Federated States of Micronesia
About Federated States of Micronesia
The Federated States of Micronesia comprises 607 islands spread across more than 2,500 kilometres of the western Pacific Ocean.
The history of the Federated States of Micronesia is rooted in the complex interactions of indigenous cultures and the impact of colonial powers. The region was initially settled by seafaring groups over several millennia, who developed distinct cultures on the islands. The islands came under Spanish control in the late 19th century, and later, after World War I, they were mandated to the Empire of Japan.
The islands were strategically important during World War II and became a battleground between Allied and Japanese forces. At the end of the war, the United States administered the islands. In 1979, the Federated States of Micronesia emerged as a sovereign nation, although it maintains close ties with the USA for defence and economic assistance.
The country is made up of four states — Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae, each with its own distinct cultural heritage and traditions – but is unified by cultural and economic ties and a shared tropical climate.
These four states all have their own unique character:
- Yap is known for its thriving traditional culture, seafaring people, and giant stone money.
- Chuuk is revered among scuba divers, who come to Truk Lagoon to explore its fleet of sunken WWII Japanese warships.
- Pohnpei is a lush, garden island, and one of the world’s top surfing destinations. It is home to Nan Madol Ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Kosrae is a quiet, peaceful island with pristine reefs and beaches.
The capital of the Federated States of Micronesia is Palikir, in Pohnpei, and the largest city is Weno, in Chuuk. The country spans two time zones: Yap and Chuuk are +10 hours ahead of GMT, Pohnpei and Kosrae are GMT +11 hours.
The Federated States of Micronesia receives aid assistance from Australia, the United States of America, Japan, China, and the European Union. The country has relatively high unemployment.
Australian volunteers have supported a wide range of partner organisations in the Federated States of Micronesia to achieve their development goals since 1990.
Key things to consider about volunteering in the Federated States of Micronesia
- Natural disasters can occur, including tropical storms, flooding, typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis.
- Dress and behaviour standards are conservative. If you're a woman, outside of resorts, you are advised to wear clothing that covers your knees.
- Anti-LGBTIQA+ sentiment exists. Public displays of affection between same-sex partners may attract negative attention.
- More than 600 islands to enjoy activities such as snorkelling, diving and exploring ancient cities. Beach and sea conditions can be dangerous. Ask locals before swimming or surfing.
- Heavy fish and meat diet. Micronesians are known to consume a lot of fish and with imported meats such as chickens and beef, there is an increased meat diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be limited as it depends on importation with ships coming in.
Culture and religion
The nation is made up of many ethnic groups and each of its four states has its own culture and traditions. The population is predominately Christian, with Catholicism and Protestantism the two main religions.
Clothing is casual and conservative: long pants for men and skirts and dresses below the knee for women. You are advised to carry a sarong (lava lava) with you after a swim and to cover your shoulders during traditional events and celebrations.
English is the official language of the Federated States of Micronesia, however each state also recognises its own local language as an official language. English is taught in schools and is the most widely known second language for most Micronesians. There are eight main indigenous languages spoken, with many elderly people fluent in Japanese.
The program provides funding to support language lessons. More information on this process will be available during the onboarding process.
Explore our Pride Guides
LGBTIQA+ program participants must be aware of the country's context before undertaking an assignment. Pride Guides are designed to introduce key issues related to people with diverse SOGISEC and their participation in the program.Learn more
Day to Day Life
The climate of Micronesia can be described as a typical warm, tropical climate with two different seasons. The dry season is between December and April; the rainy season lasts from April to December, with the greatest falls between July and October.
Tropical storms and typhoons are common from July to November. Be prepared for impacts on essential services, including food and water availability.
It is important to note the effects of climate change on day-to-day life and weather patterns in Federated States of Micronesia. This will look different based on location. According to the World Bank climate change may have a dramatic effect on the country, especially with the rate of sea-level rise threatening low-lying areas, increasing the risks associated with saline intrusion, tsunamis and cyclones, wave-driven flooding, and coastal erosion.
Reliable telecommunication links are available to volunteers with mobile networks and internet.
Food and dining
The main staples in the Federated States of Micronesia are taro, yam, breadfruit, banana, and coconut, of which there are hundreds of varieties. Reef and pelagic fish, crabs, shellfish, pig, and chicken are also a big part of the diet. Pigs, especially in Pohnpei and Kosrae, are raised by nearly every family for ceremonial and cultural purposes, such as weddings, funerals, and feasts of celebration.
Sharing food with visitors is important, and hosts take pride in providing sustenance to others.
Volunteers stay in apartments and houses. Volunteers will be supported by the in-country team to find appropriate accommodation, and word of mouth is often the best way to find suitable options.
Road conditions are good in city areas but in rural areas the roads are paved, and driving can be hazardous. There is no formal training in road safety.
Volunteers often purchase second-hand cars from Japan and have them shipped to the Federated States of Micronesia.
When it comes to your safety and security you must be willing to adapt your behaviour and lifestyle to minimise the potential for being a target of crime. Like anywhere in the world, crime does exist in Micronesia.
Crime rates in Micronesia are relatively low, however, foreigners are more susceptible to crimes like petty theft, and extra care should be taken with your personal belongings.
Mosquitoes are common and can transmit disease. Dengue fever outbreaks occur in Micronesia, and volunteers are recommended to always use mosquito repellent (especially at dawn and dusk).
Natural disasters are common, with the Federated States of Micronesia prone to typhoons, severe rain, landslides and earthquakes.
Swimming can be dangerous due to currents and waves. Volunteers should talk to locals about the safest areas to dive and swim.
Personal safety issues constantly evolve, we recommend you keep an eye on Smart Traveller for current information.
Mobility and accessibility
We’re committed to ensuring that international volunteering is inclusive and accessible to Australians from a range of backgrounds, with diverse perspectives, identities and abilities.
To support this, Access and Inclusion Plans are available for volunteers with disabilities to assess their needs and ensure their living and working requirements are fully considered. Indigenous Pathways is an Indigenous-led program that focuses on providing culturally safe, flexible and tailored support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers.
Before applying for a volunteering assignment in the Federated States of Micronesia, please do some further research on living in the Federated States of Micronesia and the organisation you are hoping to volunteer with. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to discuss expected living and working arrangements with their recruitment officer.