Samoa Culture

Typical Samoa

The German heritage in Samoa

Until 1914, Samoa was a German colony. Three weeks before the First World War broke out, the New Zealanders drove the Germans from the islands. But if you look in a local phone book, you will find names like Kayser or Schmitt or Wulff. The name Retzlaff also refers to the German ancestors. The descendants of the mixed relationships between Germans and locals still live on the island today. But only a few buildings still bear witness to the German influence. Only the Court House – the old courthouse – is a remnant of the colonial era.

Marching music in the South Seas?

But if you stroll along the harbor promenade of the capital Apia, you might hear marching music in the morning, which you may have heard from the fire brigade or rifle festival at home. A police force marches like 100 years ago, plays music and even the uniforms are reminiscent of the time around the turn of the century.

Incidentally, the Samoans themselves do not condemn this time at all. In contrast to other countries, the German colonial rulers interfered little in life and exploited the people much less. That is why many also maintain the remnants of German culture, even if it only consists of a name such as “Telfoni” as an epithet.

Sports in Samoa

As in other Pacific Islands, the most popular team game in Samoa is rugby. Since New Zealand became a colonial power after the First World War and rugby is New Zealand’s national sport, this sport was also adopted in Samoa. Samoa is regularly at the top of the world list of rugby sports. But many players who come from Samoa do not play there at all, but in countries where they can earn a lot more money with their sport. These are New Zealand and Australia, and sometimes Europe.

Left-hand traffic instead of right-hand traffic

There has been left-hand traffic in Samoa since 2009. Why this? Before that there was right-hand traffic. The reason for the change was the cheaper import of vehicles from countries such as Australia, New Zealand or Japan. There is also left-hand traffic here and the cars are built accordingly. Many people protested against this, as they had been used to driving on the right for years. However, the protest was unsuccessful and there is now left-hand traffic in Samoa.

Away from Samoa !?

Samoa looks like paradise. Green islands rich in water, on which a lot grows and you can practically pick the fruit from the trees. Sandy beaches as they trigger storms of enthusiasm in every tourist brochure. A population that welcomes strangers and yet wants to stay the way it has always been. Large families who support each other and, in addition, almost always nice weather, unless another hurricane roars over the islands.

Nevertheless, many people leave “their islands”. More Samoans live outside the islands than there. Most emigrate to New Zealand. Or to Australia, sometimes to the United States.

Not everyone appreciates the strict rules

The rules of Faa Samoa, which have guaranteed the – often compulsive – cohesion of families or the village for so many years, often also restrict the young people. Wear jeans? It does not work! Not going to church on Sunday? It does not work! Live an independent life? Does not work either!

So many evade these rigid regulations and try to lead a life of their own far away from families and villages. There are also real constraints. The jobs are rare and those with a good education find it difficult to find a suitable job. In a country that looks like paradise to us, the suicide rate is unfortunately very high in comparison.


The kava culture

Kava culture is not only practiced on Samoa, but also on other South Pacific islands. Kava is the root of a pepper bush. Its content has a slightly calming, but also intoxicating effect. We used to use this substance in medicines. However, the active ingredient is said to cause damage, which is why kava is controversial in Germany. In Samoa, kava is called ava. For the sake of simplicity, we will continue to use the term kava, which means the same thing.

Actually, only men are allowed to drink kava

You can buy kava everywhere in Samoa. However, only men drink kava, women rarely, although exceptions have now been made here. Kava is also offered to women, especially in tourist regions. But this does not correspond to tradition, kava was a man’s drink and the kava ceremony was reserved for men only.

The ceremony

During a kava ceremony, the men – young men from the village – use a special bowl. You put water and a leaf in it, in which there is the kava root, which was previously crushed. This is used to create a brew that is usually drunk from halved coconut shells. In a traditional kava ceremony, there are certain rituals that must be observed during the ceremony.

Art with pain

Body decoration in the form of tattoos is typical of Samoa. There are men whose tattoos range from torso to knees. The drawings – ornaments – each have their own meaning. So it depends on where someone lives.

We know this jewelry under the name “Tattoo”. This word comes from the Polynesian language and was derived from “tatau”, which means “to cut wounds”.

And a tattoo does wounds too, because the drawings that are scratched into the skin cause wounds, especially if such tattoos are traditionally made with sharp bones. The color is then rubbed into the wounds and it remains and shows the tattoo for a lifetime.

Traditional tattoo from above to “almost below”

In the photo you can see a man with a very traditional tattoo from Samoa that goes from the upper body to the knees. These decorations correspond to the Samoan ideal of beauty. We also have a number of people who have tattoos.

Everyone has to decide for themselves whether that is nice or not. In any case, it doesn’t go away so easily and you have to know that a tattoo like this accompanies you for a lifetime, even if you don’t think it’s beautiful anymore.

Samoa Culture