Due to its diverse interpretations and myriad uses, the word Bula can be defined and viewed in many different ways, meaning different things to different people depending on the circumstances and situations in which it is used. At its base level, it's a greeting, much like 'Hello'. Bula is therefore most likely going to be one of the very first words you here in Fiji, with locals keen to greet new visitors in a friendly and enthusiastic manner with this multi-purpose word.
When arriving at the airport in Fiji, getting to your hotel, or simply walking into a bar or store, you're almost guaranteed to be greeted with a chorus of 'Bulas' from charming locals, and the greeting format of Bula is its most common usage. On a linguistic level, however, the word actually translates to ‘Life’ in English. This means that when people say 'Bula' to greet one another, they're essentially wishing them 'Good life' or 'Good health'. An extended version of the greeting would be "Ni sa bula vinaka" which would translate into English as "Wishing you joy and good health".
If someone does happen to use this extended Bula greeting on you, you can simply reply by saying ‘Bula’ back or ‘Bula vinaka’ (boo-lah vee-nah-kah). Bula is therefore one of the first words people tend to say to each other, popular among both tourists and locals, and can also be interpreted and used in the same way we would use phrases like “How are you?” or “Have a good day!” in English.
In addition, if you happen to sneeze while walking around Fiji, you'll also hear people say Bula to you. This word is used as a kind of blessing like 'Gesundheit' or 'Bless you' in English after someone sneezes. The word is therefore heard very commonly during an average stay in Fiji and has become so ubiquitous that the Fiji tourism authorities launched a campaign entitled 'Bula Spirit' some years ago, associating the word 'Bula' with the idea of warm, welcoming Fijian hospitality and commitment to ensuring that every guest feels comfortable and happy at all times.