Samoa - Culture
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
rates in the world.
A matai title can be given to either men or women, although you will find far
more men with titles than women. It is usually given to someone in acknowledgment for services that have been rendered. A family might give a
title to a relation who has been able to support them through hard times or village might give a title to someone that has done something that
has been of benefit to the village as a whole. However currently there appears to be a tendency to give a matai title to someone in order to
receive favours in return, be they of a financial or other nature.
Until recently it was only possible for matais to vote in parliamentary
elections. It used to be a relatively common practice that prospective parliamentary candidates would ensure that members of their constituency
would receive titles to ensure that they could increase their share of the vote. Even today only matais are eligible to seek parliamentary
each village every family has a matai that is a member of the fono (council) and represents the interests of the family. The fono is
responsible for administering justice within the village and can pass down a wide range of judgements upon a miscreant. The leader of the fono
is called the ali'i, and is assisted by a pulenu'u. The ali'i was considered to be far too important to be bothered with actually
discussing peoples problems and so the position tulafale (talking chief) arose. The tulafale acts on behalf of the ali'i at social occasions,
ceremonies and in discussions with other villages and external bodies.
Samoan families are usually large; it is not unusual for there to be 12 or
more children. Traditionally members of the family would work land that was allocated to them by the matai, but now it is increasingly common
for families to encourage their children to work in Apia so they can earn a wage.
Rugby is probably the sport for which Samoa is best known, following it's
emergence onto the World Cup rugby scene in 1991, when they beat Wales at the Cardiff Arms Park, and lost to Scotland at Murray field in the
quarter finals. Samoan rugby players have been playing for New Zealand teams and the All Blacks for some time, but the 1991 Rugby World Cup was
the first time the nation emerged as a force to be reckoned with in it's own right.
An umu is the traditional method used by Samoan's for cooking food. A fire is built and stones placed on it. When the fire is down to the embers green bananas, breadfruit, taro, fish, and lu'au are placed on the stones. When everything to be cooked has been placed on the umu, it is covered with banana fronds and left to cook.
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