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Fa'a Samoa, means the Samoan Way. This is an all encompassing concept that dictates how Samoans are meant to behave. It refers to the obligations that a Samoan owes their family, community and church and the individuals sense of Samoan identity. The concept of respect is also very important. You must always respect you betters, this includes those older than you, matais, ministers, politicians doctors and teachers. This unquestioning demand for respect is taking its toll in modern Samoa as the younger generation, which is invariably better educated than its predecessors, constantly finds itself trying to balance the demands of a conservative Samoan society with its knowledge of the world, increasingly gathered from overseas education and experience. This has lead to one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
Fa'a Samoa is also evident in the legal system which is actually two seperate systems, a western style system administered by a police force and justice department, and a traditional system administered at a village level. The two systems do occaisionally come into conflict with one another but generally things work smoothly enough.
As a visitor to Samoa you are likely to encounter a few aspects of faa'samoa. If you are staying in one of the larger hotels, you should have the opportunity to attend a fiaifa, a celebration of Samoan dance, song and music accompanied by plenty of food. On a Sunday you might also get the opportunity to partake in a tona'i, the largest Sunday lunch you are likely to encounter. You may take a trip to a Samoan village and have the opportunity to take part in a kava ceremony. Perhaps if you are staying in a village outside Apia you will have to look out for the sa, a time in the evening when families pray together, and what you can in the village may be restricted. However the restrictions place on you as a visitors to Samoa should not be too onerous, and to help you better get a better idea of some of the finer points of Samoan ettiquette we have included this useful guide.
Last Modified: 23/11/97