Cultural guide samoa katrina

2,396 views

Published on

a cultural guide to Samoa. Written by Katrina, a friend I met while a Peace Corps volunteer in Samoa; 2007-2009.

Published in: Travel
1 Comment
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • I had to write a research paper for my film class. I did all the prior research (had to write about the film Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock) gathered all the sources and made an annotated bibliography etc etc. But then something happened and I really ran out of time. Then I found Digitalessay.net with a quick google search. Needless to say I really recommend it. I got great feedback on my essay and am really glad that I took this opportunity and ordered an essay instead of shoveling some paragraphs together into a pile of crap and submitting it.
       Reply 
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here
  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
2,396
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
3
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
12
Comments
1
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Cultural guide samoa katrina

  1. 1. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide© Katharina KoppApia, SamoaKatha.kopp@gmx.deCell phone: 7768208
  2. 2. Content INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................ 2 I. FUNDAMENTALS CONCERNING THE POLYNESIAN CULTURE ... 5A. Geographic and Historic Overview ........................................................................................... 5B. Communitarian Culture ............................................................................................................. 5C. Hierarchy ..................................................................................................................................... 6D. Decision Making.......................................................................................................................... 7E. Concept of Time .......................................................................................................................... 7 II. GOOD MANNERS .............................................................................. 8A. Behaviour Codex ......................................................................................................................... 8B. Food.............................................................................................................................................. 9C. Standards concerning outward appearance ........................................................................... 10 III. LIFESTYLE ................................................................................... 10A. Housing ...................................................................................................................................... 10B. Property ..................................................................................................................................... 10C. Privacy ....................................................................................................................................... 11D. Transportation .......................................................................................................................... 11E. Healthcare ................................................................................................................................. 12 IV. WAYS OF COMMUNICATION ...................................................... 13A. Style of Communication ........................................................................................................... 13B. Procedure of Conversation....................................................................................................... 13C. Leadership Style........................................................................................................................ 14 V. SUMMARY ........................................................................................ 14 APPENDIX ................................................................................................... 16A. Samoan Words .......................................................................................................................... 16B. Bibliography .............................................................................................................................. 17 1. General Information about Samoa ..................................................................................................................... 17 2. Language ............................................................................................................................................................ 17 3. History and Culture of Samoa ............................................................................................................................ 17 4. Intercultural Issues ............................................................................................................................................. 18 5. General ............................................................................................................................................................... 19 6. German Sources ................................................................................................................................................. 19 B) KÄSER, LOTHAR: FREMDE KULTUREN: EINE EINFÜHRUNG IN DIEANTHROPOLOGIE. 2. AUFLAGE, BAD LIEBENZELL: VERLAG DER LIEBENZELLER MISSION UND ERLANGEN: VERLAG DER EV.-LUTH. MISSION, 1998 .. 19- BASIC ANTHROPOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE FOR INTERCULTURAL WORKERS IN DIFFERENT CULTURES............................................................................. 19 7. Other Sources ..................................................................................................................................................... 19 Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 1
