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Moving to Fiji

Expats moving to Fiji will find a Pacific paradise rich in culture, with pristine beaches and wonderful places to explore. Though it has a turbulent history, living in Fiji can be both exciting and rewarding.

Fiji is located in the South Pacific Ocean and is comprised of more than 330 islands. The largest island is Viti Levu, which hosts Suva, the capital, as well as Nadi (pronounced 'Nandi'), the second-largest city in Fiji.  

Since 1987 the political situation in Fiji has been somewhat turbulent. With the successful implementation of a new constitution in 2013 and the peaceful democratic elections held in 2014, Fiji has started seeing a resurgence of employment opportunities. Expats are often employed in education, tourism and the NGO sectors. It can be difficult for foreigners to get a work permit for Fiji, so potential expats should ensure that they have their documentation ready before they move. Expat accommodation in Suva and Nadi is relatively expensive because of the limited housing stock, and it can take time for new arrivals to find suitable accommodation.

Most expat jobs are based in Suva, Nadi or one of the many surrounding island resorts. For those based in Suva or Nadi, it’s easy to escape on the weekend. Expats can head to dozens of resorts sprinkled around Viti Levu, explore the island's remote jungle interior or travel to one of the smaller nearby islands. Many spend their weekends sailing, surfing or diving on the surrounding coral reefs.

For those moving to Fiji with children, there are a few international schools in Suva and Nadi that teach foreign curricula. While Fiji has both public and private healthcare options, most expats use small private hospitals in Suva and Nadi. These offer a good basic standard of healthcare; however, they are limited in terms of their diagnostic, specialist and surgical abilities. Thus, expats should ensure they have health insurance that includes repatriation to hospitals in Australia and New Zealand, if necessary, especially in complicated or emergency cases. 

Though not perfect, Fiji has a lot to offer adventurous expats. Its unique mix of cultures, natural beauty and tropical lifestyle make Fiji a great destination for those looking for something different.


Essential info

Full name: Republic of Fiji

Population: About 890,000

Capital city: Suva

Neighbouring countries: Fiji is completely surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. Major neighbours include New Zealand far to the south, Australia is to the west and Papua New Guinea to the northwest.

Geography: Fiji is made up of more than 300 islands, of which around 100 are inhabited. The islands are mountainous, consisting of thick tropical forests. 

Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic 

Major religions: Christianity and Hinduism 

Main languages: English, Fijian and Hindi

Money: The official currency is the Fijian Dollar (FJD), divided into 100 cents. Most expats use one of Fiji's multinational banks. ATMs are readily available in the main cities and credit cards are widely accepted in urban areas.

Tipping: Not expected but appreciated

Time: GMT+12 (GMT+13 from November to January)

Electricity: 240V, 50Hz. Plugs are the same as those used in Australia and New Zealand.

Internet domain: .fj

International dialling code: +679

Emergency contacts: 917 (police), 911 (fire and ambulance)

Transport and driving: Traffic drives on the left-hand side. Public transport does exist in Fijian cities, but much of the infrastructure is not well-developed. Most expats opt to buy a car and hire a local driver during their time in Fiji.

Weather in Fiji

Fiji has a tropical marine climate, with warm weather all year round. The hot and humid dry season is from November to April, with temperatures averaging between 77°F (25°C) and 86°F (30°C). From May to October, during the wet season, the weather is slightly cooler and less humid.

Fiji is subject to cyclones, particularly between the months of November and April. Though they don't occur every year, expats living in Fiji for the long term are very likely to encounter this unnerving weather phenomenon. Tropical depressions, which can turn into cyclones, are carefully monitored during cyclone season and the public is kept updated about if and when a cyclone is expected to hit. The best way to keep safe is to stay informed and heed any government safety advice.

