|Heavily laden feast table|
How to eat in Tonga:
- When you are eating with a large group informally (not at a feast), my first reaction is to stay until everyone is finished eating, but in fact, it is quite acceptable to leave when you are done, even if you are the first to finish.
- If someone is eating near you, I would never go over for the sole purpose of asking them to share their food with me unless I had something to contribute in turn, but in fact, it is normal and fine to go share someone's meal.
- When bringing food to eat during the day, my first inclination is to pack just enough for me to eat, expecting that no one will want to share my food, but in fact, one should always bring extra to share with others around you.
- When someone offers to share their lunch with you, my first reaction to break off a small portion so as not to be greedy, but instead, it is rude not to take the whole piece of food.
- When there’s nowhere to sit, my first reaction is to just stand and eat, but it is much more polite to sit even if it’s on the ground.
- When we are invited to someone’s house for a meal, my first reaction is to bring a dessert to share, but in fact, bringing food would subtly imply that your host does not have enough to feed you.
- When trying to get to know neighbors, my first inclination is to invite them for a meal, expecting they will later do the same in return. In fact, Volunteers are usually invited only to Sunday dinner, because the rest of the week’s meals are not special enough to share with an invited guest.
- When you are a guest at an event or feast, my first reaction is to chose an out-of-the-way spot to sit as the newcomer who does not know the group, but in fact as a guest, you will likely be put in a position of honour up front, and will be served first.
- As an invited guest, my first inclination is to wait to eat from a buffet/snack table so as to not look over-eager, but in fact, if you are the guest of honour, everyone will wait to get their food until you start eating.
- As a guest at a feast, hosts will tell you to finish all your food, which I am inclined to try to do, but actually, most people will just eat a little of their feast food, and then take home the rest to enjoy later.
- At a buffet meal, my first inclination is to take a modest-sized plate, finish it, and then if I’m still hungry, go back for more. However, going back for seconds is seen as “fa’akai” (lit. “always eating”) or greedy, so most people take a huge plate the first, and only, time around. A plate piled high is not seen as greedy, as long as it’s your only plate.
- Sometimes, at informal meals, some people eat and talk with their mouths open (both in Tonga and in the US). This is considered bad manners in both cultures.
- At any meal, some foreigner’s first inclination is to use eating utensils, in an effort to be polite, but actually, it is fine to eat with your hands- a cultural value that especially comes in useful when you are ripping large chunks of pork off of a roast pig at a feast.