Queen Salote is one of the most admired and famous Tongan leaders around the world. Her decision to sit in an uncovered carriage, while it was raining during Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation ceremony attracted the world’s attention. The Tongan rulers have had a monarchical system of leadership for thousands of years, where Kingship was passed down from father to the eldest son. The Tongan ruling system consisted of royalty, nobility and commoners. With time, concessions have been made so as to make the country more democratic but it is still a monarchy.
Tongan is the national language of Tonga. It is a West Polynesian language, that falls under the Oceanic branch of Austronesian languages. Speakers can also be found in Canada, Fiji, Australia, American Samoa, USA, New Zealand, Vanuatu and Niue. Approximately 141,000 people speak this language, 96,300 of whom live in Tonga. Tongan has 3 registers. This consists of ordinary words, used in the day to day language, honorific words, which is the language used by chiefs and regal words, which is the language used by the king. A further distinction of the language are polite words, which are often used in formal situations and derogatory words, which are often used in informal situations, especially to show humility. The Tongan language is spoken alongside English in Tonga. Almost everyone in Tonga speaks English. Both English and Tongan are taught in schools throughout the country.
Many Tongans still live a traditional way of life. They live in villages as family units. Older people are accorded a lot of respect. A typical family normally consists of extended family members. Sisters and brothers sleep under separate roofs as a sign of respect. Some of the most important occasions in Tongans lives are weddings and funerals and a lot of gift giving takes place during these times. Food and parties form an integral part of this society. The feats of Tongans are renowned throughout the Pacific world. In a typical Tongan feast, up to 30 different kinds of foods can be served. This mainly includes seafood, meat, fresh vegetables and starchy foods like plantains, cassava and sweet potatoes.