Embassy Contacts for Fiji


Fijian embassies

  • Fiji Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Canada): +1 202 466 8320

  • Fiji High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 207 584 3661

  • Fiji High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for Ireland): +612 620 5115

  • Fiji High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 473 5401


Foreign embassies in Fiji

  • United States Embassy, Suva, Fiji: +679 331 4466

  • British High Commission, Suva, Fiji: +679 322 9100

  • Canadian Consulate, Nadi, Fiji: +679 992 4999

  • Australian High Commission, Suva, Fiji: +679 338 2211

  • South African High Commission, Suva, Fiji: +679 331 1087

  • New Zealand High Commission, Suva, Fiji: +679 331 1422

Public Holidays in Fiji

 

2020

2021

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Good Friday

10 April

2 April

Easter Saturday

12 April

4 April

Easter Monday

13 April

5 April

Constitution Day

7 September

7 September

Fiji Day

10 October

10 October

Diwali

14 November

 4 November

Prophet's Birthday*

29 October

18-19 October

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

 

* Islamic holidays are subject to change as they are based on the sighting of the moon 

Safety in Fiji

Most expats have no reason to be overly concerned about safety in Fiji, as it is a very popular and accommodating destination. However, much of the country is still developing, and therefore common sense and basic safety precautions are always recommended.  


Crime in Fiji

Expats moving to Fiji should be aware that some parts of the country have high crime rates. Much of the criminal activity in Fiji stems from its wealth gap. Nevertheless, most of the crime that takes place in Fiji is petty, and therefore expats can ensure their safety by being cautious. 

Robbery, theft and petty crime have been known to occur in Fiji and expats have often fallen victim to these incidents. While most of the crime is opportunistic, foreigners are advised to be vigilant and keep valuables. It's also best to avoid walking around at night.


Civil unrest in Fiji

Fiji has been relatively calm over the last few years but due to the country's history of civil unrest and political violence, it's best to be aware of the possibility of a resurgence. Expats are advised to be security-conscious and avoid any political demonstrations or large gatherings. It is also best to avoid areas where military activity is taking place.


Safety on public transport in Fiji

Public transport in Fiji can be risky for both security and safety reasons. There are frequent crimes directed against taxi drivers, so expats using private taxis in Fiji should avoid allowing taxi drivers to pick up other passengers en route. Furthermore, expats should avoid using taxis that are already carrying other passengers.

Minibus, bus and taxi drivers rarely adhere to normal traffic laws in Fiji, which makes travelling on the roads dangerous. 

Foreigners should avoid driving wherever possible. Those that do choose to get behind the wheel should drive defensively. While road conditions in urban areas of Fiji are of a decent standard, in rural areas conditions are poor. 


Cyclones in Fiji

The Pacific cyclone season runs from November to April. Cyclones vary in intensity and the damage and destruction they cause.

In the event of a cyclone warning, expats are advised to follow the instructions of the local authorities. In most cases, the damage caused by a cyclone in Fiji will be limited and people will simply be advised to seek shelter indoors until the bad weather passes.

Working in Fiji

Most foreigners living in Fiji don’t move to the island nation for career opportunities, but rather to retire. Still, more and more expats are beginning to see the potential that lies in the burgeoning Fijian economy. Thanks to the availability of an investment permit, it's fairly easy for expats to set up their own businesses, assuming they have the means to do so. For expats on the job hunt, however, it remains difficult to acquire the necessary work permit to take up employment in Fiji.


Job market in Fiji

Agriculture and tourism are the archipelago's strongest industries. However, both are vulnerable to disruption by Fiji's cyclones which can hamper growth somewhat. In addition, the tourism sector has suffered in the past due to the country's unstable political situation. Still, Fiji's economy continues to grow and has the distinction of being one of the most developed Pacific Island economies.

Fiji is rich with forest, mineral and fish resources. Though agriculture accounts for less than 20 percent of the country's GDP, the industry employs 70 percent of the Fijian workforce. Coconut, ginger and sugar are the main cash crops in Fiji.

Naturally, as Fiji is a popular tourist destination, tourism and hospitality are important industries and employ large numbers of people. Many expats are capitalising on the growth in tourism to set up guest houses, restaurants and other businesses targeted at holidaymakers.


Finding a job in Fiji 

It is very difficult to find a job from within the country, so expats should start the process as soon as possible prior to relocating. Recruitment agencies can help with the search, otherwise there are online job portals that advertise the various opportunities available.  