  3. 3. IntroductionIt has been a long-nurtured desire to share some insights concerning living in Samoa as aPalangi*1. Whatever your intention and intended period of stay may be, may this essay be of helpto you who seek to come and work among these wonderful people. Since many of the mentionedissues are similar in other Pacific islands, you will benefit even if your interest focuses on otherislands.Relating to the Samoan people has been a challenge as well as a joy. Overcoming barriers andgetting used to different approaches to everyday living has enriched my personal and professionallife. This guide will give information and advice that has proved helpful while living in Samoa forover three years. Observing and interacting with other expatriates also enhanced my understandingof the Samoan culture. These encounters with people from ‘overseas’2, have shown the deep needand desire to understand how to relate to Samoans in a way that will be beneficial to both sides.Things change and viewpoints differ even in a small country. This essay is an attempt to summarizemain values we see in the Samoan culture – with the eyes of a female German. Please do share anyobservations that differ from the ones mentioned here or that contribute to these.3Since this is only a short overview, we will focus on some main areas. At the end of the essay, youwill find a detailed bibliography where you can find additional information about different areas.All Samoan words* that are used here are listed in the appendix as well.The information that you will find here differs from a tourist guide.4 Our focus will be on thequestion of how to become more efficient in our work and relationships in Samoa. We will includesome basics in this introduction.1 All Samoan words are marked with an * and listed in the Appendix.2 ‘Overseas’ refers to any country that is not Samoa. Here we will mainly address people who have grown up in aWestern country like Europe, USA, New Zealand and Australia – regardless of the many cultural differences that existbetween these cultures themselves.3 Best way to do this is via email: Katha.Kopp@gmx.de.4 You will find suggestions for typical tourist guides in the Bibliography. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 2
  4. 4. Relating to the CultureOne of the most important issues in living in another culture is to gain and preserve credibility. Onegoal of this guide is to help you increase credibility so you can enjoy the beautiful sides of stayingin Samoa. Some issues concern Samoan expectations from visitors. While that does not mean thatwe have to meet all these, it is crucial to know about them in order to understand and beunderstood.Often a certain way of acting identifies us as foreigners. By doing things differently we sometimesunintentionally close doors5, because people recognize us as foreigners. Someone once said, that“one of the worst sins6 in Samoa is that of being ese*”.7 As Palangis*, we cannot change the colourof our skin, but we can adapt to certain cultural behaviour in order to raise our credibility level.Adapting my own behaviour increased being accepted.Identity determines how you are perceived and is therefore the most important feature in coming toa new country. We will take a closer look at some important personality attributes. This iscombined with a display of core values. Values and IdentityLianne Roembke’s8 insights proved especially helpful. We will take a closer look at the “Circle ofValues”9 she developed.Different cultures have different values. Moving to another country brings the need to understand aforeign frame of reference10. Against this frame, it is often easier to understand and re-evaluate ourown values, because they become more evident in the light of the foreign way of doing things.Roembke used concentric circles to indicate the position different values have for us. Figure 1: Roembke115 People might be put off by a certain behaviour that they find appalling. This might cause us to miss out opportunities.6 ‘Sins’ refers in this case to unacceptable behavior that breaks a cultural norm.7 Samoa Observer, 2006.8 Content of this paragraph is taken from: Lianne Roembke: Building Credible Multicultural Teams, Pasadena: WilliamCarey Library, 2000, p. 95.9 With values we mean certain principles and standards that determine the behavior of an individual or a group within aculture.10 Frame of reference refers to a specific way of doing things in a certain culture that is different from another culture.11 Roembke: Multicultural Teams, p 95. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 3
  5. 5. Circle A refers to values that we adapt to without even noticing, B refers to values that can bechanged without too much pain. Section C comprises values that are hard to change and willusually require us to give up some of our own dear habits. Values in Circle D affect our ownidentity in such a way that we might be unable to change them. The need to evaluate differenthierarchies12 is inevitable. Since everyone estimates values differently, you might want to gothrough the different values13 and evaluate how important they are for you.We will now go through some general thoughts concerning the character of a person that intends tolive and work in a different country.Rothlauf14 mentions a list of interactive abilities for a person working with people of other cultures.Among these are the courage to open up on a personal level, positive self-confidence, willingnessto understand and empathize with the role of others, knowledge about social relationships, andabove all patience. The ability to change behaviour in order to adapt to the cultural context is quitecrucial as well as the willingness to accept and cope with criticism. Development of character is akey to being accepted in a new culture. Thus, even a wise handling of conflicts and owningmistakes will contribute to credibility, in part because it shows your own vulnerability.In general, we should treat others with utmost respect, no matter how rude or strange theirbehaviour seems. Remember that our behaviour might also seem strange and unintelligible toSamoans. As guests in a country we need to obey the rules of the land.We will start with some basic truths about the Polynesian culture. Then we move on to the Samoanunderstanding of good manners. Reflections on lifestyle follow. Ways of communication will bethe last topic we look at before we close with a summary.First, some general remarks about the Samoan culture.12 A simple example: Is it more important to express our personality through the way we dress or is it more important tobe accepted in the culture?13 Roembke suggests the following core values: food, eating habits, dress, courtesy and manners, concept of time,personal space, modes of transportation, form of housing, language, methods of hospitality, planning and scheduling oftime, lifestyle, use of finances, property, privacy, sanitary facilities, cleanliness, orderliness, concept of freedom,children’s education, leadership style, roles of men and women, sense of humour, decision-making and so on. (LianneRoembke: Seminar notes, 2006).14 Juergen Rothlauf: Interkulturelles Management. Mit Beispielen aus Vietnam, China, Japan, Russland und Saudi-Arabien, 2. Auflage, München: Oldenburger Wissenschaftsverlag GmbH, 2006, p 123. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 4
