The Federated States of Micronesia comprise 607 islands within the greater Micronesian subregion of the Pacific Ocean. Largely isolated even among its neighbors in Oceania, the FSM is home to several distinct cultural and linguistic groups who have successfully maintained their traditions to the present day.

The FSM is divided into four states–Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap–each of which contains numerous islands and ethno-linguistic groups; as a result, the history of the FSM is rather complex. Yap and Pohnpei were both home to empires that attained a high degree of political complexity for the region; these, however, were already in decline by the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century. Spain gradually colonized most of the islands of Micronesia, before selling them to Germany in 1899. They then passed to Japan following the German defeat in World War I. Micronesia became an important center of Japanese power in the Pacific during the period between the wars; it was during this time that industry was introduced to the islands, primarily in the form of mining, fishing, and agriculture. However, World War II saw the islands and their people decimated by bombing and military exploitation. Micronesia was encompassed in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947, and administration of the islands was granted to the United States. The four districts that would become the Federated States of Micronesia ratified their constitution in 1979, and attained full independence in 1986, adopting a democratic, republican form of government.

The FSM relies heavily on economic assistance from the US, with whom the country has an agreement of free association. With few natural resources, the major industries are fishing and agriculture, and there is a large subsistence economy. Tourism has been cited as Micronesia’s best opportunity for economic development, and the country certainly does not lack tourist attractions. Visitors can check out underwater wreckage from World War II, swim with gigantic manta rays, explore the mysterious ruins of Nan Madol on Pohnpei, or admire the enormous stone “coins” traditionally used as currency on Yap. However, development of tourism is hampered by the country’s remote location and lack of infrastructure; tourists should therefore not expect the full-service island resorts of other Pacific destinations, but a more rugged, adventurous vacation.

Foreigners will have difficulty finding paid positions within Micronesia, as unemployment is high. However, NGO work is always an option, and there are many volunteer opportunities for teachers; the prestigious Xavier High School in Chuuk, the oldest in the region, is staffed entirely by Jesuit missionaries and volunteers. The islands are virtually crime-free and have low tax rates, and experience few natural disasters compared with surrounding countries. These factors may be tempting for retirees and those with the option of distance work; again, however, be prepared to sacrifice some luxuries in the process of moving.

English is the national language, and is spoken to some degree throughout the islands, but outside the national and state capitals, local languages are primarily used. Six of these are co-official, and at least eight more have significant numbers of speakers, so island-hoppers are well advised to begin language study as soon as possible!

Links

Country Info:
Official Government Homepage
Wikipedia: Federated States of Micronesia
CIA World Factbook Entry

Language:
Wikipedia: English Language

Relocation Resources:
FSM Embassy in Washington, DC
Federated States of Micronesia at Wikitravel
Micronesia.com Travel Guide and Community
CareerJet.com: Jobs in Micronesia