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Anga’ Fakatonga Roughly Translates

Anga’ fakatonga roughly translates to the Tongan way of life. It is a fundamental attitude based on love and generosity (Alaimo, 2005). Family and the community are centerfold of the Tongan cultural values. Both respect for elders and the altruistic giving of goods and time are both expected of the Tongan people (Alaimo, 205). Anga’ fakatonga emphasizes the importance of family, kinship, community, respect, discipline, generosity, loyalty, and obedience to parents and elders (Alaimo, 2005). Anga’ fakatonga is a set of values and traditions that is passed down from one generation to the next, has been passed down for centuries and is expected to be passed on through out time (Morton, 1996). A Tongan first identifies with his family, then his village. Anga’ fakatonga is the guiding principles of the Tongan community and it is expected that they are to be followed and passed down through generations (Morton, 1996).

During the the mid to late 1900’s a scarcity in land provoked many Tongans to leave their home island and migrate to the United States, bringing with the anga’ fakatonga way of life (Spickard, Rondilla, and Wright, 2002). Between 1980 and 1990 the Tongan population in the United States inflated by 146%, which led to a high percentage of older aged Tongan Migrants that did not speak English (Spickard et al., 2002). This massive increase in Tongans living in the United States brought about a new generation of American-born Tongans (Metuamate, 2015). American-born Tongans faced many different challenges than their forefathers had not had to deal with (Metuamate, 2015). The main challenge that American-born Tongans have to deal with is how to balance the Tongan concept of anga’ fakatonga with American cultural values and the resulting conflicts this balancing act leads to at home.

American-born Tongans are faces with two very different cultures in their extended family and in their day to day life interactions, whether that be be at school or the workplace.

In this context culture refers to a groups traditions, beliefs, values, norms, and rituals that is shared by a majority of interacting individuals in a community (Ting-Toomey, p. 402). Using this definition American cultural values directly clash with those taught within the Tongan culture. The material comfort and individual success that many of the American population strive after is in direct conflict with the Tongan values of living within ones means and working for individual and community success. The contrasting differences between anga’ fakatonga and the values that so many Americans take on create two kinds of conflict in an American-born Tongan’s life. The first is an internal conflict that they face when trying to balance anga’ fakatonga and American cultural values. This balancing act, more often than not, leads to the external second conflict, which occurs at home and within the extended family for the American-born Tongan.

Anga’ fakatonga is centered around collectivism. Tongan’s grow up in a ‘family’ consisting of people who live close by and identify with an extended family (Hofstede, p. 346). This extended family can include aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, relatives of relatives and village members, which according to Hofstede promotes the collectivist feeling of “we” (Hofstede, p. 346). On the other hand, individualist society, or in this case American families, are more than likely to consist of nuclear families. A nuclear family is one consisting of two parents and any other children that may be part of the family, but there is little to no contact with other relatives (Hofstede, p. 346). Individualist cultures think of themselves at “I” and believe they have their own personal identity (Hofstede, p. 346). Due to this heightened sense of “I”, everyone in the individualist society is expected to look after themselves and their immediate family (Hofstede, 346). This directly conflicts with Tongan values and their collectivist society in which from birth on, Tongans are integrated into strong and cohesive in-groups which lead to unquestioning loyalty to their “we” group (Hofstede, p. 346). The conflict that happens within American-born Tongans and then consequently within their extended family is a result of trying to assimilate to the individualistic culture outside of the home and the need to uphold the collectivist values of their nuclear families.

The differences between individual in collectivist and individualist takes root in one’s self-concept or self-identification, which creates a large amount of intrapersonal conflict as they seek to figure out their own identity. Individualist Americans tend to see themselves as self-sufficient, self-assured, catalysts of change, and as logical beings (Ting-Toomey, p. 403). Whereas, collectivist Tongan’s see themselves as group-bound, role-based, interconnected, obligatory agents, and as harmony seekers (Ting-Toomey, p. 403). It is important to point out that both self-concepts are present in both Tongan and American culture and though there are a majority of people who fall either self-concept based on whether they are a collectivist or individualists, that there are deviants from the norms (Bennett, p. 7). With this being said, independent concepts of self are much more common in individualistic cultures (Ting-Toomey, p. 403). The direct contrast between what is considered the norm for American culture and what is expected from American-born Tongans by their elders creates internal conflict as the youth try to navigate fitting in with those around them and still abiding by anga’ fakatonga.

There is also a distinct difference in the ways in which Americans and Tongans communicate. These communication difference also play a key role in not only creating conflict but also in maintaining conflicts in American-born Tongans lives. Ting-Toomey explores how the differences in low-context and high-context communication can cause intercultural conflict (Ting-Toomey, p. 404). High-context communication is part of the Tongan culture and Tongans regularly use nonverbal channels such as pauses, silence, and their tone of voice to convey meaning and their intention (Ting-Toomey, p. 404). In opposition to this is American culture, which prides itself on being low context and explicitly saying what is on their mind. This juxtaposition leads to increased conflicts inside the American-born Tongans extended family, as they struggle to balance asserting themselves, their position, and their needs to those they are supposed to be submissive and respectful to.

American born Tongans struggle to keep this individualist sense of self they want to feel at school and in the workplace and then to also keep their anga’ fakatonga values at home and within their extended family. It is as though they are living in two very different worlds and America-born Tongans want to be a part of both. They were brought up at home feeling like they are part of something much bigger and that they have a role to fill in their family. This is challenged when they venture out to school, higher education, and the workplace where they are asked to be goal-driven, autonomous, and self-assured. ANOTHER SENTENCE. Living part of their lives in two worlds reigns havoc on their lives and creates conflict within America-born Tongans lives.

Due to this conflict being so widespread and such an individually based conflict, it is not likely that there is one solution that’ll work for everyone. In saying this, there certainly are tasks or little things that could help reduce the conflicts occurring for the American-born Tongans. Ideally, in order to try and reach a more successful outcome or resolution, everyone in the world would become more ethnorelative. There is no standard of rightness or “goodness” that can be applied to cultural behavior (Bennett, p. 46). Cultural differences are neither good nor bad, just different (Bennett, p. 46). The ethnorelative experience of difference in non threatening and is accepted as a necessary and preferable human condition (Bennett, p. 47). This is more than not unlikely, because it requires individuals to work on themselves and become aware of their short comings.

Another strategy that can be employed in an effort to decrease the intracultural and intercultural conflict is by identifying cultural and personal value differences provides us with a map to understand why people behave the way they do in a new cultural setting (What Are the Essential Cultural Value Patterns). This will give American-born Tongans the ability to integrate and assimilate not only cultural differences in communication but also the overall different cultural values (Ting-Toomey, p. 404).

There is not a lot of information or research that has been done on the anga’ fakatonga as a whole or in particular on the American-born Tongans plight to assimilate into American culture and still follow anga’ fakatonga. A way in which to find more solutions for the conflicts American-born Tongans face is to conduct more research into their unique journey. Propose for educational programs in the communities they live in.

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