Doing Business in Fiji

Expats will find that doing business in Fiji is not a straightforward process, largely due to the bureaucracy involved. However, once the red tape is dealt with, expat businesspeople will likely find that Fijians are very pleasant to work with. There is a casual and friendly (yet respectful) atmosphere to business dealings.  

In the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business survey for 2019, Fiji was ranked 101st out of 190 countries. The country did relatively well in the category of registering property (57th), but it fell short when it came to the ease of starting a business (161st) and getting credit (also 161st).


Fast facts

Business hours

9am to 5pm, from Monday to Friday.

Business language

English

Dress

Not formal. Suits and ties are only worn at formal occasions, which happen rarely.

Greetings

A formal handshake is the best way to greet business associates in Fiji. Always show respect towards elders in a business environment. 

Gifts

Gifts are expected and appreciated. 

Gender equality

The business environment in Fiji is still quite patriarchal.


Business culture in Fiji

Expats doing business in Fiji are likely to take some time getting used to certain aspects of the local business culture. The sooner expats adjust to the changes, the easier assimilation will be. Fijians are friendly, hospitable people and often go the extra mile to make expats feel welcome. Expect to be invited for dinner at a colleague's home and do accept the offer but remember to take a gift – it will certainly be appreciated.

Time

New arrivals are often surprised to learn that punctuality at business meetings is not expected, since ‘Pacific time’ allows people to arrive late to scheduled events. Expats should still make sure they arrive in time, and they will need to be tolerant and patient as time management is more flexible in Fiji than it is in the West.

Management

Senior Fijian associates may not express strong views and be quieter than might be expected in Western business circles. This should not be interpreted to mean they don’t have a view but that they are observing and analysing before they make a decision. Reverence towards elders is also expected, which applies to senior colleagues.

Culture

Expats doing business in Fiji are sure to encounter the country's national drink, kava. Though non-alcoholic, this plant-based drink has a mild narcotic effect. It's often present in business dealings in Fiji, whether as a gift at an introductory meeting or as a celebration of concluding a successful business deal.


Dos and don’ts of business in Fiji

  • Do show respect to senior colleagues and elders

  • Do be punctual even if business associates are not

  • Don't show up to a business meeting in a full suit. Rather wear a light short-sleeved shirt.

  • Do spend time socialising with business associates

Visas for Fiji

Foreigners who want to go to the island country for travel or with more long-term plans must ensure that their paperwork is in order and that they have the correct visa or work permit for Fiji. 

Expats must find out which permit is right for their situation and apply accordingly, as it's very difficult to change between visas after arriving in Fiji. In most cases, expats who want to change the type of visa they are holding will have to apply from outside the country. 

Apart from visitor's visas which are available at the border for some nationalities, most visas for Fiji should be applied for well in advance. 


Visitors visa for Fiji

A visitor's visa allows the holder to enter Fiji for a holiday, for transit or for business purposes. There is a single-entry visa (valid for three months) as well as a multiple-entry visa (valid for four months).

Nationals of countries including Australia, Canada, South Africa, the UK and the USA are exempt from needing a visitor's visa for Fiji. These visitors are issued a visa upon arrival and will only need an onward ticket, proof of sufficient funds and a passport that's valid for at least six months from the date they intend to leave the island. Citizens of other countries should apply for their visa through the Fijian embassy or consulate in their home country.


Work permits for Fiji

The Fijian Department of Immigration grants work permits for Fiji on a case-by-case basis. 

There are different types of work permits, ranging from those for expats wanting to start a business in Fiji and invest in the local economy (Investor Permit for Non-Citizen Investors), to work permits for expats who are taking up a position that cannot be adequately filled by a Fijian citizen (Work Permit for Non-Citizen Skilled Contracted Workers).


Residence permits for Fiji

Those looking to settle down in Fiji but don't intend to work or set up a business would need to apply for the Residence Permit on Assured Income. This permit is for those who have assets outside of Fiji that can be used for their upkeep. Most expats who fall into this category are retirees. 

Expats applying for this permit will need to submit proof of funds, such as an offshore bank account statement or a retirement scheme statement. Other requirements include medical and police reports.

Culture Shock in Fiji

Fiji's culture will likely be very different to that of most expats' country of origin. Fijians are generally very friendly and hospitable. However, foreigners may attract some unwanted attention in rural areas – this is mostly harmless and simply shows curiosity on the part of locals.