  6. 6. I. Fundamentals concerning the Polynesian Culture A. Geographic and Historic Overview Figure 2: Käser15The area of the South Pacific comprises Micronesia (small islands), Melanesia (black islands) andPolynesia (many islands). Since these islands extend over an area of water big enough to fit all fivecontinents into, the inhabitants had to be good seamen. Settlement by sea started about 1500 BCprobably from Asia, Australia and South America.16 In the nineteenth and twentieth century settlersand indentured workers from Europe, Micronesia and China contributed to the multiraciallandscape we see today. We will not go further into history17 in this essay. Our focus here will beon the Polynesian culture that displays many similarities. Maori18, Hawaiian, Samoan, Tonganlanguages are quite similar, so basic words can easily be understood by speakers of one of the otherlanguages19.Our next feature distinguishes the Samoan culture from any Western concept. B. Communitarian CultureFamily Life and Church Life are the two areas that display how Samoan culture functions as acommunitarian culture20. These two are so closely connected and interrelated that it is very hard toseparate one from the other.All these islands share on one value, the orientation on the aiga*, which is the basic cell, the core ofthe Samoan society. This communitarian culture21 leads to a form of society that is very group-oriented. Identity in the island cultures comes from belonging to a family or church group ratherthan from individual achievements and decisions. This may be one reason, why visitors are oftenasked whether they are married or who they are staying with. People want to know who theseforeigners are by finding out which family they belong to. Samoans are always in groups so they15 Lothar Käser: PowerPoint Presentation Seminar “Ozeanien”, Universität Freiburg, 2005.16 Käser: Ozeanien.17 It would be an interesting topic to extend on the history of origin.18 Maori refers to the indigenous inhabitants and language of New Zealand Polynesians.19 Language studies are recommended, but will not be part of this guide. There are some suggested guides in theBibliography.20 In a communitarian culture living in a group is emphasized as opposed to an individualistic life style.21 Fons Trompenaars&Charles Hampden-Turner: Riding the Waves of Culture. Understanding Cultural Diversity inBusiness, Finland: WS Bookwell, 1997, p. 67. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 5
  7. 7. will probably try to make you feel welcome by including them in their group. We will look atpossible consequences of this later on.Christian church22 plays a major part in the daily life of islanders and is usually the cultural centreof the village. Everyone is part of a church, Samoa provides for everyone, but atheists23. This doesnot necessarily mean that the biblical principles are lived out in everyday life. Church takes placeon Sunday morning and during the evening prayer in the aiga*. Official events in Samoa usuallystart with a prayer or even a short devotion.Like in any culture so also in Samoa, we find different degrees of conformity to the status quo.There is a gap between how things are presented and the actual state of reality. In spite of trying toprotect daughters, many children are born outside of wedlock. While this is a shame for the aiga*,the family members are usually more than helpful to care for these children. It is also common togive children for adoption so they will live with another part of the aiga* for an unidentified timespan.We can better understand this by looking at the hierarchical system. C. HierarchyIn the aiga* the head of the family determines each family member’s life. How intense thisinfluence is depends on his leadership style, but it can go quite far. He might make decisionsconcerning marriage partner, career and involvement in daily activities. Church membership isdetermined by the family and changing your religion can lead to exclusion from the family or thevillage community24. Since even today many families live together with three generations inextended families, exclusion from the community is a harsh punishment.25 Once excluded from theaiga*, there remains the option of settling somewhere else, usually in Apia or overseas. Exclusionalso means a loss of identity.It is quite common for parents to beat children, and sometimes they bear severe wounds fromcorporal punishment. The latter might involve tools like a stick and occasionally lead to the deathof the child. Teachers in village schools still use corporal punishment, even though this is officiallyforbidden.The village chiefs, church elders or pastors will make decisions about consequences for non-conforming behaviour. To prevent this, people adapt their behaviour to conform to the non-writtenvillage rules. Everything that happens will be discussed in the village and excluding yourself mightlead to badmouthing.There are further issues that can influence decision making, which we will now look at moreclosely.22 The different denominations reach from Catholic over Protestant to Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.23 Fay G. Calkins: My Samoan Chief, Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1962, p. 37.24 This is a typical example for a Fa’alavelave*.25 In one family, the daughter, who had grown up with the grandparents in New Zealand who were Methodist ministersbecame a born-again Christian in later years. When she came back to Samoa, she, her husband and children stayed withher parents. Since the parents themselves were Mormons, they didn’t accept their daughter’s religion and told her andher family to leave the house. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 6
