22 Fascinating Facts About Samoa: What to Know Before You Go

Samoa is a fascinating place. Before I went I didn’t actually know anyone who’d been – which is quite rare these days – and I didn’t really know a thing about the country either. Well, apart from the fact that the wrestler and film star Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is part Samoan.

As my week in Samoa passed and I learned more about the island, the more facts about Samoa I wanted to look up. There’s such an interesting history and culture.

I was sat in the van outside our guide’s house when I heard a few of these Samoa facts on the radio, and thought it would make for an interesting post for anyone planning a trip there, or, if you just want to know more about this Polynesian island. 

So with a week in Samoa, and a bit of research, here are my favourite facts about the country. 

Interesting facts about Samoa

Facts about Samoa

1. There’s a ‘third gender’ in Samoa

In Samoa there’s a ‘third gender’ – the Fa’afafine. It’s as accepted and relevant as ‘male’ and ‘female’.

Very forward thinking, hey?

Apparently – as heard on the radio and researched online – this third gender is recognised for their skills from both ‘traditional’ sexes. Fa’afafine means ‘in the manner of a woman’.

The Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Lupesoliai Malielegaoi, is also the patron of the Samoa Fa’afafine Association and so Fa’afafine politics is very much in the Samoan mindset. 

However, when I asked our guide about Fa’afafines he said that he didn’t agree with it, and kind of dismissed the notion that it was accepted into general Samoan society. I didn’t have an opportunity to ask anyone else IRL.

The same day that I heard about them I was invited to a fashion show at the hotel we were staying at. There were many Fa’afafines there – looking fabulous all dressed up.

So there’s no way anyone can deny their existence, but I’m still not entirely sure on how accepted into society they are.

Watch this video to find out more, but read the comments too. 

Interesting article here from The Guardian on the recent banning of the Elton John film in Samoa, which discusses Fa’afafines in more detail. 

“Toleafoa Chris Solomona, a cultural expert from Savaii said has referred to the banning as “ignorant.”

“Fa’afafines are culturally accepted. Our culture is based on respect and inclusive[ness] – the censorship of this film means that we don’t accept elements of who they are, that’s just ignorant and not based on the reality of how we live.”

2. Bigger is better in Samoa

I was sat on the Samoan Lady II ferry with my legs out in the sun, and my body in the shade. I just happened to look over at the guy sat next to me and couldn’t help but notice that his feet looked to be at least 50% bigger than my size 7s.

His hands and feet were huge!

interesting facts about Samoa

According to WorldData.info, male Samoans have the 7th highest BMI in the world at 30.5. Female Samoans have the second highest, after American Samoa, at 34.1. The Samoan males average height is 1.75m (5ft 7) and the average female Samoan is 1.62cm (5ft 3).

That’s from data from 129 countries. 

I’ve just been reading about why, in various articles, and it’s thought that Pacific Islanders have a gene which encourages them to store fat, to get through the lean times of scarcity. Nine out of 10 people in Samoa are overweight

But it’s not just weight, it’s height too. 

Being bigger is better in Samoa, and the larger you are, the more beautiful. It shows you’re rich and is a sign of opulence.

3. Samoans drive on the right, as of 10 years ago

It was actually my dad who told me this fact, when I got back. In 2009 Samoa decided to change the side of the road they drive on to match the rest of the Pacific Islands. 

According to the BBC all went swimmingly when the sirens sounded at 6am on Tuesday, 8 September 2009 to indicate everyone needed to go to the other side.

“A two-day holiday was declared to ease traffic as people got used to the new rules. A three-day ban on alcohol sales was also introduced to deter accidents.” – the Beeb

Hmmmm, wonder if this was why so many drivers in Samoa seemed to drive in the middle of the road while I was there?


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Samoa facts


4. You’re only a 30-minute flight from 24 hours ago

Samoa is right next to the International Date Line, which goes between American Samoa, and Samoa. This means that if you fly to Samoa – 30 minutes away – you will actually go back in time 24 hours.

This blows my mind.

Samoa interesting facts

5. Which means you’re exactly 12 hours from London 

Apia, Samoa’s capital, is 9,787 miles from London and the world is 40,075 km (or just over 24,901 miles) round. So, you’re not the furthest away you can be, that would be somewhere in New Zealand, but you are exactly 12 hours ahead in time. In New Zealand you’d only be 11. 

So Brits, no need to change your watch!

6. Samoa redrew the International Date Line in 2011

Another gem from my dad, confirmed by an internet search.

In 2011 Samoa decided to skip the 30th December all together so they could align with trade partners Australia and New Zealand by moving the International Date Line. This means that their week would line up better, rather than losing business days to having different weekends to their nearest allies.

Local time up to the 29th December 2011 had been 23 hours behind Auckland, in New Zealand, but now it’s one hour ahead.

