Samoa boasts a 3, year old tradition found nowhere else in the world called Fa'a Samoa 'The Samoan Way'. It's a tradition that stems back thousands of years and is the Polynesian culture at its most authentic. Fa'a Samoa acts as a guide for all Samoans on their behavior and attitude towards family (aiga), elders and chiefs (matais), village, church, country and environment.
Matais, more commonly known in the western world as 'chiefs' have a complex role in Samoan society, often managing matters of family issues to civic and political duties in the village.
There are 362 nu'u or villages found throughout the islands with a total of 18, matai.
Fa'a Samoa culture has a strong focus on welcoming visitors, however it is important that visitors respect and follow protocol when entering villages and family homes as well as using and accessing village resources. Some handy hints are:
• Avoid walking through villages during the evening prayer curfew (usually between 6pm and 7pm). This usually lasts for 1 to 2 minutes and is often marked at the beginning and end by a bell or the blowing of a conch shell.
• Respect Sunday. While many visitor attractions are open on Sunday, you are expected to behave quietly and to travel slowly through villages.
• Skimpy clothing is not recommended in villages, and will cause offence. Women are recommended to wear a lavalava (sarong) rather than shorts or pants, especially if they attend church.
• Always ask permission from your host before taking photos in a village.
• Don't offer children money, even if they ask. If in any doubt, ask your host or a village member.