  8. 8. D. Decision MakingRather than making a decision according to the patterns of logic, we find a number of other relevantfactors involved. Most important seems the questions what the other people in the group are doing.Thus, decisions are often changed very short-notice, depending on what the real or perceivedleaders or the majority decide. Also major decisions like moving to another country can be madealmost as if by chance26. People changing their minds very quickly often complicate long-termplanning. Often it is hard for outsiders to comprehend the sudden change. The basic reason here isthat for Samoans things are usually interrelated, so it is difficult to separate one issue from another.The outsider might assume carelessness or spontaneity. But Samoans are just used to do whateveryone else does; they ‘go with the flow’.For example, the supply of food or transport can have a strong influence. Especially the availabilityof nice food can change the desire to do something27.This can be clearly seen by looking at our next topic. E. Concept of Time ‘Patience is the key of relief’28The often mentioned concept of ‘Samoan Time’ is based on a cyclic understanding of time29. Thismeans time is seen as running in cycles. So in case of delays, meetings or other events just getpostponed to a later cycle.30 Traditionally time was oriented at events and signs of nature likesunrise and sunset during the day or the stars at night. “Being on Samoan time” means not takingthe time to the minute.31Still, Samoans are aware of the Western concept of being on time and will expect you to do so.Also it is often only appropriate for the leader to be late. Others are expected to be on time. But beprepared to wait! Take a book or index cards with phrases to learn to keep you busy.In Samoa it seems more important to do things right than to rush getting a result. Seeing a Samoanrun is a very rare sight. No matter, whether time is pressing, it is more important to walk slowly tothe bus even if everybody on the bus has to wait.The event and all its details are much more important than keeping track of time commitments32.The Samoan word for ‘time’ is taimi, an alteration of the English word. This shows clearly that the‘concept of time’ is not a Samoan one.26 People come to Samoa for a three-week holiday and end up staying three years or they go to New Zealand for twoweeks and never return.27 You will usually find a lot of people in a house where there is a plentiful supply of desirable food.28 Rothlauf: Management, p 101.29 Rothlauf: Management, p 101.30 This might mean for the short-term visitor that he misses out on an opportunity. To cope with this tension isdefinitely a challenge.31 My personal response to that is to not make long-term plans that involve people who are used to this way of decision-making and time-planning. It only frustrates to have people cancel appointments. It is much better to just ‘let thingshappen’ – and they usually do. I’ve also benefitted from Stephen Covey’s observation that it is better to plan time withthe compass instead of the clock. If you know the general direction you are heading for, it is easier to fit in spontaneousevents than if you have an exact time plan. Compare Stephen R. Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, First Free Press, New York: 1989.32 Lingenfelter: Kulturuebergreifender Dienst, p. 37. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 7
  9. 9. Saying this we must also see the other side which presents a busy and bustling city life in Apia likeanywhere else in the present world, even though on a smaller scale. Deadlines need to be met,treaties fulfilled alongside many other obligations. Two very different concepts of time meet witheach other on a small island. Sometimes this can lead to difficulties.Samoans who live in the village often jump between two different worlds, the traditional way oforienting their time according to events that just happen spontaneously and trying to keep up withtime-management and deadlines. The more remote the village from Apia, the greater seems theevent-orientation. The latter also penetrates the business life. Generally, there is a much biggertolerance for delays and absences33 from work than in the Western World.Our next topic will answer questions concerning acceptable behaviour.II. Good mannersEvery culture has different standards concerning what is recognized as acceptable behaviour andwhat is offensive. In Samoa, people tend to judge others by their outward appearance as well astheir behaviour in public34. This person might focus on issues that you are not even aware of.Here are some general rules for a successful visit in a village35. A. Behaviour CodexLegs should be tucked away when sitting on the floor, never extended towards another person,unless they are covered with a mat36 and the obligatory Tulou* which is a word that a visitor toTonga or Samoa will never forget. You use it when passing any grown-up person while loweringthe head. In addition, you should say it when you throw an item to another person or standing upfrom the table.In the islands, age and status are highly respected, which leads to a different verbal approach toolder people and those of a higher status.37This respect also leads to a form of hospitality, which includes a specific order when eating.Honoured people, like visitors, older people and higher chiefs have to eat first. Hospitality oftenincludes that hosts and guests do not eat together because hosts serve while guests eat. Hospitalityis regarded as core and is one of the strengths of the culture.Samoans usually put others first, but according to their own measure, which might be differentfrom ours. Their attempt to honour us might even be regarded as impolite or rude. People might tellyou what to do in order to make sure you are safe.Food is one of the most important values in the Samoan culture.33 It is quite common to extend absences from work for fa’alavelave* which can include funerals of remote relatives.34 The decision about what is considered as offensive is in the eye of the observer, in this case the Samoan you aredealing with.35 Even in Apia it is good to observe these rules, but the tendency is toward a more Western behavior.36 This is the official codex that is dealt with less strictly in a less formal context.37 There is a polite language that differs from the everyday Samoan. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 8
  10. 10. B. FoodOriginally, a good part of the day was spent finding and preparing food. Even today, traditionalfood takes a long time to prepare. Due to different working patterns, imported and preserved foodhas found its place in the Samoan dinner. McDonalds and other restaurants are competing forpopularity38, especially among young Samoans and those who have come back from livingoverseas. Still on Sundays there is usually a big traditional to’ona’i* that is prepared in an umu*.Try to include a to’ona’i* when you visit Samoa.Unless you are in hurry and only passing through, you can be sure that upon entering somebody’shouse you will be offered food, at least a glass of water or tea.In general39, you should only eat while you are sitting and after somebody has prayed. At the end ofthe meal you should say Fa’afetai* with a loud voice. Somebody might hand you a bowl of waterand a towel after you finished eating. Bless the child who serves you with Manuia* before youwash your hands.Concerning hygiene, be aware of regular power cuts and consider what you eat, especially in thevillages. Your stomach might not be used to fish that has been defrosted several times. Ice wateroffered in private homes is often tap water40, so it is advised