In about 1900 the Japanese took control of the islands and
they settled the region to a vast degree. This led to vast changes in the food and
diet as the Japanese ate exactly what they ate at home, so began importing or growing
these foods on the islands. However, the Japanese influence was short-lived as they
were forcibly removed from the islands during World War II, leaving behind some
traces of their diet, but most of it left with them. Unfortunately, these fierce
battles led to the loss of much of the arable farmlands on some islands. Luckily
this fighting was limited in area and after the war the islands have since been
able to recover.
Today the diet remains somewhat divided between the local people and the foreigners.
Throughout the islands most of the people maintain their historic diet along with
the new additions from the past, but few people have abandoned their historic diet
for a more European-styled one. However, tourism is rising in the
Federated States of Micronesia and today there are many tourists on some
islands. Because of this there is a growing number of ethnic restaurants in the
country, including Korean, Chinese, Italian,
and American food. Many locals are also
gaining interest in these foods as they are quickly growing in popularity.
When & Where to Eat
Many people in the Federated States of Micronesia
start the day with coffee or tea as well as a small breakfast, including a bread
of some sort, fruit, and sometimes even fish or rice. Breakfast is usually eaten
at home prior to school or the workday.
Lunch was traditionally the largest meal of the day in the
Federated States of Micronesia and for some people this is still true. For
these people, lunch is a large feast at home with family, which can last a couple
hours. The foods served for lunch tend to be local foods and generally include vegetables,
fruits, rice, and perhaps a protein, like fish. For the people who have a more rigid
work schedule, most commonly in the larger towns, lunch tends to be smaller and
is eaten at work, often times consisting of the previous day's leftovers.
For those who have large lunches, dinner is the secondary meal as it tends to be
much smaller, often just consisting of leftovers from lunch. For those who eat lunch
at work, dinner, which is typically eaten at home, tends to be the largest meal
of the day and can go on for hours as many of the above mentioned foods are served.
Breadfruit (ulu): this fruit is very common, especially
on some islands like Chuuk
Coconut: coconuts are used for their milk and flesh
Rice: a common base or side for many meals
Taro: taro root is prepared in numerous ways; it is one of the
main staples throughout the South Pacific
Yams: yams, a member of the potato family, are found in most meals
and hold a special place in the local culture, especially on Pohnpei
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
One favorite local dish is thin slices of raw fish and breadfruit dipped in a pepper
Dining etiquette in the Federated States
of Micronesia is quite varied and relaxed as there seems to be a large divide
between the locals and the restaurants catered to tourists. Due to this, people
tend to eat in numerous ways and nearly all are acceptable, although in extreme
cases you may be looked at oddly.
If dining with locals be observant of customs and how others eat as this varies
as well. Generally speaking, let your local host show you a seat, then be polite
and try everything. Accepting food is a sign of appreciation and not trying the
foods offered to you is an insult to your host. On the other extreme, eating as
much as you can shows great appreciation. Of course eating all of their food is
a bad idea as well; the people believe food is to be shared by all as families and
neighbors often share food and you should be sure to eat only as much as your present
company. Whether or not you leave food on your plate when you're finished eating
is up to you.
Most of the people eat with their hands and children are often fed first. Some families
may have and provide forks, but this is not always the case and is not the traditional
method of eating. Of course if you're dining at a restaurant you will be provided
silverware (cutlery) and are expected to use it. In these settings eating in the
continental style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left) is the most common,
but generally the etiquette is relaxed so eating in nearly any style will be fine,
again depending on your company.
If you do eat in a restaurant and are paying the bill, it is important to remember
that tipping is not customary in the Federated
States of Micronesia and you should not bring this custom to the islands.
Service is viewed by the locals as a means of hospitality as diners are viewed as
Celebrations & Events
At most celebrations and holidays, sakau (or kava) is almost always
present. This drink (which is described below) tends to accompany celebrations when
it is typically drunk prior to dinner and creates a strong relaxing effect.
Today all popular international beverages can be found in the larger towns of the
Federated States of Micronesia, including
juices, soft drinks, tea, and coffee. However for a more authentic taste of the
South Pacific try kava or sakau. This drink, which goes by both
names in the Federated States of Micronesia, is made from the kava plant's roots,
which are ground to release liquid, then water is added and the juice is drank.
This drink gives a very relaxing effect, yet is not considered a drug in the countries
of the South Pacific. Another common non-alcoholic drink in the Federated States
of Micronesia is lime juice with water.
Alcohol has a significant role in the culture of the
Federated States of Micronesia today as beer and hard liquor are both popular.
This has led to some problems and the island of Chuuk has actually outlawed liquor
entirely. While beer seems to be the most popular alcohol, with hard liquor a distant
second, nearly all types of alcohol are available for tourists in hotels and nice
Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in the
Federated States of Micronesia, but check with locals for any particular
regional differences. Also, many people may have troubles adjusting to the local
tap water as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.