As is always the case for expats moving to a new country, new arrivals in Fiji will have to get to grips with hearing a new language and being exposed to local traditions and culinary delicacies. However, the most significant elements of culture shock in Fiji will likely stem from religion and politics.


Religion in Fiji

Fiji has a very religious culture, and there are churches of various denominations throughout the archipelago. Over half of Fiji's population is Christian, with the Methodist Church commanding the largest congregation, followed by the Catholic Church. 

Expats who do not hold strong religious beliefs will need to be very careful not to offend local Fijians. It's also important to dress modestly, keeping shoulders and knees covered. This is especially important when visiting religious sites or traditional villages.


Politics in Fiji

Recent Fijian history has been dominated by a number of military coups, the most recent of which happened in December 2006. In 2013, a new constitution was introduced, and general elections were held in 2014. While the country is considered stable, expats are advised to stay away from any political protests or demonstrations that may occur. 


Time in Fiji

Expats new to the archipelago may notice that there is little urgency when it comes to time – Fijians will regularly turn up late, both for meetings and social events. In Fiji, this is not considered rude but is simply a part of the culture.

Accommodation in Fiji

Most expats who are not preparing to retire in Fiji, will move to the country for a short-term assignment. Therefore expats are more likely to rent than buy accommodation in the interim.  

Regardless of what type of accommodation expats are looking for and the duration of the stay, it's important that they familiarise themselves with the processes for renting property in Fiji before they move.


Types of accommodation in Fiji

Expats will find a range of accommodation types in Fiji, from free-standing houses and villas to apartment blocks. It's common for accommodation to come furnished or partly furnished.

While there is high-quality rental accommodation in Fiji, expats should be aware that suitable properties aren't always available. Most expats live and work in Nadi, Suva or the island's main resorts. They can be pricey, so expats should try negotiating for a housing allowance.


Finding accommodation in Fiji

It's a good idea for expats to make use of a real estate agent in their search for accommodation, as they will have invaluable local knowledge of the housing market and rental process in Fiji. If choosing to go it alone, expats can instead try their luck with online property portals and the classified sections of local newspapers.


Renting accommodation in Fiji

Signing a lease

When signing a lease, it's important that expats make sure they fully understand the terms of the contract. Take note of any special conditions – for example, whether the cost of utilities is included in the rental price or paid separately.

Expats will need to pay a deposit as well as their first month's rent before moving in. The deposit is usually the equivalent of one month's rent, though some landlords ask for as much as six months.

The full deposit should be returned at the end of the lease period as long as there is no damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear. If any damage remains from a previous tenant, expats should document it thoroughly so that they aren't held responsible.

Safety and security

Home invasions do happen, which makes living in a good area and security features like high fences and alarm systems important. Many expats also employ guards, which creates the need for a guard house and toilet at the front gate.  

Properties also need to be cyclone-proof and have back-up generators for when the power goes out. The electricity supply is unreliable, even in Suva. Voltage variations, surges and blackouts are commonplace, especially during heavy rains.

Healthcare in Fiji

Fiji is a developing country and the standard of healthcare reflects this. Expats moving to Fiji, and travellers visiting the islands for even just a short period, must ensure that they are in possession of a fully comprehensive healthcare policy so they can access private medical treatment if the need arises.


Public healthcare in Fiji

The standard of public healthcare in Fiji varies considerably. In urban areas, Fiji’s public hospitals may approach adequate but in rural areas public health facilities are very basic and inefficient, or non-existent. In many cases, Fijians living in rural areas have to travel hours for treatment.

Expats can seek treatment at government-run hospitals in Fiji but standards of care are not always good and there tends to be long waiting times due to understaffing.

Expats are advised to opt for private healthcare in Fiji wherever possible, as standards are likely to be closer to those in Western countries with shorter waiting times and more modern facilities.


Private healthcare in Fiji

There are very few private facilities in Fiji, most of which are situated in Suva or Nadi. These hospitals generally have 24-hour medical centres with general practitioners, specialist practitioners and fairly comfortable in-patient accommodation. However, they do not have the full range of diagnostic equipment or specialists typical of developed countries, so expats should have health insurance arrangements in place to allow medical evacuation to Australia or New Zealand.


