Maldives Emotional Gap Analysis

Playground on Maafushi

It’s easy to figure out how much per day our spend will be on a trip or what scams we’ll face city to city. It’s much harder to figure out what emotional stressors we might face in a city. We often talk about a place in comparison to places we have familiarity, like the US, western Europe or Malaysia. When we returned from our trip to Maldives, Sri Lanka and India, we knew we could do a better job evaluating countries. In essence, our Maldives Emotional Gap Analysis takes into account US, European and even Asian expectations and smushes them together or combines them with the reality of being in the Maldives.

We know from experience and discussions with others, that not having correct expectations can sour a trip. We felt that even a non-scientific hypothetical analysis to help figure out what might knock us down emotionally – country to county, would be useful. Here are some pointers from our Maldives Emotional Gap Analysis!

Hotel Rocket Restaurant - Maldives Emotional Gap Analysis
Had a non-alcoholic cider at the Hotel Rocket Cafe, Maafushi. The picture was all about the logo.

Maldives Emotional Gap analysis

The Food – Comparing the Maldives to Hawaii

First off, lets start with the food. Compared to Hawaii, there isn’t much variety in the food. Popular foods on Maafushi are fish, rice, oranges, apples, chickpeas, carrots, cabbage, potatoes, chicken hotdogs, and fried foods. The cooks on Maafushi seemed to have 100 different recipes for cooking chicken hotdogs and chickpeas, which was fascinating. We did buffet meals every night as I talk more about here.

In one of our clever moments, we decided to stop at a grocery store in Malé. We bought crackers, peanut butter, jam, fruit, and beverages, perfect for late night or early morning snacks. Maafushi only has small convenience stores that sell mostly processed foods. As it turned out, one of the food shops on Maafushi did sell tomatoes, oranges and apples.

Use USD in the Maldives - Maldives Emotional Gap Analysis
Recommend using USD in the Maldives

Getting Cash in the Maldives

It is not difficult to get Maldivian money on Malé; however, it is entirely unnecessary. Bring or get US dollars which spend exactly the same in Maldives. If you ignore this advice (we did) and decide to get Maldivian cash anyway, make certain that you keep your ATM receipt. You will need your ATM receipt when changing the money into another currency when leaving Maldives. Exchange your Maldivian money at a currency exchange before you pass through airport security. It is not possible to exchange controlled Maldivian in other countries.

Bottomline, use US dollars.

Kids on Maafushi - Maldives Emotional Gap Analysis
Kids on Maafushi, Maldives – Conservative Dress

The Locals and the Tourists

We received conscientious service and genuine kindness, at the businesses we visited. When asked, a local female business owner shared with me that she did wish tourists would observe the dress rules and wear bikini’s only at Bikini Beach. I saw a couple of g-strings and tiny shorts beyond bikini beach and was surprised given that doing so could lead to arrest. It’s really not that much trouble wearing longer sleeves and it saves the skin from sunburn and too much tanning!

Floating Bar - Beer acquired - Maldives Emotional Gap Analysis
Floating Bar – Beer acquired – Maafushi in the background

Difference & Similarities | Maldives vs. US, Europe and Malaysia

Customer Service

In Asia, customer service is a funny sometimes absent quality of doing business. Surprisingly, to me, customer service was excellent in Maldives. Maldivians are kind and enterprising and make their living off of the ocean and travelers. Much like in the United States, the business owners and staff want to make the customers feel happy. Members of the staff work diligently to meet the needs of customers and ensure a pleasant visit. The shop, hotel and restaurant owners and staff seem genuinely glad that to have visitors to their businesses.


In the USA, Europe and Malaysia, many religions are practiced or none at all. In Maldives, only one religion is practiced or allowed. Religious idols and statues are prohibited in the Maldives.


Inhabited Maldives islands don’t have alcohol of any sort. Alcohol is available on resort islands or floating bars. It is never okay to bring in alcohol from duty free.


Attire is much more playful and experimental in the US and Europe. A few years back, Maldivians exercised more freedom of choice in their attire. These days in the Maldives, attire is conservative, especially given the current ruling government. Women wear hijabs and are mostly covered on inhabited islands. I get a sense that if tourists do their best at covering shoulders and at least some of their legs, it is much appreciated.

Silly Fun

Finally, you won’t find people just hanging out at the beach listening to music, rollerblading, and having big fun. Overall, the beaches and general vibe of the island are fine and relaxing, but not exactly festive. If you’re looking for a somewhat isolated, low-key beach experience (like Moloaa Bay, Kauai), you will enjoy Maafushi and the Maldives. If you want a Venice Beach California type experience, then Maafushi may not be for you.

xo – Bar

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