to buy your own water.Samoans always love to see Palangis* try their food so show them if you like it. They might serveyou huge quantities of food, but you only have to eat what you want to eat. Others will eat theleftovers. If you do not want to eat something, do not eat it, or you will be served more of it. TheSamoan food might be unusual so ask about food that is new to you. Food is often quite fatty, andpeople tend to eat more meat and starchy food than vegetables. Awareness of healthy nutrition isrising as people become aware of the negative consequences of their choice of food. Especiallyolder men suffer from various diseases due to their imbalanced diet, since they are the ones who getall the fatty food that is considered favourites.Setting a table nicely at home is not necessarily part of Samoan table manners. Often the food isjust placed there without putting any thought to arrangement, even though the awareness ofarranging food nicely even at home seems increasing.Showing a Samoan friendship, appreciation and respect, you do best by offering food to him – justmake sure you know what kind of food they like.Fa’alavelaves* also include distribution of food in foam plates or on coconut leaves that areweaved into trays. People sometimes eat this food at the occasion, but often they take it home andshare it with family members. If you are staying with a family, make sure you bring some foodback from those occasions. This is considered normal even though you might regard it as greedyand impolite.Let’s take a closer look at how Samoans present themselves in public and in private.38 There are good restaurants that serve different kinds of food in different price ranges. These places often change, socheck the actual state of affairs when you arrive.39 Information in this paragraph has been summarized from Peace Corps: Samoan Language Handbook, November1995, S. 30.40 It is possible to drink tap water, but there is a slight danger of getting sick from bacteria. In addition, the waterquality is subject to various factors. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 9
  11. 11. C. Standards concerning outward appearanceFashion is always subject to very fast change, so we’ll only briefly touch on that topic. Samoanswill read a certain message from the way you dress.It is best to observe and ask locals. Things such as fuzzy-woozy-hair styles look untidy to Samoaneyes. The same is valid for a sloppy or careless way of dressing. Hippy-style is not appreciated inthe Samoan culture. If you want to honour people and be respected yourself try to respect theirstandard of decency. Pay attention to how you present yourself, especially when going to church orofficial occasions. Make sure you wear ironed clothes and style your hair orderly.Samoans love both local and overseas fashion. Looking at the puletasis* will show you thatSamoan tailors have a good sense for creating their own styles. For official events, men wear an iefaitaga* with shorts underneath or long pants and a buttoned shirt. Yet, while wearing nice clothesoutside the house, usually as soon as the house is entered, the nice clothes are taken off andexchanged for a lavalava* and a T-shirt.Our next topic deals with different areas of lifestyle.III.Lifestyle A. HousingTraditionally, Samoans lived in open houses; everybody slept on the floor together on Samoanmats. Yet today most families have so-called “Palangi*-houses”, which have one to threebedrooms and a big living room. Still, often people sleep together on the floor. Many use thecomfort of foam-mattresses and even if they have only one mattress, you can be sure that it isoffered to visitors.In spite of these changes, the following area is one that is observed as diametrically opposite to theWestern concept. B. Property My purse is your purse.In a communitarian culture, everything in the house belongs to everybody who is part of thatfamily. The concept of ownership is not Samoan.41 Things are used without worrying where theycame from and without seeing a need to return them. When we as foreigners visit or stay with afamily, or even when we become close friends with somebody, we become part of their family. Onone hand, this provides us with a home and an identity. On the other hand, there are implicationsthat we have not foreseen. Often, clothes, cosmetic products or money disappears from the bag ofvisitors. Likewise, things can go missing after Samoan friends have visited. Somehow, they seem tosense that it is not right, so it usually happens in an inconspicuous way. You might have two fifty-dollar notes in your bag and when you come back, you find that one of them has gone missing. It isbest to hide your money or carry it with you at all times. The only way of regaining property thathas been lost seems to ask in an inconspicuous way if anyone has seen the missing item, then wait41 Fay G. Calkins: My Samoan Chief, Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1962, p 92. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 10
  12. 12. and leave opportunity for it to be returned unnoticed42. Note that valuables like cameras or phonesusually do not go missing as that would be too obvious.Samoans are not used to budgeting, so whatever they receive is often spent immediately withoutmuch thought about tomorrow. If they run out of money, they ask friends or family members. Aspeople get to know you better, they will start including you in their search for money. It is also away of making conversation.Samoans also perceive people from Western cultures as very rich. They see many luxury goods likecameras and microwaves coming into the country. They do not realize that people have to workhard in order to be able to buy these items43. They see Palangis* owning a lot of these things. Theyassume, that it is easy for Palangis* to provide their Samoan friends with a camera or a computerand expect them to do so. Since it is normal for Samoans to give the best they have away, theymight expect their expatriate friends to do likewise. This has many implications on relationships.You might find very high expectations of buying valuable things for friends that you would not buyfor yourself. This is a challenging topic that involves many ethical questions. You will have toanswer these for yourself.It is common to borrow from others, so be polite but firm if you do not wish someone borrowing ofyou.44 During the last years, islanders have adopted a more Western view of “ownership of things”,which involves stewardship45.Linked with the value of property is the area of privacy. C. PrivacyThe desire for private space is quite small in a person who has grown up in Samoa, sleeping in thesame bed with parents and siblings. Samoans do