Everyone who was meant to be at work on that Friday 30th December still got their day’s pay. What a time to be alive!

7. Men wear skirts in Samoa

Skirts in Samoa lava lava

Samoa is hawt. You can expect 29-30C as an average year round. 

So, men wear the ‘lava lava skirt’ as standard. It’s like a wrap around, which I gather most men wear some boxers underneath.

I’d say there were slightly more men wearing the lava lava than shorts or trousers. No biggy and perfectly accepted. 

8. There’s year round sunshine

Samoa is tropical. One of the many wonderful reasons to visit Samoa is the fact that the weather is consistently fabulous year round. Check out this weather chart from climatestotravel.com – any time is a good time to visit Samoa. 

interesting facts about Samoa

9. Men do the cooking

So, one of the Samoa facts they love to bring out is the fact that men do the cooking. They cook the Umu on a Sunday. What I didn’t establish was who did the other 20 or so meals in the week…

Is it like BBQs in England where generally the men will stand around browning the meat while the women will prepare salads, starters, and garnishes – and then the men get all the credit?

interesting facts about Samoa

This is what I deduced, but I could be wrong (let me know in the comments!).

Anyway, the Umu was delicious. It’s a way of cooking underground in an earth heated oven. I had fish, breadfruit and a coconut elixir all cooked in the Umu with rocks and leaves piled on top.

Whether it was cooked by a man or a woman, it was yum.

10. A week in Samoa costs around £2250

I’ve totted up my week in Samoa – which was sponsored by the Samoa tourist board – to see how much it would cost the average person. I came to £2250, which includes the flight at £1200. 

You could spend a lot less by toning down the accommodation and making the most of the beach huts (falas) that were everywhere.

But of course, you can always spend more too.

11. There’s a very good level of English

Hello in Samoa is ‘Tolofa’. And that’s as far as I got.

Classic Brit.

facts about Samoa

Every Samoan I spoke to had a good level of English, although it was of course mostly people involved in tourism. I wouldn’t worry about getting by in Samoa without speaking the local language, but as always, a few extra words will always help. 

12. The currency is Samoan Talas

Samoan Talas are used in Samoa, and the current exchange rate is 1 Samoan Tala WST to 30 pence GBP. 

“Samoa’s minimium wage rate is WST$2.00 per hour for workers in the private sector, and WST$2.65 for workers in the public sector. Samoa’s minimum wage was last changed in 1-Jan-2012.” – from minimum-wage.org

13. There are 10 islands in Samoa

Four of Samoa’s islands are inhabited – Sava’ii, Upolu, Manono and Apolima. 

While the other 6 – Fanuatapu, Namua, Nu’ulopa, Nu’ulua, Nu’usafe’e and Nu’utele – are just for wildlife. Namua does have some fales for tourists though. 

I got to visit two of them – Savai’i and Upolu – the two biggest. We crossed between them via a ferry. 

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT
WHAT IT’S LIKE TO
HOLIDAY IN SAMOA HERE

14. Samoa used to be part of New Zealand

interesting facts about Samoa

One of the reasons I was in Samoa when I was, was to celebrate their Independence Day – their independence from New Zealand.

Samoa has a long history of being taken over by various other nationalities, but on January 1 1962 it became self governing. This is celebrated every year on the 1st June and is one of the most important dates in a Samoans calendar.

15. More Samoans live outside of Samoa, than in 

When we went to visit the Samoan Cultural Village, in Apia, there were a school group of New Zealand Samoans visiting. They’d come from a specific Samoan school in New Zealand, where learning their language and culture is included in the curriculum.

Today it’s estimated that 195,000 people live on Samoa, while over 300,000 Samoans live abroad.

Money sent home by Samoans living abroad is a large source of income for Samoans on the island.

16. Tourism isn’t big (YET) on Samoa

Tourism in Samoa isn’t as big as in the neighbouring Polynesian islands. If you do happen to venture out there, you’ll be rewarded with palm trees, white sand and beaches for dayyyssss. 

I loved my week on Samoa. If you want to know a bit more about what to expect, check out my holiday guide to Samoa here. 

17. It’s home to one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 beaches

interesting facts about Samoa

Lalomanu Beach, on Savai’i, is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world according to the Lonely Planet.

I’ve visited and can confirm it’s a paradise – just look at it!

Visiting Lalomanu Beach was actually the first thing I did in Samoa, and was a wonderful way to blow off the cobwebs and feel the refreshing water welcome me in.

18. It’s home to my favourite swimming spot IN THE WORLD

The To Sua Ocean Trench is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever seen. This is what you’ll see when you Google Samoa. 

interesting facts about Samoa

We arrived and there was only about three people in there, but by the time we left a coach load had arrived. Still, beautiful though.

