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Cultural protocols to be aware of

Samoa's deeply traditional way of life, known as 'Fa'a Samoa', dates back more than 3,000 years.

Known as fa’a Samoa – the Samoan way – Samoa aims to preserve and protect its cultural traditions and practices which date back more than 3,000 years. Respecting cultural values are a part of everyday life in Samoa, including in the home and outside in the villages. 

 

For visitors, Samoa’s unique culture and traditions provide a truly authentic and fascinating insight into this ancient Polynesian way of life. To make the most of your experience, it’s a good idea to learn some of the basic protocols that are observed in Samoan society.

 

 

 

Basic guidelines for in the home

 

Visitors who are lucky enough to be invited into a Samoan fale (house) should be aware of a few customs, but if you are unsure, it’s always a good idea to ask your host to guide you through.

 

        • Always remove your shoes before entering the fale
        • Don’t stand if you see elders seated
        • When seated, avoid pointing your toes at others by crossing your legs or covering them with your lavalava (sarong). 

 

 

Useful guidelines when visiting the villages

 

        • Always ask for permission before taking photos
        • Ask for permission to enter a lagoon or bay because the village may hold customary land rights over these areas. You’re advised to wait until a local comes along and you should expect to pay a small entry fee in cash.
        • Wear modest clothing – women should cover their knees and shoulders and avoid swimsuits.

 

Remember the evening village curfew

A daily evening prayer curfew called Sa (sacred) usually occurs between 6-7pm and lasts between 10 and 20 minutes. The curfew will be announced by a bell or by someone blowing a conch shell and will end upon the third bell or conch sound. Importantly, while the curfew is taking place, you should avoid walking or driving through the villages.

 

Dress code in Samoa

As a sign of respect, modest clothing should be worn when visiting any village in Samoa and especially at church services. Suggestions include a lavalava (sarong), trousers, long skirts, and blouses. Shorts and t-shirt are also considered appropriate. 

Swimwear must always be worn when swimming or sunbathing at the beach but shouldn’t be worn while walking around the villages. If you plan to visit a village after the beach, make sure you take a change of clothes with you or make time to return to your hotel to change. 

 

Sundays in Samoa

Samoa is a religious Christian country, so Sundays are reserved for the church, family, and rest. Most Samoan people will attend a church service in the morning before gathering for a traditional family lunch known as "Toanai". 

If you’re travelling around Samoa on a Sunday, there is an expectation that you’ll behave quietly and move slowly through villages.

Many resorts and restaurants will stay open on Sundays, but most activities, sites and attractions, fuel stations, and other businesses are generally closed. Some grocery shops and food markets open first thing before church, so locals can stock up for their family meal later in the day.

You're welcome to attend church services and you can ask at either the church or your accommodation for service times and details. Visitors to a church service should dress modestly and women are encouraged to wear a lavalava (skirt) to cover their knees and a top that covers their shoulders.

The sale of alcohol is prohibited on Sundays except in hotels and restaurants.

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