not like to be alone or to do things alone. Theyalways look for somebody to accompany them, especially if they are in a new or unusual situation.They might fear to leave you alone or think something is wrong with you, when you spend timealone. Explain yourself and let them know that you are used to being alone sometimes.Samoan families are very protective about their daughters, so as a female staying with a family, youshould let them know your plans, even though it might go against your independent nature.46 Ifsomething happens to you they will hold themselves responsible and they will be held responsibleby others which can damage their reputation.The following subdivision deals with travelling. D. Transportation “Prayer is the key to our safe journey. Please pray.”47Samoa occasionally has good roads, yet due to weather conditions they easily get many potholes,so be careful when driving. Cars, taxis and busses are the main vehicles. Samoans hardly walk, sothere are not many walkways. An inconsiderate way of driving often endangers pedestrians’ life.42 We will talk later about the necessity of not confronting such behavior openly.43 There’s a running joke that some Samoans think that overseas the money grows on trees.44 Language Handbook, p 120.45 Stewardship involves taking care of things, returning them when finished using them.46 Language Handbook, p. 84.47 Sign in a bus in the Philippines, which can also applied to Samoa. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 11
  13. 13. The same is true for bike riding, which seems to be becoming more into fashion especially withexpatriates. This might also be due to the change concerning traffic.There is currently a big change underway that will change the current practise of driving on theright side of the road to driving on the left side. This is planned for September 2009 and includesthe need to gradually change the cars that are driven in Samoa.48Some hints for using a taxi. TaxiIn town, it is quite easy to catch a passing taxi, but when you are outside the town centre, it is betterto call one. In order to catch a by passing taxi, all you need to do is wave your hand and when it isavailable the driver will stop. Single females should sit in the back. Be prepared to deal with thesometimes inappropriate questions of drivers. To prevent being overcharged, ask somebody aboutthe expected fare or arrange the price with the driver before you go on a trip. The Ministry ofTransportation also provides plans that tell you how much to pay for which trip49. In the Apia area,taxi trips are affordable. Another alternative is to use the bus. BusesLikewise the buses can be stopped anywhere by waving the hand. Since there are no timetables,buses in Samoa are always on time. If the bus is full, the driver might pass by and you have to keepwaiting. Alternatively people will sit on each other’s lap, which is quite common. Palangis* andolder people are usually exempted from this rule. This is a way of making the most out of theavailable transport, which is often rare in the outer villages. Mostly the buses are safe, yet therehave been accidents due to driver’s carelessness. Overloading busses also reduces the effect of thebrakes. Using the bus is a good way to get to know people even though it takes more time to waitfor the bus.Be careful on the roads, since the understanding of safe driving is different from other countries.Speeding is hardly penalized and people often drive very close past other cars or pedestrians andcyclists. This leads us straight on to our next topic. E. HealthcareA lot could be said about this area, but just a few guides here. If you are on regular medication, youshould bring it with you. Doctors in Samoa are helpful, if you have a common sickness. Yet, itmight be hard to find specialists if the common treatment does not help50. Hygiene standards arenot comparable to Western countries, with exception of private clinics. You have to go overseas tofind treatment of more complicated illnesses.We will now share some basic insights into the area of communication.48 We will refrain from further comments, but of course this is an act that concerns everybody on the island inmassively.49 These lists should be available at the Tourism Office in town. There are no meters in Samoan taxis.50 Apart from private doctors and the official hospital, there is a private clinic, as well as a number of dentists and otherspecialists. Private Doctors charge more than the hospital, where you can get treatment and x-rays for any ailment.Since the doctors in the hospital get confronted with many sicknesses each day, they are quite competent in dealingwith any sickness – depending on the doctor who is treating you. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 12
  14. 14. IV. Ways of Communication A. Style of CommunicationIf you want to find out about other people, it is best to ask somebody else about that person. It isculturally appropriate and you will find people knowing about you before you ever met them.51 Ingeneral, you should keep things to yourself that you do not want to be known by everybody, sinceSamoans are not used to keep anything to themselves and they might discuss anything you shareamong them.Often Palangis* are perceived as people who come and ‘know it all’. Samoans call this behaviourfiapoto*. Try to ask and listen first in order to get to know the Samoan frame of reference. That willhelp to understand the Fa’aSamoa*.The need to maintain face leads to a certain way of communication. Because people in a shame-oriented culture like Samoa52 try to avoid mistakes, they will often tell a story to cover up.Laughing also shows embarrassment, so do not be offended when people laugh at you. People willnot admit guilt and it is better to not confront people openly, because it would make them loseface53.Confronting communication is very offensive to Samoans54. There are some possibilities toconfront people or to get honest answers from Samoans depending how important the issue is foryou.If it is not too aggravating, it is best to ignore or make a joke about the issue.55 Samoans love tojoke and they can laugh about anything, even in spite of great problems, they usually maintain apositive attitude.If you have to confront somebody, be clear, but maintain a friendly tone. Always finish theconversation in a friendly way or with a little joke to reconcile the relationship. If you have tocriticise, you can also use a mediator. This is generally a good way to get honest answers. Samoansoften try to find out what you want to hear and answer accordingly. This is not always helpfulespecially if you need reliable information.Politeness usually comes before correct answers. This is equally important for our next topic. B. Procedure of Conversation Relationships come before schedules. 