Tonga Culture

People in Tonga

Is Life in Paradise a Paradise?

As Europeans, we often look at the islands of the South Seas like small (or large) paradises. If you look at the beautiful beaches, the sea and the people, then it could actually be like that. But what vacation means for us or a bit of adventure is for the residents of Tonga the hard everyday life and often a struggle for survival. Many people in Tonga still live very simply.

A simple life

They live from what the sea or the land offers them. Often that’s just not enough. As a result, many people are poor, do not have adequate medical care and often no work. But many appreciate their islands and life there. Especially life in their families, because the family is very important.

It’s much more leisurely than ours. Wherever tourism has not yet arrived, people live simply, but are often satisfied with what little they have. But still: this life does not mean a life like in paradise for everyone. That’s why many people leave their island.

Just get away from Tonga!

Why do so many people emigrate? Emigrating is not that easy, because you need a visa and money. And very few states want to accept the people from Tonga voluntarily. The conditions for admission in New Zealand, for example, are an age between 25 and 45 years, good English skills, health and proof of a job. Children, old people and the sick have no chance

But the sea is taking more and more land away from people. Then there is the political situation and the poor economic conditions, which force many people to leave their islands and emigrate. Sometimes there is only one person in a family who can make the money. Often many family members live under one roof. Sometimes people are not badly trained at all, but cannot find work because there is too little. So they don’t leave their island voluntarily.

Typical Tonga

Why are many people in Tonga too fat?

Even if the residents of Tonga could harvest a lot of fresh fruit and thus lead a healthy life rich in vitamins, many are too fat. This excess weight is due to the high-calorie food that Tonga has to offer. It’s not about one bacon roll too many, but about being really fat, which is a health hazard. Yams and coconut oil are used abundantly in Tongan cuisine, and these dishes are high in calories. In addition, the Tongans eat a lot of bread and drink sweet soda.

Being fat was considered chic

And for a long time being fat was considered an ideal of beauty in Tonga. Fat people were seen as role models, were considered happy and above all wealthy. Anyone who was fat could afford something. This also applied to the royal family. An interesting competition was announced in Tonga some time ago. The winner was the one who should be able to lose the most weight in a short time. Even the then King TaufaŹ»ahau Tupou IV took part and shed a lot of pounds. That was also necessary – after all, he weighed an impressive 210 kilos before he started his diet.

Netball for exercise

Nevertheless it is the case that 92 out of 100 people in Tonga are still overweight and often also die from the consequences such as diabetes. That is one of the highest numbers in the world. Many people do not have exercise and that leads to more and more obese people.

There are now campaigns for popular sport, so that children and young people in particular can exercise more. Above all, netball is “in” here. There are also regular competitions.

Rugby as a national sport

But the real national sport on Tonga is rugby. Almost every fifth resident of Tonga plays rugby. It’s a national sport. Even the children start playing rugby. The rugby team takes part in the rugby world championships that take place every four years.

The disadvantage is that there are few donors in Tonga who could promote this sport. Because without support, the players do not get good training. Other countries where rugby also plays an important role advertise the players, for example New Zealand or Australia. There is even a dedicated stadium for rugby matches on Tonga. But unfortunately too few use this stadium. The journey to Tonga is difficult and ultimately nobody comes to play there.

People in Tonga