There’s a ladder going down into the trench, which was hairier to climb down than it looks. Thanks to being extremely slippery but that was all part of the adventure. interesting facts about Samoa

And then you can swim out to the other cave too.

There’s a rope for if you’re worried about extra support as you can’t touch the bottom in the To Sua Trench. 

Jumping in off the platform was one of the best feelings in the world!

19. Village tribes rule

Each village serves as a community in Samoa. But an actual community.

The village elders will decide how they run and what they say goes.

Everyone in Samoa is super religious, and conservative. I was told that it doesn’t matter what religion you follow as long as you follow one, which seemed very strange. 

On Sundays you’re meant to go to church, specifically wearing white. 

20. There’s still an active volcano 

interesting facts about Samoa

We visited the Sale’aula lava fields on Savai’i and learnt all about the eruption of Mt Matavanu in 1911. Unfortunately this wiped out the beautiful church there, but fortunately, no one was hurt. They knew about it in good time and managed to move everyone to the next village.

It was fascinating to see the destruction, and how the lava all folded in on top of each other, like a cake.

Nowadays there are a few houses built back on the land, but it is still classed as an active volcano and some suspect it will erupt again soon.

21. Oka is the national dish

Gawd, I loved this stuff. Bit like Poke (Hawaiian), it’s like sashimi (Japanese) but cooked in coconut cream. Rich and delicious I had this almost every day, and it was on every menu.

I actually couldn’t believe how big the portion sizes were for the price.

The best fish at bargain prices – absolute dream!

22. Samoa is the most beautiful place I’ve been

Standing at the port waiting on Samoa

I was so happy on Samoa.

The pace of life is super chilled, it’s too hot to be anything but. Island life means there aren’t a hundred things to do and tick off which gives you the opportunity to relax and actually enjoy the island for what it is: paradise for tourists.

If ever you get the opportunity to go on holiday to Samoa, I’d absolutely 100% recommend it. 


How to Book a Trip to Samoa

All prices are for a trip 6 months from now (October 2019). 

I was a guest of the Samoan Tourist board, so these are approximate estimations from my week in Samoa. 

Flights: Skyscanner is my favourite search engine for booking flights. You can expect to pay around £1200 for a flight from London to Samoa. 

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TRAVELLING TO SAMOA WITH VIRGIN AUSTRALIA

Flying to Samoa with Virgin Australia is a great option as every fare includes food and 23kg checked baggage. With direct flights from Sydney and Brisbane, you’ll be able to find yourself a great-priced fare.

If you want to plan the perfect Samoan holiday, you can call Virgin Australia on 13 15 16, or visit virginaustralia.com.

Accommodation

2 nights at the Aga Reef Resort – £283 for 2 people in a double room with sea view, so £140.

2 nights at Taumeasina Resort – £347 for 2 people in a king room with a sea view, so £170.

2 nights at Stevenson’s Resort – £156 for 2 people in a beach front fale, so £75. 

1 night at Sheraton Resort – £214 for 2 people in a deluxe room with ocean view, so £105.

Food and drink

7 dinners – our meals were around £20 each, for two courses, so you could halve this for lunch, so £70.

7 lunches – see above, so £140 for one.

Breakfast was always included in the room rate. 

Activities prices

Rental car

£295 for the week

And then you need to include any extra snacks, souvenirs and petrol. 

At a minimum, my trip to Samoa costs £2,250, per week.

I’d recommend splitting up the flight with a few days in Sydney too.
I loved my three days in Sydney, and actually found it good value.
That way you can easily pick up your Virgin Australia flight.

My time in Samoa

Holiday to Samoa

– In Samoa with Vicki, from MakeTimeToSeeTheWorld.com –

I was in Samoa thanks to the Samoan Tourist Board who invited me to explore the island in return for coverage on my blog. All thoughts and feelings are my own. I loved Samoa, it’s absolutely one of my most favourite places I’ve ever been. If you’ve got the time and money I’d totally recommend it!

Samoa facts before you go

More on my trip to Samoa

Your Guide to a Holiday in Samoa

15 of the Coolest Things to Do in Samoa
Your Guide to a Holiday in Samoa

4 Comments

  1. by Richard on June 28, 2019  5:26 pm Reply

    Hi, Vicky, thanks for writing this amazing post. Samoa is truly an amazing country to visit. I hope I can visit this country in the near future.

    • by VickyFlipFlop on July 9, 2019  7:57 pm Reply

      Ah no worries. It really is a beautiful island. I hope you make it there too!

  2. by Kieren on July 21, 2019  2:56 am Reply

    I'm not even planning a trip to Samoa but found these facts really interesting. Can't wait until the next time I meet a Samoan (not a common occurrence) so that I can amaze them with my knowledge!

    • by VickyFlipFlop on August 14, 2019  12:42 pm Reply

      Ha, me too! Hope it's not the same Samoan...

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