5651 Content composed with help from: Language Handbook, p 12.52 There are different ways of feeling a bad conscience. In a Western, so-called guilt-oriented culture, we usually feelguilty when we have surpassed a written or unwritten law. But in a shame-oriented culture people will feel guilty whentheir wrong-doing has been publicly exposed.53 In a shame-oriented culture, losing face is the worst scenario and has to be avoided at all costs. It is much worse tolose face than to ‘bend the reality’.54 Roembke: Multicultural Teams, p. 135.55 It is not easy to describe the Samoan Humour since at first sight it seems cruel, but once you get used to it,communicating with people becomes a lot easier.56 Fons Trompenaars; Charles Hampden-Turner: Riding the Waves of Culture. Understanding Cultural Diversity inBusiness, London: Nicholas Brealey, 1998, p 139f. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 13
  15. 15. Small talk enables getting to know who the other person is, what matters to them. For Samoans, itis very important to know who you are, before they are willing to accept you. So whatever purposeof meeting somebody we have, it is not advisable to come straight to the point. Get to know theperson first and try to feel where they are at before getting your point across, almostunintentionally. Empathizing helps us understand their priorities and their hidden agenda57. Carefullistening also enables us to understand the verbal and nonverbal message that is beingcommunicated.Building informal networks is basic for productive relationships58, which are a basic source for anydesired information59. Everything in life interrelates. People who think synchronic will follow athought pattern that is based on experience, not on logic. Also many activities are running paralleland the whole context is important60. What we said about ‘cyclic time’ applies here as well.We also need to be careful about sharing our feelings61, since Samoans are not used to doing so andmay find you doing so unusual. They are brought up to hide negative feelings behind a smile andhardly talk about them. Angry or violent outbursts are only occasional and usually quicklyforgotten. Try to avoid them because they harm your relationships as well as your reputation. Sincewe have to live with other people on a small island, we had better forgive them quickly and moveon.We have already talked about hierarchy, so we will only give a short input concerning leadership. C. Leadership StyleBased on a communitarian culture, the leader is the one who makes all major decisions.Challenging this procedure by making other decisions or suggestions – based on own overseasexperiences – needs to be done in a humble and careful way, if at all. Communicating with peoplewho are older or higher in hierarchy should always be done with the utmost respect, no matter howhard this might seem. People who are higher up in the hierarchy have certain privileges and wehave to esteem these people. Leadership in Samoa is mostly based on competence andachievement, but in a village context also on hierarchy and respect. Having status and power ismore important than ‘being in the right’.62We will sum up our results so far.V. SummaryThe visitor who comes with an open mind and an attitude to accept differences will benefit greatlyin visiting the Pacific Islands. The ability to laugh about mistakes and not become annoyed whenlaughed about will contribute to mutual understanding and friendship. Samoans always find areason to laugh together and this takes the difficulties out of the severest problems.57 They might have completely different reasons for getting in touch with us than we would assume. So we asforeigners have to be wise in dealing with local people.58 Trompenaars: Riding Culture, p 49.59 Hofstedte: Globales Handeln, p 130.60 Trompenaars: Riding Culture, p. 140.61 Content of this paragraph composed with help from: Language Handbook, p. 81.62 Geert Hofstedte; Gert Jan Hofstedte: Lokales Denken, globales Handeln. Interkulturelle Zusammenarbeit undglobales Management, Muenchen: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2006, p 77. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 14
  16. 16. These are only a few hints out of many possible issues. Much more could be said63, especiallyabout the immense advantage of learning the native language. In spite of trying to give an objectiveview, this essay was written from a subjective perspective. You will make your own observationsand probably come to different and additional conclusions. In the interest of a mutual learning andsynergizing results, I would appreciate if you share these insights.A Palangi* living in Samoa for over thirty years stated, that Samoans always do the opposite ofwhat you would expect. This statement often helps to understand what is going on. The SamoanSpirit is strong and in spite of many colonial powers trying to change people64, they are stillSamoans – unique in spite of all the changes.Today many Samoan families are living in the second generation abroad without leaving theirisland roots. We see various life styles with the many islanders living in Western countries likeNew Zealand, Australia and the United States of America. Some of these islanders display quite aWestern behaviour while others are attached to an even more traditional form of the Samoanculture than in Samoa itself. This leads to a melting pot of different life styles with Samoansthemselves. In a way, this makes adaptation easier, because people are willing to excuse differencesin behaviour as long as it is not offensive.The attached bibliography presents a choice of books that were used to enhance my own learning.Depending on your interest and the amount of time you want to spend doing further studies inrelated areas, you might find these helpful.May this introduction help you to love and appreciate the people of Samoa, the ‘Penina o lePasifika’* in their uniqueness.63 We have almost completely neglected the whole area of relationships between men and women, but we will dealwith that another time.64 Calkins: Samoan Chief, p. 88. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 15
