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  • Samoa!

    Samoa: A traditional home. Go Now!

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Culture & Identity of Samoa


Samoa's way of life is steeped in traditions and culture as family comes above all else and the people have a very strong tie to their communities; each individual is a member of the community and is expected to contribute to the community's success. Despite this sense of obligation, there is no pressure to overwork or gain large sums of money to help the community as each individual's role in the community is, more or less, one of membership as socialization is important as is one's willingness to share and work with other people (although for Samoans abroad monetary contributions to their family and community are common).

Samoa is fairly densely populated, but only a small percentage of the people actually live in cities (although most of the foreigners living in Samoa live in the cities). Most of the people that do live in cities often move there to make money for their families and communities in more rural areas and for many of these people the move to the city is temporary as they often return to their village later.

Village and city life does differ in work and lifestyle, but there are also many similarities across these areas. Many Samoan families wake early and begin their day with a prayer then everyone will prepare for their work day or school. School tends to go until about 2:00 pm and work times vary based on what an individual does, but tends to go until the early evening and if a long lunch break was taken it may go even later.

Evenings are often filled with collecting food for the next day, socializing, or playing sports with friends. Most days the people just take their time as they stop by a family member's or neighbor's house only to socialize. The evening meal is generally shared with the family then most people relax and socialize some more until as late as midnight. In some villages there are actually curfews, but they tend to be fairly late.

On most weekends, holidays, and free time the Samoans like to spend time with family, this is especially true when they have a few free days in a row as city dwellers return to their villages. Weekends are also a good time to clean the house and collect food from gardens and farms. This is how most Samoans spend their free time if they're not socializing. Many Samoans are also regular church goers on Sunday. This day is also the day when most Samoans have umu, which is a large community feast, but it is considered a day of rest and no sports or other work is done in most villages.


Nearly everyone in Samoa is ethnically Samoan and they identify as such. The definition of being "Samoan" can almost wholly be defined with the term fa'asamoa (or "fa'a Samoa," meaning "Samoan Way"), which is somewhat difficult to define. This term refers to the most important values in Samoan culture, which is more important to the Samoan identity than just being ethnically Samoan (although this factor also contributes to being "Samoan"). Fa'asamoa dictates that the most important aspects of Samoan culture are family, language, genealogy, the church, the political structure (but no particular political belief or party), and community among others. This is a strict standard of how the Samoans believe a person should live his or her life based on family, community, and selflessness.

Despite the seemingly narrow definition of fa'asamoa and therefore the narrow definition of what it means to be "Samoan," there is great flexibility in the terms above and any ethnic Samoan is included in this definition so long as they maintain their historic roots, language, and ties to Samoa itself. In this way, the chieftain system, church, and even language may vary from Samoans in Samoa to Samoans abroad, but all are considered to be one people as long as those ties and identity are maintained (although some believe if a person doesn't speak Samoan he or she is not included in the identity).

This page was last updated: November, 2013