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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Nauru

Historic Diet

How people settled and survived on Nauru is somewhat of a mystery given the island's inhospitable nature. This small island is coralline so there is little soil and almost nothing can grow on the land. This lack of plant life directly leads to an almost complete lack of animal life as well. Almost the only thing anyone can eat on the island is the animals found in the surrounding waters.

Some plants have arrived to the islands from birds and the sea, but due to having almost no soil, few plants can take root and grow. Although some plants and land animals were brought to the islands with the earliest settlers, this soil means much of the historic diet was found in the surrounding seas. Among these sea animals are crabs, clams, turtles, fish, and water fowl.

Culinary Influences

The island of Nauru has very few native plants or animals, but the early settlers survived by bringing some of their own plants and animals, which added to the diet of fish and birds. These early settlers arrived nearly 4,000 years ago and likely brought with them pigs, dogs, rats, taro, rice, yams, breadfruit, bananas, lemons, and sugarcane, all of which were eaten. Some of these foods thrived on Nauru, but most failed as the people's diet primarily consisted of taro, yams, and small amounts of meat, primarily pork, or fish.

The Europeans slowly arrived in the 1800s, bringing with them many plants and animals they were familiar with in Europe. This included cattle, chickens, wheat, potatoes, and pineapples among others. Again, few of these plants grew well on the island so their impact was limited, but others, like cattle, have lasted to today, although beef is still not commonly consumed.

In about 1900 the already poor soil became even worse when phosphate was discovered on the island and strip mining began, tearing up much of the island's top soil and essentially rendering the land worthless. However, the phosphate was so valuable the people were able to afford the importation of foods, which was possible due to improved transportation and storage methods created with the Industrial Revolution.

Today much of the diet has reverted back to whatever the people can grow on the island, the local animals including fish, and anything that they can afford to import. In the early 2000s the phosphate deposits ran out so there is little money to import food, but as this is the only way to survive, these foods, particularly pre-packaged foods, form the base of the diet today.

Staple Foods

Coconut: coconuts are used for their milk and flesh
Rice: a common base or side for many meals

Dining Etiquette

Dining in Nauru varies a bit depending on the setting and your company. Generally, the dining in Nauru is less formal than it is in many countries as rules are more relaxed. Despite this, there are some formal restaurants in the country and if dining in a business setting rules are more important.

The formalities and most important aspects of dining in Nauru are related to behavior more than actual eating. For example, bringing food to a dinner, even a small side dish or dessert can be a great offense to the host by indicating they will not prepare enough food for everyone. Also let your host seat you as guests are also often asked to sit in the middle of the table so they may converse with everyone more easily.

Once seated you may notice silverware (cutlery) or it may be absent. Many of the people eat with their hands and if this is the case do the same. Once the food arrives be sure to try every dish offered as this is a sign of appreciation and respect. Also try to eat at the same pace as everyone else so everyone begins and finishes eating at about the same time. Most of the people will leave some food behind then will take their excess food home for a latter meal. You are welcome to do the same, but as a guest your host may insist you finish all your food.

If dining in a restaurant many of the above rules also apply, but there will most definitely be eating utensils and the setting will be more formal (yet still less formal than most of Europe, Australia, or North America). The host of a meal is expected to pay for everyone present; if this is you tip at your discretion. Tipping is not expected in Nauru, but is appreciated.


Nauru boasts all the world's favorites when it comes to beverages including juices, soft drinks, tea, and coffee. However for a more authentic taste of the South Pacific try kava. This drink is made from the kava plant's roots, which are ground to release liquid, then water is added and the juice is drunk. This drink gives a very relaxing effect, yet is not considered a drug in the countries of the South Pacific.

The most popular alcoholic beverage in Nauru is overwhelmingly beer, although there are no local breweries so all beer is imported. Wine and hard liquors are also available in many hotels and nice restaurants, but are rarely consumed by the locals; the selection is quite limited when it is available.

The tap water is not safe to drink in Nauru. The most cautious course of action is to entirely avoid the tap water and items that could be made from or with the water, such as ice, fruits, and salads.

This page was last updated: April, 2013