  17. 17. Appendix A. Samoan WordsAiga Family, includes extended family with all relatives.Ese different.Fa’afetai Thank you.Fa’amolemole Please.Fa’avae i le Atua Samoa “Samoa is founded on God”, the Samoan motto, included in the Samoan Emblem on the title page.Fa’alavelave family problem or occasion, usually involves meetings and food, e.g. wedding, funeral.Fa’aSamoa Samoan Way of doing things.Fiapoto pretending to be clever, trying to ‘know it all’.Ie faitaga a special wrap-around ‘skirt’ for men, worn for work, to church and other formal occasions.Lavalava a piece of cloth wrapped around the waist as a skirt, often worn with shorts underneath.Manuia Good; well; also Bless you.Palangi a person with white skin, spelled in Samoan ‘palagi’.Penina o le Pasifika pearl of the Pacific.Puletasi a typical Samoan dress for women, consisting of a wrap-around skirt and a top in the same material and style, worn at work, to church and other formal occasions.Talofa lava Greeting, can be used at all times of the day.To’ona‘i traditional Sunday lunch.Tulou “Sorry”, used in many different contexts that require a break in local manners like passing by another person. (compare “Behaviour Codex”).Umu outdoor oven; stones are heated up with fire, and then the food is cooked on these hot stones. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 16
  18. 18. B. BibliographyHere you find a short overview of books concerning different areas you might want to study indepth, each with a short description. 1. General Information about Samoaa) Bennett, M; Talbot, D.; Swaney, D.: Samoan Islands. 4th Edition, Victoria: Lonely PlanetPublications, 2003. Or online:http://www.lonelyplanet.com/samoaThis guide is usually updated every couple of years, sometimes there are only issues in combinationwith Tonga available.b) Jasons: Samoan Visitor Map.Jasons: Samoa Visitor Guide.There is a new guide and map every year that give general updated information for tourists. Themap shows all the major places in Samoa that are of interest for tourists. Both are available at theairport or at the Tourism Office and free of charge. 2. LanguageIf you are planning to stay in Samoa long-term, try to learn as much of the language as you can. Itis always best to speak to a person in their mother language, even if it is only basic sentences. Hereare some language guides that will assist you.a) Peace Corps: Samoan Language Handbook, Samoa, 1995.b) Samoan Language Course Book, University of Hawaii, 2003.c) Lai Mosel, Ulrike; So’o, Ainslie: Say it in Samoan, Australian National University: ResearchSchool of Pacific and Asian Studies, 1997.d) Milner, G.B.: Samoan Language Dictionary, Pasifika Press 1997.- A very good dictionary, that often gives examples of how the word is being used in context. 3. History and Culture of Samoaa) Meleisa, Malama; Schoeffel, Penelope : Lagaga : a short history of Western Samoa, Suva :University of the South Pacific, 1987.- A short overview over the history of Western Samoa.b) Calkins, Fay G.: My Samoan Chief, Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1962.- Easy to read: autobiographic reflections by an American lady who married a Samoan and movedto Samoa with him. She describes many areas in a vivid and humorous way. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 17
  19. 19. c) Krämer, Augustin: Die Samoa-Inseln. Entwurf einer Monographie mit besondererBerücksichtigung Deutsch-Samoas. Stuttgart: E. Schweizerbart (E. Nägele), 1902.- Kraemer collected many myths and legends from the old Samoa. There might be updated ornewly edited versions available.d) Steubel, C.; Kraemer, Augustin; Brother Herman: Tala O Le Vavau. The Myths, Legends, andCustoms of Old Samoa. Auckland: Pasifika Press, 1995.- A collection of traditional Samoan stories that explain the origin of the Fa’aSamoa* and muchmore.e) Turner, George: Samoa. A Hundred Years Ago And Long Before, London: Institute of PacificStudies, University of the South Pacific, 1989.- Turner was a missionary with the London Missionary Society beginning in 1840. He describes hisobservations of the Samoa in those days and the previous history. 4. Intercultural Issuesa) Adeney, Bernhard, Strange Virtues. Ethics in a Multicultural World, Illinois: InterVarsity Press,1995.- Guides through intercultural ethics by contextualization to the culture.b) Lanier, Sarah A., Foreign to Familiar. A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold- ClimateCultures, Haverstown: Mc Dougal Publishing, 2000.- A short easy to read overview over the main differences between different cultures.c) Lingenfelter, Sherwood G.; Meyers, Marvin: Ministering Cross-Culturally. An IncarnationalModel for Personal Relationships. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003. (pages used in thisessay from the German translation: Kulturuebergreifender Dienst).- Basic insights into cultural differences.d) Roembke, Lianne: Multicultural Teams, Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2000.- The book focuses on multicultural teams, but touches on many basic issues concerning living in adifferent culture, especially the need of bonding and learning the language of the culture you livein. Even though it refers to missionary teams, there are many basic insights for everyone.e) Trompenaars, Fons; Hampden-Turner, Charles: Riding the Waves of Culture. UnderstandingCultural Diversity in Business, London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 1997.- Describes many different areas of cultural differences that are relevant for business people whowork in other countries. He shows many contrasting pairs like individualists versus communitariansetc. in helpful tables. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 18
  20. 20. 5. GeneralCovey, Stephen R.: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Powerful Lessons in PersonalChange, New York: First Free Press, 1989.- A very helpful guide for people who want to be more efficient in their own culture and in theforeign culture they work in. 6. German Sourcesa) Hofstedte, Geert ;Hofstedte, Gert Jan: Lokales Denken, globales Handeln. InterkulturelleZusammenarbeit und globales Management, Muenchen: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2006.(English title: Culture and Organisation)- Good analysis of different features that distinguish cultures from one another.b) Käser, Lothar: Fremde Kulturen: Eine Einführung in die Anthropologie. 2. Auflage, BadLiebenzell: Verlag der Liebenzeller Mission und Erlangen: Verlag der Ev.-Luth. Mission, 1998- basic anthropological knowledge for intercultural workers in different cultures.c) Rothlauf, Jürgen: Interkulturelles Management. Mit Beispielen aus Vietnam, China, Japan,Russland und Saudi-Arabien, 2. Auflage, München: Oldenburger Wissenschaftsverlag GmbH,2006.- A guide for business contacts with people from other cultures, a very good overview overdifferent important issues, for everyone, not only for business people. 7. Other SourcesRoembke, Lianne: Multicultural Teams, Seminar notes, Korntal, 2006.Käser, Lothar: “Ozeanien”, PowerPoint Presentation zum Seminar, Universität Freiburg, 2005. Survival in Samoa: A Cultural Guide, MIS 5613, Kopp 19

×