As you explore the beautiful Solomon Islands, you may be shocked to find so many locals with bright red teeth and lips. Don’t be alarmed – these smiling locals they have only been chewing betel nuts!
Betel nuts are the seeds of the Areca Palm and widely used throughout Africa, Asia and the South Pacific as a mild stimulant, similar to drinking kava in Fiji. The chewing of these seeds is a bonding practice and a common catch-up pastime or for relaxation, however not generally used in ceremonies.
Imagine you have a day off work – what do you do? Plan a time to meet a friend for coffee? In the Solomon Islands it’s a far more common occurrence to walk down the path and see these daily reunions with friends on the street corners, centred around the stall selling betel nuts! Said to promote relaxation, general well-being and a peaceful feeling, meals end with the chewing of betel nut as a digestive aide. Also associated with hospitality Betel nuts as gifts are also a common way of saying “thank you” from the host to the visitor when they come by for dinner.
Maintaining the Melanesian culture, even in the face of arising health issues, ensures chewing betel nuts is still prolific and many visitors enjoy trying this traditional experience for themselves. Let us know what you think!