Learn Tongan Etiquette and Manners

The Kingdom of Tonga is known as the Friendly Islands for a reason, but that doesn’t mean, you need to roam all wild and free. Photo credit: Jovi Waqa


Jfresh Photography

1/27/2021 2 min read

Fakamolemole: Learn Tongan Etiquette and Manners

The Kingdom of Tonga is known as the Friendly Islands for a reason, but that doesn’t mean, you need to roam all wild and free. It’s a country offering the best of both worlds with traditional values deeply woven into its culture. That being said, there are local customs and rules of etiquette you should know.


Manners and customs deal particularly with clothing, communication, and activities on Sundays. Here’s what you need to know about the local culture of Tonga.


Dressing in pubic

Tongans dress in conservative clothing and travelers should also respect what’s acceptable to wear in public. Avoid wearing revealing clothes when you visit villages and cultural event areas.


Don conservative clothes. It’s best to cover your legs below the knees and your shoulders when in public. Public places include markets, restaurants, shops, and cultural villages.


Wear respectable clothing when in church. Tonga is a very conservative country and expects tourists to abide by their sacred customs. Church wear should be modest. Avoid wearing black clothing, hats, and sunglasses.


Swimwear on public beaches. Revealing swimwear should be worn inside the resort’s or accommodation’s poolside areas. There are also tourist-accommodated swimming areas where it’s acceptable to wear swimming attire. Try your best to wear acceptable swimming attire in public beaches.


Visiting villages

If you want to engage with the locals, visiting a cultural village will bring more appreciation to the heritage and traditions of Tongans. Other than dressing respectfully and conservatively, here’s what you need to know.


It’s a common practice to arrive in the village unannounced. However, do best to announce your guide when you visit villages all the same.

Gift-giving for hosts is welcome though Tongans don’t expect to be given one when guests arrive at their house.

When the hosts give you a gift, accept it profusely. Declining the host’s gift is considered as an insult.

Visitors usually remove their shoes before entering the household.

Shouting, making loud noises, and displaying anger in public places should be avoided at all costs. Keep negative news and grievances in private.


Eating and shopping in Tonga

If you’re out and about the day, there are local customs and practices when dining or shopping on the island.



Notwithstanding where you’re dining, you must observe proper etiquette when having a meal in public or with a host.


You don’t need to bring a plate of food at a host’s home. It’s considered as an implication that the host didn’t prepare enough food.

Standing while eating should be avoided.

Keep your voices at a minimum when eating at a public space.

Visitors in a household are served first and usually set the pace for eating.

Tipping is appreciated but not customary.



If you’re off to visit the local gift store, market, or galleria, there’s something you need to know about the bustling commercial activity in Tonga.


Businesses on Sundays are often closed. Respect the local customs of rest during this weekend. That means, no swimming, no buying of things from some stores, and no public travels.

Embrace the leisureliness of Tonga Time.

Don’t haggle when buying from local craftsmen.


Shops are usually open from Mondays to Saturdays, while commercial shops close down on a Sunday. This is with the exception of tourist-accommodating services and essential services.