Here are the most interesting Samoa facts I learnt while I was in the country.
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. I couldn’t tell you any facts about Samoa back then.
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 Samoa facts I wanted to know. There’s such an interesting history and culture in Samoa.
If you’re looking for Samoa facts, you’ve come to the right article!
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 there, and a bit of research, here are my favourite facts about Samoa.
Interesting facts about Samoa
– One of the indisputable facts of Samoa is that the beaches are stunning!
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. This is the most interesting Samoan culture fact you’ll find in any Samoa facts article.
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!
It’s a Samoa fact that they’re bigger.
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). Absolutely true Samoan fact.
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. Just another fun fact about Samoa.
3. Samoans drive on the right, as of 10 years ago
It was actually my dad who told me this fact about Samoa, 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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Where is Samoa located?
Samoa is located about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand in the Polynesian region of the South Pacific Ocean. Samoa shares maritime borders with American Samoa, New Zealand, Tonga, and Wallis and Futuna (part of France).
More Samoan culture facts
Keep on reading for more fun facts about Samoa.
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 Samoa fact absolutely blows my mind.
5. Which means you’re exactly 12 hours from London
Apia, Samoa’s capital (and only city), 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!
– I love all the interesting facts about Samoan culture!
6. Samoa redrew the International Date Line in 2011
Another fact about Samoa 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
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. Little fact about Samoan culture for you there.
8. Tattoos are a big deal in Samoa
Tattoos are filled with meaning and history across Polynesia, but there’s a special place for them in Samoa. In Samoan culture they’re gender specific. Tattoos for men are called Pe’a, and are made up of intricate and geometrical patterns that cover from the knees up towards the ribs.
It’s a rite of passage to get these tattoos, and males who are brave enough to get them are called soga’imiti.
– See the tattoos on his legs?
In Samoan culture, a woman is given a malu, which covers the area from just below her knees to her upper thighs.
Traditionally known as Tatau, tattooing represents the spiritual and cultural heritage of Samoa. In fact, Samoans were among the earliest tattoo artists and are considered to be among the best in the world.
Getting a tattoo in Samoa is a long an excruciatingly painful process. They’re done with traditional tools made from bone, tusk, shark teeth, shell and wood. When I was in Samoa I went to watch a tattoo being done, and the tattoo is slowly tapped into the body while the person is held down and supported by friends and family. Getting this tatau is a bonding experience and a huge fact of Samoa culture.
Not getting your tattoo finished brings shame on the family.
The tattoos will be different depending on the Samoan tribe and traditions. As you walk around keep a look out to see some of the amazing designs – but don’t stare!
9. 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.
10. Men do the cooking
So, one of the fun facts about Samoa 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?
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 and an ancient Samoa culture. I had fish, breadfruit and a coconut elixir all cooked in the Umu with rocks and leaves piled on top.
Samoa food fact: whether it was cooked by a man or a woman, it was yum.
11. 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.
– Imagine lying here on your Samoan holiday!
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. I think one of the important facts about Samoa to remember is that once you’re there, beyond the accommodation and food, there’s not actually that much to spend your money on.
12. There’s a very good level of English
Hello in Samoa is ‘Tolofa’. And that’s as far as I got.
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.
If you want to know a few more words to impress your new Samoa friends on your trip, then watch this video from the Samoa tourist board.
13. 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
14. There are 10 islands in Samoa
Fun Samoa fact: 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.
15. Samoa used to be part of New Zealand
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.
One of the many things that’s so special about Samoa is this independence it has as a Polynesian island. The history of Samoa is just fascinating.
16. 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.
17. 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, and I hope these facts about Samoa have piqued your interest. Samoan culture is just fascinating and I’d definitely recommend you visit to learn more about the history of Samoa through actually being there.
If you want to know a bit more about what to expect from Samoan life, check out my holiday guide to Samoa here.
18. It’s home to one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 beaches
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 of the long flight, and feel the refreshing water welcome me in.
19. It’s home to my fave 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. But that is actually my picture, I went there IRL. And I haven’t edited the pic in the slightest, I swear.
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. 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!
20. 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. Samoan culture and traditions run strong here.
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. Another interesting Samoa fact for you.
On Sundays you’re meant to go to church, specifically wearing white.
21. They have a really impressive church
– One of the most interesting facts about Samoa is that everyone is meant to wear white on Sundays!
The Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral is in the centre of Apia, the capital city. It opened in 2014 and is just as impressive inside. The church was rebuilt on the site of the original cathedral dating from 1857.
I visited for the Sunday service and stood at the back, with a delightful breeze swishing through.
22. There’s still an active volcano
Samoa lies within the ‘Ring of Fire’, a major area in the Pacific Ocean basin where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.
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. Very interesting to learn more about the history of Samoa.
It was fascinating to see the destruction, and how the lava all folded in on top of each other, like a cake. Look at the piles on top of each other in the photo above.
Nowadays there are a few houses built back on the land, but it’s still classed as an active volcano. Some suspect it will erupt again soon.
23. 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!
24. Robert Louis Stevenson lived and died here
Scottish author of Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson, lived on Samoa in the 1800s. He moved there in the hope of alleviating his tuberculosis. He built a stunning mansion at the foothills of Mount Vaea, that you can still visit today. It’s been restored and the museum now possesses the largest collection of Stevensoniana on public display in the world.
He immersed himself in the culture and by all accounts was held in high regard by the locals. When you talk about famous people in Samoa, his name comes up quite a lot.
25. Samoa is the most beautiful place I’ve been
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.
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.
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.
£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.
Samoa interesting facts
– 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!
I hope you’ve enjoyed these fun facts about Samoa. If you think I’ve missed any interesting Samoa culture facts, let me know in the comments below.
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