Tonga Today – Culture & Customs
The Kingdom of Tonga is located in the very heart of the South Pacific, lying east of Fiji and south of Samoa. It is one of the most scenic and unspoiled of the Pacific island nations.
Tonga consists of 4 main island groups, with the Vava’u Group lying to the north. The island group is ideal for swimming with whales with its sheltered waters between it’s 50 islands.
The people are carefree, fun loving and renowned for their sincere goodwill. They love their Royal family; they are fanatical about rugby and are devout Christians.
The pace of life in Vava’u is leisurely and without television, or clocks. Tongan people are very friendly and enthusiastically share their strong community spirit with visitors. However, keep in mind – that Tonga is a ‘developing’ country and most of its inhabitants live from day to day in a very simple way – very different to a ‘developed’ country.
Minor things like delays or noise tend not to cause any stress. Tongan’s enjoy the beach, collecting from the sea, singing, and dancing. Any occasion, big or small, can become a good reason for getting together to celebrate with friends and family.
In Tongan life, the family is of utmost importance. Each family member plays a role, with older persons commanding the most respect. Women benefit from a higher social status than in other parts of Polynesia as tradition gives them certain authority over male family members. Public life, however, is still dominated by men. The eldest sister acts as the family matriarch and oversees her siblings, nieces, and nephews. Children may reside with grandparents, aunts, or uncles as often as with their parents—with multiple authority figures in their lives, most children refer to their elders by first names. Every family member helps out in the care and discipline of younger children. Tongan’s hold first and twenty-first birthdays, marriages, and funerals in the highest regard.
Religion closely follows the family in importance, and almost all Tongan’s are churchgoers. This staunchly Christian nation honours Sundays across every island group—the Sabbath is declared forever sacred in the Tongan Constitution. Almost everything (except bakeries, a few restaurants, and resorts) are closed. No sporting events take place, it is unlawful to work or trade, and most tours do not operate. Contracts signed on a Sunday are void. It is inadvisable to create any disturbance, operate noisy equipment, or be loud on Sundays.
The scenery in Vava’u is everything you would expect a tropical paradise to be – rich, green vegetation, stunning blue seas surrounding turquoise lagoons, and white sandy beaches lined with coconut palms. Practically untouched by tourism.
You will be touched by the beauty of the islands and its people and will leave with memories of floating in warm azure sea with magnificent the gentle giants, brilliant sunsets reflected in calm lagoons, the sound of beautiful singing in village churches drifting across the water each morning as the sun pops over the horizon.
The Tongan people are strict Christians so brief tight shorts, bikinis and bathing suits are fine for the beaches at the resort but frowned upon if worn in public. This means around the town of Neiafu, villages, Pangai, Nuku’alofa, airports etc.
If you have not been to an under-developed country before, you may be a little shocked when you see their very basic housing and many skinny dogs scavenging for food.
We ask our guests not to tip. Many simple don’t understand why they are being given money for nothing. So this money is usually used for buying sweets, cakes, soda etc that can help contribute to the high diabetes rate in Tonga.
Tonga is the only South Pacific country never colonised by a European power.
Tonga is the first country in the world to see the sun!! It is situated west of the International Dateline just south of the Equator in the South Pacific.
The Kingdom of Tonga lies due north east of New Zealand, just north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Tonga is spread across 362,000sq km and consists of 171 remarkably diverse islands, which all told, occupy only 688sq km of dry land. Despite the country’s far flung nature, the Tongan people, who inhabit only a few of their islands – less than 40 – are a homogenous group and speak a uniform language, with only minor local variations. Nearly all Tongan’s speak some English as a second language and visitors will not need a working knowledge of Tongan in order to communicate with the islanders. The country consists of four main island groups: Tongatapu, Ha’apai, Vava’u and the Niuas.
Nuku’alofa, the capital, is located on the main island of Tongatapu. It is more developed than its neighbors but still maintains an unhurried and peaceful lifestyle.
Neiafu is the capital of the Vava’u Island group and is nestled next to the the natural deep water harbour – the Port of Refuge. There is banks, post office, internet cafes, handicrafts stores, cafes, restaurants and bars, a Tongan Visitors Bureau and the local market in Neiafu. The resorts and hotels in Neiafu and along the harbour-front do not have beaches, you need to stay out on the islands to have a beach and coral reefs for snorkeling.
Pangai is the capital of the Ha’apai Island group and is on the island of Lifuka. It has a general store, a bank, internet access at the telephone exchange, a Tonga Visitors Bureau and a market. There is little tourism in Ha’apai, however guests at Sandy beach Resort and Matafonua Resort are well looked after. The beaches are exquisite and the locals are friendly!