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Tonga Culture

Kings Palace photo

Tonga is the only Pacific nation to never completely lose its own governance. "The Friendly Islands" became a kingdom in 1845 and a constitutional monarchy in 1875. Today, it is the only Pacific monarchy.

It is thought that Tonga has been inhabited for 3000 years. Before European discovery in the 1600s, Tongans were in contact with neighbouring Fiji and Samoa. The arrival of western traders and missionaries in the 1800s, brought changes. Tonga Trillithon photoSome old beliefs and habits were discarded. Today, Tongan culture is a mix of old and new and not all Tongans agree on what exactly Tongan culture is. But many understand whether to practice old or new ways depending on who is present, especially when younger people are in the presence of the older generation.

Tongan People photoTongans have strong ties overseas as many get seasonal work in New Zealand, Australia, or the USA. Many Tongans have relatives living permanently in these countries. It is common for money to be sent from these countries to family in Tonga. Tongans living permanently in New Zealand amount to nearly half the population of Tonga.


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Author & photographer: David Johnson (Virtual Oceania)

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