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Apolima Country Profile Culture History Manono Nature People Savaii Upolu Visitors Info


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People & Society


What little is known about Samoa's early inhabitants comes from oral history. It is generally accepted that ancestors of the Polynesians migrated from the area to Samoa around 1000 BC. Most people are ethnic Samoans of Polynesian descent, and about 7 per cent are of mixed European and Polynesian descent. Europeans make up less than 1 per cent of the population.

Samoan, a language related to Tongan and other Polynesian languages, is the language of Samoa. English is also spoken by many people.

Almost all Samoans are Christian. About half of them belong to the Christian Congregationalist Church. Other prominent churches include the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Latter-day Saints (Mormon), and Seventh-Day Adventist. In general, Christianity plays an important role in the lives of most Samoans, many of whom hold evening prayer services in their homes.

Marriage and Family
A typical Samoan village is made up of a series of families. Samoan society is hierarchical, and respect for authority is instilled from an early age. An extended family or kinship group is called an aiga. A matai leads the aiga, and is selected by members of the group. A family member is anyone who is related to the matai by birth, marriage, or adoption. The matai of a village form a council, called the Fono, which governs the affairs of the village. Each matai is responsible for the labour, activities, well-being, and housing of his family. Family members are obliged to share their food and other possessions with the extended family and, to some extent, with the entire village. Land is held in trusteeship in the name of the matai. Extended families normally have 20 to 30 members.

Young children are taught not to bother adults and are usually supervised by older children. Any adult may freely scold or discipline any child when necessary. Discipline within the home is generally strict; children are taught to respect authority.

Diet and Eating
The basic agricultural products of Samoa are bananas, breadfruit, pineapples, papayas, coconuts, copra, yams, and taro. Pork, chicken, and fish are often part of meals, especially during fiafia, which are feasts.

Most Samoan foods are eaten with the fingers. During a meal, a bowl of water will often be provided for washing hands. A guest may request one before the meal if it is not offered, because hands should be clean before eating. Even if a visitor is not hungry, he or she should eat a small amount of food so that the host is not disappointed. It is important for guests to make their hosts feel that their hospitality is appreciated.

To foster harmony and show respect, Samoans usually offer a formal greeting such as Susu mai (“Listen”) or Afio mai (“Come”) before beginning a conversation.

Visitors are not invited to enter a Samoan home until the host has laid out floor mats for them to sit on. In less traditional homes, chairs are used instead of mats. Guests are then welcomed by the head of the household. Guest and host often exchange gifts, and the host might offer a speech of welcome, to which the guest reciprocates with an appropriate formal response. It is customary to leave one’s shoes outside and to sit cross-legged on mats. Legs may also be tucked behind a person but are never stretched out in front. Visitors are expected to sit where the host indicates. If offered kava, a bitter drink made from the roots of a pepper plant, the guest holds the cup out in front, spills a few drops on the floor mat, and says Manuia (“Good luck”), as a sign of respect for the host family. It is impolite to speak to someone in a home while standing. Traditionally, Samoans consider it a matter of honour to make a guest feel as welcome as possible, believing that anything they have is at the disposal of others.

Samoans have their own version of cricket. Boating events, volleyball, rugby, and basketball are also popular. Dancing and singing are very much a part of life, especially during the fiafia.

Holidays and Celebrations
Christian holidays such as Christmas Day (25 December) and Easter are celebrated. The Independence Day celebrations begin on 1 June and last for three days. The Swarm of the Palolo is celebrated each year, usually in late October, during the breeding season of the palolo. Palolo are coral reef worms, considered a delicacy by the Samoans. White Sunday (the second Sunday in October) is an important religious and social occasion in honour of children.

For more general information on Samoa, go to:

For more regional information on Samoa, go to:

For more product information on Samoa, go to:

We have included Samoa in some of our specials to the South Pacific, eg. our Bounty Voyage and South Sea Dream Voyage.

Another option is to create your own package to Samoa by utilizing the seperate travel components, like hotels, carrental, flights and excursions on the islands.

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