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Samoa Travel Guide

A Samoan family preparing to cross the lagoon in a catamaran.


Samoan culture is extremely manipulative, and there's a saying that you can buy anything with a fa'amolemole (please). Samoans are constantly asking each other for things; it's not just a game they play with foreigners. If you're staying in a village for long, somebody from another household may eventually come and ask you for money or something you're carrying. It's important that you be firm with them. Explain that you're sharing what you have with your hosts, and you simply don't have money to give out.

If you "loan" money, consider it a gift, for if you insist on being repaid you will only make an enemy without collecting anything. Samoans will often invite you home for a meal, or ask you to accompany them on an excursion, and they're usually sincere and only wish to share some time with you. Occasionally, however, it will be someone who only wants to get something out of you, such as to have you pay their expenses at a restaurant, bar, nightclub, or whatever. You have to form appropriate defenses in Samoa.

Love and Marriage

After a few days in the country it'll become fairly obvious to male visitors that Samoan women like to marry Western men. Age is not an important factor here: Teenagers smile invitingly at middle-aged bachelors, and obesity is viewed as a sign of wealth. Samoans associate Europeans with the sort of affluence they see on television, and when a girl marries a palagi, her economic situation, and that of her entire aiga, suddenly improves, or so they think.

If you're really smitten with a Samoan, you'll be expected to satisfy much more than just her needs. Be aware too that Samoan women are expert at stopping just short of lovemaking before they're married, and their brothers can be very hard on an insincere man who thinks he can play the game to his own advantage. Note too that marriage to a Samoan woman does not imply any legal right to stay in Samoa; in fact, the idea is that you take the woman and her family back and support them in your own home country. Somerset Maugham's story, "The Pool," in The Trembling of a Leaf deals with this subject.

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