Samoan Culture



  • Indirect Communication: In attempts to avoid offending others or coming across as too harsh, Samoans tend to be vague and will go around a point when conversing. However, depending on the context, they can be pointedly . Encouraging words such as “work on” or “try to” are often used instead of words such as “do not”.
  • Communication Style: Samoans tend to be very polite and modest when communicating to others. They have a tendency to try to be pleasing and will often tell you what they think you want to hear rather than directly tell you the truth. If you wish to find out something, rather than asking if you can do something (e.g. “Can I walk through the village during prayer time?”), ask if they would do the thing you are inquiring about (e.g. “Would you walk through your village during prayer time?”).
  • Criticism criticism or negative comments are not often given. Rather, Samoans will phrase the matter in a gentle way and will tell the person in private.
  • Oral Skills: Oral skills are highly praised and cultivated in Samoa. Samoans are often skilled in public speaking, such as oration (formal speeches or presentations). People are also often skilled in solving disputes through diplomatic means like negotiation. Oral skills are considered to be an important part of fa’a Samoa as many tend to pass down stories and orally.
  • Humour: Samoans enjoy laughing and sharing jokes with one another. Typical humour in Samoa is light-hearted and people will often make fun of themselves. For some, there is a belief that one should be able to laugh at themselves before they can laugh at others.
  • Respectful Speech: Also known as ‘gagana fa’aaloalo’, respectful speech refers to the various terms and vocabulary used when one is speaking respectfully to someone of high social status. There are some words that have similar meanings to ordinary words while also conveying respect. Most typically, these terms are used when talking to different types of Matai.


  • Physical Contact: The amount of touching that is appropriate during conversations depends on the relationship. Public displays of affection between genders, such as kissing and hugging, are generally regarded as inappropriate. Generally, Samoans are modest and will limit the amount of physical contact. Touching among friends and family, such as a light slap on the arm, is more common.
  • Personal Space: Samoans tend to leave an arm’s length of personal space when interacting with others. Many believe it is impolite to walk in front of or invade someone’s personal space.
  • Eye Contact: Holding prolonged, eye contact is not very common during conversations. When eye contact is made, it is usually fleeting (e.g. making eye contact then looking off to the side). When conversing with someone of higher status, people will avert their gaze out of respect. For example, a Samoan youth may not look directly in the eyes of someone older as it may be interpreted as challenging their elder.
  • Pointing: Pointing with the index finger is considered rude. Most Samoans will point to something by gesturing in its direction with their chin.
  • Raising Eyebrows: A raised eyebrow can have different meanings depending on the context. For example, it may mean that you do not believe the other person, that you agree with them or that you give your approval.
  • Hand Gestures: Hand gestures or movements with the hands are used often and dramatically during oral speeches and in general conversations.

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