Pharmacies in Fiji

Pharmaceutical and chemist supplies are generally adequate, but lack the choice available in Australia and New Zealand. Those planning on travelling to Fiji should therefore ensure they have a good supply of necessary medication with them at all times. If bringing prescription medication into the country, be sure to also carry a doctor's letter or prescription from home.

Pharmacies is Fiji can be found in major towns and cities, as well as close to or within most tourist resorts. However, it is rare to find a pharmacy that is open 24/7.


Health hazards in Fiji

There are a number of health risks that expats should be aware of when moving to Fiji. Food poisoning and stomach bugs can be an issue for new arrivals. Expats should be careful when purchasing meat and fish products, particularly from roadside markets where there is no refrigeration. 

Expats should avoid tap water, salad and raw vegetables washed with tap water, and ice in soft drinks. Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases such as typhoid and hepatitis are prevalent in Fiji.


Pre-travel vaccinations for Fiji

There are no special immunisations required for travel to Fiji. However, those moving to Fiji should ensure that routine vaccinations are up to date. This includes the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine and the vaccines for polio, chicken pox and the flu. 


Emergency services in Fiji

In the event of a medical emergency, expats can call an ambulance in Fiji on 911. However, expats should be aware that the emergency medical infrastructure in Fiji is underdeveloped and response times for ambulances can be slow. Furthermore, ambulances in Fiji are poorly equipped and staff are not always well trained.

Education and Schools in Fiji

The education system in Fiji is comprised of public schooling and private schooling. The standard of public schools in Fiji varies quite dramatically. While expat students are eligible to enrol, most expat parents don't go for this option because of language and cultural barriers.

Expats in Fiji tend to send their children to a private school, with the majority opting for international schools. There are only a few international schools throughout Fiji, with two in Suva and one in Nadi.


Public schools in Fiji

Public schools in Fiji are open to expat enrolment, with schooling being free from ages six to 16. Funding from the cash-strapped Fijian government is often inadequate, though, and the resulting quality of government schools is mixed. Due to the erratic educational standards, most expat families bypass public schooling in favour of private schools.


Private and international schools in Fiji

Though there are just a handful of international schools in Fiji, expats often prefer this option if their children are able to gain admission. High demand for places can make it difficult to secure a spot in an international school, so if expat families wish to take this route, it's best to apply as early as possible. 

Fees for international schools are expensive by Fijian standards, and only wealthy Fijian nationals can afford them. Expats intending for their child to attend an international school should negotiate to make provision for school fees as part of an expat salary package, if the opportunity exists to do so.

Transport and Driving in Fiji

Expats in Fiji will find several transport options available to them. However, public transport infrastructure is not always comprehensive and efficient, especially on smaller islands. Driving in Fiji can be difficult because of poor road conditions. Expats who buy a car should consider hiring a local driver to assist them.  


Public transport in Fiji

Buses

The main form of public transport in Fiji is buses. Travelling by bus in Fiji can take some getting used to. While they are cheap and service most areas, their frequency varies considerably depending on their destination and the day of the week.  

On Fiji’s larger islands, expats will find the bus networks are extensive and efficient. Travelling by bus is a great way to interact with the locals. Buses in Fiji tend to be noisy, crowded and a little uncomfortable; however, they are sufficient for short journeys.

Shared taxis

Overcrowded minivans are a common sight throughout Fiji. These shared taxis are popular with locals and are often the quickest way to get to a destination. They are cheaper than buses but more expensive than hiring a private taxi.

Passengers should not expect to have a comfortable ride, though – drivers tend to load as many passengers on as possible.

Carriers

Small trucks with tarpaulin-covered frames on the back are known as carriers in Fiji. These trucks run trips along popular routes in Fiji, such as between Nadi and Suva. They can be found on the main roads or central spots in any of Fiji’s main cities or towns. While travelling by carrier is often faster than the equivalent bus journey, the vehicles only leave when they are full.

