Friday, 22 February 2008 11:37 AM

Popular Solomons Pastime - Betel Nut Chewing

Betel nut chewing is fast becoming a popular pastime for a lot of Solomon Islanders.

Some say it is a form of relaxation after a busy day in the office, others say it is like sitting around a table with friends over a few drinks while for some, it is just to kill time and have a good laugh and catch up over a betel nut or two.

Solomon Times in an interview with Billy Setiano was informed that for people who sell betel nuts for a living, the growing interest in chewing the fruit makes business all the better.

Betel nut is not taken alone but the 'ingredients' is complete for a chewer when it is combined with fruit leaf and white-powered substance referred to as 'lime'.

"In the ancient days, betel nuts culturally associated with hospitality in most communities," Mr. Setiano explained.

He said that when a person visits someone, the host will give the visitor a bundle of betel nuts as a way of saying 'thank you for the visit'.

Mr. Setiano said that in Malaitan culture, as is the case in most Melanesian societies, betel nut chewing is part of cultural feasts among people.

"when there is preparation for a feast, people share betel nuts and chew as they work together for the gathering," he explained.

Mr. Setiano said that while it is good to chew betel "to keep our Melanesian culture, the disadvantage is the association it has with mouth cancer".

Walking through the streets of Honiara, betel nut stalls are just blocks away from each other and is always packed with people just standing around the stalls, having a chew and catching up with friends.

"It is now more a lifestyle than culture for the Solomons and in more than one occasion, we have had visiting expatriate friends who are keen to give betel-nut chewing a try to know what it tastes like, and they love the experience," Mr. Setiano said.

During lunch breaks, some workers opt for betel nut chewing session over the usual 'meet and eat'.

"It is very relaxing for us chewers and there is always a chance you catch up with friends at the stalls for a good laugh before heading back to the office," a private accountant worker told Solomon Times.

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