Dos and Don’ts in a Samoan Village

The Samoan islands have become modernised in many ways, but Fa’a Samoa is still a way of life here. This 3000 year-old way of life forms the backbone of this beautiful, authentic culture and, because of it, visitors to the islands are treated as honoured guests. At My Samoa, we think it’s important to return the favour. We’ve got all the tips on how you can do so in the Samoan way!


DO learn some of the lingo

English may be the official business language of Samoa, but it can’t hurt to learn a few key phrases to smooth-talk your way into Samoan society. These include hello/talofa (tah-low-fa), thank you/fa’afetai (far-ah-fay-tie) and most importantly, excuse me/tulou (too-low). The latter is used frequently, particularly when you’re about to obstruct another person’s view or enter their personal space.


DON’T forget your lavalava

Modesty is key in Samoa, so why not invest in one of the beautiful, locally-made lavalavas (sarongs) to cover-up on your way back from the beach? As a conservative society with traditional values, Samoans like to keep the exposure of bare skin to a minimum. The lavalava is also worn by men and is especially handy when sitting—it’s considered rude to sit with your (uncovered) legs stretched out.


DO pay attention to the fale

Every Samoan village has its fale: a guest-house or meeting-house where the Matai (chiefs) convene. The balmy tropical style of wide, evenly-spaced posts and domed, coconut-thatched roof may be pretty, but it’s more than meets the eye. Every aspect of the fale has its traditions and history, and it’s a good idea to get acquainted with the rules before you step on a Matai’s toes! If you happen to pass a fale while a meeting is going on (or if you’re lucky enough to be invited to one) take notice of where everyone is sitting. Those with their backs against the poles are of the highest rank and importance. There’s a specific post for the home Matai and visiting Matai and even one called the stranger’s post. Lower-ranking participants generally sit on mats spread around the outer rim.


DON’T hesitate to take a load off!

In Samoa, all the important business is done while sitting down, so it’s considered rude to eat or drink while standing. The same goes for talking. If you’re talking to someone, especially a Matai or someone older than you, bring yourself down to their level or lower. When you are sitting, cross your legs and pull a mat or lavalava over them to avoid causing offence.


DO take notice of others around you

Still unsure? As a general rule, follow the example of those around you. But don’t forget to relax—you’re on holiday, after all! Samoans are incredibly friendly, hospitable people, so you’ll find that any slip-ups will be generously excused.

Eager to experience all this majestic country has to offer? Contact one of our dedicated Samoa Holiday Experts today!


Post by Alana Eising.

Alana is a writer and a wanderer who almost always wishes she were somewhere else. That’s why she writes about the fabulous places she’s been, and all the destinations left on her bucket list.