Ferries

Expats looking to travel between islands in Fiji can take the ferry. There are a number of operators available with a variety of destinations and leaving times. The cost of travelling by ferry in Fiji is fairly reasonable.


Taxis in Fiji

Taxis can easily be found in all of Fiji’s main cities and there will always be a taxi depot close to the city’s bus station. These private taxis are rarely used by Fijians, and there are often too many of them, so expats will find taxi drivers competing furiously for business.

While some taxis are well maintained, most of them are in bad shape. If travelling in a city, ask the driver to put the meter on. In rural parts of Fiji, expats may find that drivers won’t use a meter, in which case it's essential to agree on a price before starting the journey.


Driving in Fiji

While there isn’t much traffic on Fiji’s roads, many embassies still advise their nationals to avoid driving in the country. Many roads are poorly maintained and it’s common to find roads littered with potholes.

For expats who need a car for convenience, it’s worth hiring a local driver. Expats who want to drive should do so defensively and always be cautious on the roads. It’s also best to avoid driving at night, especially outside urban areas.


Domestic flights in Fiji

In addition to Fiji’s international airports in Nadi and Suva, the country has a number of domestic airports. Flying is the fastest way to travel between the islands, and the other major advantage of taking a domestic flight in Fiji is the stunning views passengers can expect to see of the islands, lagoons and coral reefs.


Cycling in Fiji

Bicycles are a popular way for both locals and expats to travel in Fiji. That said, cycling alongside cars in Fiji can be difficult and dangerous, as the infrastructure for cyclists is undeveloped and there are no designated cycle lanes.

Furthermore, cycle shops in Fiji are hard to find, so cyclists should always carry their own spares and supplies. There are only a few cycle rental companies and prices can be high, so expats planning to do regular cycle rides should invest in their own bike.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Fiji

Banking in Fiji is relatively straightforward. A number of multinational banks have a presence in the country and are likely to provide the most suitable facilities for expats.

Expats should note that while the availability and standard of banking facilities in the main cities and tourist spots are good, they do become limited as one moves to the outer islands.


Money in Fiji

The official currency of Fiji is the Fijian dollar (FJD). Each Fijian dollar is divided into 100 cents. 

  • Notes: 2 FJD, 5 FJD, 7 FJD, 10 FJD, 20 FJD, 50 FJD, 100 FJD and 2,000 FJD

  • Coins: 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents and 1 FJD 

Currency can be exchanged at most major banks and bureaux de change, which can usually be found in urban centres and tourist resorts in Fiji. Expats travelling to more remote parts of Fiji should carry enough cash for their trip, as it can be difficult to access money or exchange currency in rural areas.


Banking in Fiji

Banking in Fiji is generally straightforward and efficient. Major multinational banks that can be found in the country include ANZ, Westpac and Bank of Baroda. Banks can be found in all major towns and cities, while the availability of banking services tends to be limited in rural areas and on the outer islands.

ATMs and credit cards

ATMs can be found at most banks in Fiji, as well as in shopping centres and tourist resorts. Most ATMs accept major international debit cards such as Cirrus and Maestro. Australian New Zealand Bank has ATMs scattered throughout Nadi and Suva.


Taxes in Fiji

Expats relocating to Fiji for work need to discuss taxes with their employer. They will need to take the necessary steps to avoid double taxation.

The rate of income tax varies depending on whether one is considered a resident of Fiji for tax purposes. Tax residents are those who live in Fiji permanently or are in Fiji for more than half of the tax year. Conversely, to be classified as non-resident for tax purposes, expats should not be permanently living in Fiji and should be in Fiji for less than half of the tax year.

Fiji has double-taxation treaties with some countries, which prevent some expats from being taxed twice on their income in both Fiji and their home country. Filing taxes is a complicated procedure even without having to file in dual tax systems, so expats are advised to consult a specialised tax advisor for support.

Expat Experiences in Fiji

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Fiji and would like to share your story.


Australian expat Emma moved to Fiji in February 2016, and has been blogging about it ever since. She writes about her experiences of life in Fiji, as she slowly adjusts to the change of scenery and new environment. Read her interview about her expat experiences in Fiji for useful pointers on making friends, staying safe and enjoying the beautiful sightseeing activities and opportunities around.