• Traditional dances are an important Samoan tradition.

    National Park of American Samoa

    American Samoa

Fa'asamoa - The Samoan Way

Fale in Utulei Beach shoreline
Fale in Utulei Beach shoreline.
NPS
 
Ava bowl for Samoan ceremonial purposes.

A wooden ava bowl holds ava, a ceremonial drink made from the crushed root of the pepper plant.

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The Samoan culture is Polynesia's oldest. It is believed that, the first people on the Samoan Islands came by sea from southwest Asia some 3,000 years ago. Over the centuries, distinct cultural traits emerged that we now call fa'asamoa (fah-ah-SAH-mo-ah). Whether you are a guest or simply passing through a village, please observe these customs as a sign of respect.

Follow the Samoan Way:

  • Always ask villagers for permission before taking photographs, using the beach, or engaging in other activities, however unobtrusive your actions may seem. Permission will almost certainly be granted.

  • In a traditional home, called a fale (fah-LAY), sit down on the floor before talking, eating, or drinking. Cross your legs or pull a mat over them; it is impolite to stretch out your legs uncovered.

  • Sunday is the day for church, for rest, and especially for quiet around the villages. Activities that are acceptable on other days, such as swimming, may not be permitted on Sunday.

  • Each evening around dusk, villagers observe a time for prayers called Sa. If you are entering a village during Sa, stop and wait quietly until Sa ends. You may even be invited to join in a family prayer. It is not necessary to stop for Sa on the main roads.

  • It is considered an honor to be asked to share ava (a local drink made from the root of the pepper plant). To show respect, spill a few drops on the ground or mat in front of you, then raise your cup and say "manuia" (mahn-WE-ah) before drinking.

  • Do not eat or drink while walking through a village.

Did You Know?

Underwater close up of a green sea turtle swimming

In Samoan folklore, sea turtles were believed to have the power to save fishermen lost at sea by bringing them safely to shore. The Samoan word for sea turtle, “I'a sa,” translates literally to “sacred fish,” presumably because of this ability. Sadly, sea turtles here are now endangered.