My Top 10 Unspoken Micronesian Rules


I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in Micronesia most of my life. Our islands were named Micronesia meaning small islands in Greek by Jules Dumont d’Urville’s in 1832. He was a French explorer, naval officer and rear admiral, who explored the south and western Pacific. Prior to this, our islands were part of and called Polynesia.

As I grew up traversing our tiny universe of islands most of my life, I came to realize just how beautiful it is to have a variety of languages, cultures, and people. Like the striking colors of the rainbow, our people shine.

Besides the differences, we share many things in common. It is these common traits that make us all Micronesians.

I have lived on Falalop Ulithi, Yap Island, Pohnpei Island, and beautiful Saipan now. I lived briefly in the USA, but am glad to be back in the islands now and forever.

At NMPASI, I do some work on the lovely islands of Tinian and Rota, also visiting Guam frequently. I have many friends from throughout the Caroline Islands especially Chuuk, the Marshalls, Palau, and Guam (believe it or not).

I would say I have a pretty good perspective of how life is in Micronesia. It is for these reasons that I have come up with the following list. I apologize if I offend anyone. Enjoy my Top 10 countdown list of Unspoken Micronesian Rules:

10. Micronesian families are not nuclear, only extended with friends mixed in.
9. When meeting new Micronesians, we can usually tell which islands they are from.
8. All Micronesian languages have an older language that only the older people speak.
7. Fishing and farming in Micronesia have been replaced with air-conditioning, couches, and TVs.
6. At Micronesian gatherings, the men sit together, and the women sit together, separately.
5. When Micronesians are offered food, it is customary to refuse it at least twice.
4. Mixing your betel nut must take you at least five to ten minutes.
3. Micronesians mix betel nut as a response to a tough question.
2. Micronesians always ask people to eat, even if they have little to no food themselves.
1. True Micronesians treat everyone we meet with dignity and respect!

Micronesians are some of the warmest people you will find in the world. We find the time to get to know each other. Maybe it is because we are on tiny rocks or coral in the middle of the sea.

Whatever the case, our diversity makes us beautiful, while our similarities transcend our differences. When we meet each other in the mainland or elsewhere in the world, we find an instant connection to our coconut islands.

We Micronesians are all the same, whether you are from the Marshalls or Palau, the Marianas, or the Caroline Islands, or anywhere in between. We Micronesians share more in common than not, especially in the way we treat each other.

Because of our similarities and differences, I am proud to be Micronesian!

For more on treating people with dignity and respect, please do not hesitate to call on NMPASI at 235-7273/4; fax or TTY at 235-7275; or online at

Thomas M. Thornburgh (Special to the Saipan Tribune)

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