Not everyone knows that there are two Samoas - equally stunning - parts: Samoa and American Samoa. If you’re imagining one side as pure Polynesia and the other, towering blocks of high rises and Walmarts, stop there. While there are definitely differences, Fa’a-Samoa - the traditional way things have been done for more than 3000 years - still prevails everywhere.
So what are the differences? Samoa is an independent nation with its own Head of State. At the end of the 19th century there was much dispute between the Germans and Americans over the Samoan archipelago, and in 1899 the Tripartite Convention was signed, assigning the eastern island group to America and the western to Germany (it was called Western Samoa until 1997 when it was renamed Samoa). American Samoa, obviously as the name would suggest, is an - unincorporated - territory of the United States.
Samoa and New Zealand also have a relationship dating back to 1914, when Samoa was administered by New Zealand through a United Nations Trusteeship mandate until 1962 when Samoa gained its Independence and The Treaty of Friendship was signed. This has resulted in the two countries still enjoying a very close relationship - with many Samoans living in New Zealand.
And what about visible differences? Well, Samoa (made up of two large islands and ten smaller ones) has the same wild beauty, magnificent beaches and teeming reefs as American Samoa but there are also resorts and many more options for dining out and shopping so you can have the best of both worlds. You can get from one side to the other on direct flights from Apia to Pago Pago with Samoa Airways.
American Samoa (made up of five volcanic islands and two atolls) is stunning, but smaller - and less developed - than Samoa. The American influence is definitely visible on the eastern islands - licence plates and the side of the road vehicles drive on give it away; the voltage is 110 and the plugs are American too. The currency is US dollars and many of the locals like to follow American football.
Aside from the above, the culture is very similar on both sides. There’s a tribal structure and family is everything; the dominant language is Samoan and everywhere people wear lavalava (sarongs), smile incessantly and go to church on Sunday. If you’re looking for a relaxed holiday in the sun, surrounded by friendly faces, read more on the beautiful islands of Samoa.