for Caledonians, hiking offers an excellent way to connect with nature. In Nouméa, you’ll also discover optimal conditions for board sports, enjoyed by both the young and not-so-young. Nature is an integral part of daily life in New Caledonia. Guesthouses and tribal accommodations offer fantastic opportunities for memorable days at sea or on a cattle farm.

Frequently asked questions about local life
  • How do you greet a Caledonian?

    Politeness is highly valued in New Caledonia. A simple wave and a “bonjour” are appropriate greetings for anyone you encounter on the street, including when driving (except in Nouméa). When leaving a place, saying “au-revoir” or “tata” is customary.

  • Should I leave a tip in restaurants and bars?

    Tipping is not a common practice in New Caledonia. Note that bills are paid at the counter, not at the table.

  • How can I attend local festivals and fairs?

    Local festivals and fairs are generally open to all and free of charge. Check the calendar for upcoming events. Ensure you book tickets and accommodation well in advance, especially during peak times for local festivals.

  • What is the “Coutume” (Customary Gesture)?

    The “Coutume” (or Customary Gesture) refers to a verbal exchange and a small gift offered to your host. It’s a significant aspect of New Caledonian and Kanak culture, representing a code of social interactions governing daily life within clans. To learn more, read our dedicated article on the coutume.