A fresh guide to Tok Pisin and the power of laughter


A Mother's Union woman of Kia

There is nothing more lovely than the smile in a person’s eyes. And you’ll find that the same things make people smile and laugh all over the world – finding that commonality wherever you are is easy; just think that what your friends and family find funny, the rest of the world might too. Of course, it’s not always so simple and cultural differences can lead to misunderstanding – use your good judgment, be cheeky, not offensive. Openness will take you a long way.

Recently I was hanging out with 21 women from the Anglican Mother’s Union from the far away village of Kia in the Solomon Islands. They were chatting in their local dialect and I thought I’d understood something so I interjected and they replied – laughing in pidgin (basically broken English) – something about boobs.


Augusta of Kia

Yu fella husband laikem boobs?” I asked the women of Kia, pointing at my chest. There were shrieks of laughter, hands covered red faces, and a dozen different voices at the same time told me that yes, they do like them, barava (very)!

What’s more, I learned that with the introduction of a couple of DVD players in the village, the men of Kia have been watching foreign movies and then wanting to try out ‘new things’ with their wives.

Mi no laikem, mi finis,” one grandmother told me, explaining that she’s finished with that part of her life. I let the conversation drift away, not wanting to be too nosy, for a change.

As it turns out the woman had not even been talking about boobs, they’d been talking about milk and how Margaret had tried milk in her tea for the first time today. (The one word applies for both and if I recall correctly it was cognate of the Indonesian, susu, also meaning boobs and milk.)


Belinda with her betel nut

Belinda from Kavieng, PNG, has helped me collate a few unconventional phrases in Tok Pisin (you never know when you might need them!). A more conventional and useful guide for the basics of the Tok Pisin (talk pidgin) language of Papua New Guinea can be found on WikiTravel.

I need a stiff whiskey – Mi laikem strongpla wiski

You have a beautiful smile – Yu gat nice pela smile

I have bad body odour and I need a shower – Body bilong mi no smel gud mi mas was was

Thank you for your hospitality – Tenkiu long gudpela lukaut bilong yu

It’s all good – Hamamas

I have diarrhoea – Mi pek pek wara

Let’s go surfing – Yumi go kiwim si nau

The gentleman will pay for dinner – Gudpla man hia bai baim kai kai

I trust you – Mi bilivim yu

That boat looks like it will sink, is it safe? – Dis pla sip em klost em sink, em orait?

I miss my family – Mi misim family bilong mi

I have a sore stomach – Bel bilong mi pen

Let’s go out to dinner, my shout – Yumi go kai kai mi bain baim

Thank you for your help – Tenkyu long halivim bilong yu

I don’t want taro, I want ice cream – Mi no laikim taro, mi laikem ice cream

It is a beautiful day, I am happy – Gud pela day, mi hamamas tru

No worries – Noken ting ting tumas



About Keri Algar

Keri has an insatiable appetite for travel, discovery and surf. You may find her among the happy isles, smiles and empty barrels of Melanesia, or swinging her hips at a Spanish fiesta, underwater in Mexico, on top of the Argentine alps, or at home in New Zealand with her nose in a book. She is delighted by difference - both people and places, and is inspired by those who follow their own path through life with passion and courage.

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