Source: Virgin Australia – Travel Tonga
During the announcement of my move, initially the main reaction by my fellow Americans was as follows: “…where?” Most people, including myself, had never heard of Tonga, nor could identify it on a map. This is a great example of the vast usefulness of the internet, providing us with information about seemingly mysterious island paradises half around the globe. A quick disclaimer: Tonga is indeed a magnificently beautiful place, sporting white sand beaches and clear water for many feet/meters; but it is not as developed as Fiji or Hawaii, thus not appealing to a great majority of potential tourists. Most of the advises are thanks to many conversations with expats either currently in or have been in Tonga for an extent of time. Third world country or not, here are 10 things you (probably) didn’t know about Tonga!
L O C A T I O N
The Kingdom of Tonga (yes, it is a Constitutional Monarchy) is located in the South Pacific, in between Fiji and the Cook Islands. It consists of 4 major island groups: Eua, Tongatapu, Ha’apai, and Vava’u.
I N T E R N A T I O N A L D A T E L I N E
Source: World Atlas
Yes, it’s true! They are 18 hours ahead of my time (Eastern Time) and were the first to welcome 2016 (and every other year since its’ volcanic beginnings). It is the first country East of the International Date Lane; another fact that makes this country unique!
B A T H I N G H A B I T S
Source: Trail of Neon Feathers
Before you make any gross tribal assumptions, yes of course the Tongans bathe regularly. But! Their favorite time to bathe is in the rain; talk about a cultural event!
T H E P O R N I N D U S T R Y
Whatever your personal view is on porn, Tonga has made pornography illegal. The adult shops we drive by on a nearly daily basis will not be seen for hundreds of miles while in this very wholesome, religious community. Does that mean that there is absolutely no porn in the country? Most likely not, but you know what they say: if there’s a will, there’s a way.
T A L L E S T B U I L D I N G
Source: Virtual Oceania
In many countries around the world, buildings are seemingly endless in height and size. One aspect of Tonga I really appreciate is the lack of development and commercialism; this is represented by our fifth fact: Tonga’s tallest building is a mere 5 stories! The building is the National Reserve Bank of Tonga in the capital city Nuku’alofa in the southern island group, Tongatapu.
P L E A S A N T E X P R E S S I O N
Source: Tonga Holiday
Every culture has ways to express delight. In Tonga, everything that is good is described as ‘ifo (delicious). No wonder, look at their cuisine! ‘Ifo, ‘ifo, everywhere! This expression is used for anything that can be considered pleasureful, such as music, swimming, food, sex, sports, movies, etc.
S H O W I N G S K I N
Tonga is very conservative, both in dress and most behavior. It may not come to a surprise that Tongans frown upon showing too much skin; but because of most of our Western backgrounds and cultures, we are used to the near nudity that the media presents to us on a daily basis. In Tonga, it is ILLEGAL to be shirtless in public. It isn’t typical for Tongans to show above their ankles/past their necks.
G U N L A W S
Source: Puma By Design 001
In Tonga, you will never see this walking past you. Guns are ILLEGAL in this country; not even the police cannot have them for any reason! Gun control is a pressing issue in the US, as well as many countries around the world. The Tongan police force is a lot more relaxed (many reporting that they may or may not show up if you call them) and unlike the US police force, it’s main aim is to gain the trust of the people and give back to the community.
F A M I L Y V A L U E S
In Tonga, if the family has lots of sons and wish for a daughter, but their next/last born is a son, they will often raise them as a woman (fakaleiti). I would compare this to the modern idea of trans, but usually from birth and without the child’s decision. Aren’t they beautiful?!
C A N N A B I S
Source: Marijuana Travels
Honestly, I hate using the term ‘marijuana’ simply because it was given to the plant as a way to give it a negative affiliate with Mexico and drug scandals (even though it is well known to treat countless ailments and has caused ZERO deaths). In Tonga, cannabis is a long ways from being legalized. If caught using in public or possessing, you can be jailed and/or fined heavily. Hemp is extremely frowned upon, and is not used in any productive means listed above. Is there a movement in the country pushing towards legalization? Could the King ever change the perception of this harmless and excessively beneficial plant? These are questions that will hopefully be answered within our lifetime; follow the link provided above to get the complete low-down on cannabis laws in Tonga.
B O N U S : S W I N E
Source: The Family Without Borders
This is a bonus fact, provided by a resident of Vava’u on Facebook. There are more pigs than people in Vava’u – that’s right, more chances of finding dinner than running into someone on two legs. I like those odds, and so would anyone wanting to escape to a remote location. Another plus: an almost endless supply of pork roasts and bacon creations!
I N C O N C L U S I O N
There is still so much to explore and discover in Tonga, and I am anxiously awaiting our departure. This post was mainly written for those whom I have chatted with about the move to Tonga; most had little to no information on hand about the country. I am creating this post for those, and anyone interested in learning more about this beautiful, unique country. Stay tuned for more off-grid, homestead, island life preparations, gardening, and moving abroad posts!
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