Chuukese relationship traditions explained by natives and returned missionaries

Written by: 
Zeek Cheng

BYU-Hawaii students from Chuuk and those who have served missions there said generosity, family, and their customs with dating and celebration make the Chuuk culture unique.


Chuuk is a Micronesian island located one hour away from Guam by flight. There are currently two Chuukese students attending BYUH: Emylynn Walter and Riann Ande.


Walter, a junior studying elementary education, said generosity is a big part of their culture. “If you walk by the house, they will greet you and invite you to eat. We say, ‘Sa mwongo,’ which means, ‘Let’s eat.’  If you go to a party, you will receive lots of food to bring home.”


Dustin Rainey, a junior from Tennessee studying business management, served in the Micronesia Guam Mission and was mainly assigned to Chuuk. Rainey said, “Everybody talks to everybody, there are no strangers. They are very open and friendly to everybody. What’s mine is yours. They are so happy and giving.”


Walter said the people in Chuuk are family-oriented. “Even tracing back to four generations, we are still really close to each other, including the offspring of the grandparents' siblings. In a big house, there could be 20-something family members and cousins living together for reasons [like] working and schooling.”


Walter said she was always taught to respect each family member because each plays an important role. “We always talk to the elderly in a good manner. Guys take care of and provide for the family. Brothers never hit their sisters. If a girl walks past a guy who is sitting down, the girl has to bend down a little to walk and say, ‘Tirow,’ which means ‘excuse me.’”


Ande, a senior studying elementary education, said public dating is “nowhere to be found in Chuuk” because “dating is a secret” and “brothers will beat up the guy if they find out their sister is dating.” She said they would only do it sometimes, specifically if they catch the boyfriend treating the sister disrepsectfully.


Sinoe Vanisi, a TVA student spouse from Tonga who served his mission in Chuuk, said, “You never see them dating. I have no idea what they do. All you know is that the next moment they were married.”


Walter further explained, “Back home, talking and texting on the phone is how we date. A girl hardly walks with a guy alone. A girl who goes out with a guy at night is considered a bad girl. And you hardly see people holding hands and kissing in public, even for the married couples.”


Ande added most dating is done without the parents’ knowledge, “The first time the guy is introduced to the parents is when asking for permission of marriage. They will break up if the parents say no, but some would run away and get married anyway.”


Another Chuukese tradition is if a girl is pregnant, a feast will be held to celebrate, according to Ande. “We believe that the ladies who desire the blessing of pregnancy will try to eat the first dish that the pregnant woman eats.”


Girls only wear dresses and skirts, said Walter. “Girls always wear Mwu Mwu, which is a Chuukese traditional dress. You never see them wearing pants.”

Date Published: 
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Last Edited: 
Wednesday, November 15, 2017