Fa'asamoa - Home Stay Etiquette

The concept of a National Park - particularly a park encompassing both natural and cultural aspects - fits well with the traditional Samoan way of life, the fa'asamoa. Samoans consider this island world to be sacred. Lands, waters, and food sources are managed in order to sustain them for the future. Samoan culture, customs, and traditions emphasize the importance of the extended family, the aiga (ah-ING-ah). Each aiga's lands are managed by its chief, or matai (mah-TIE), for the common good. The Samoan people welcome visitors; in fact, a stay with a family can be an important part of your island experience. When staying a village with the home stay program, please observe these customs as a sign of respect.

The umu is a traditional way of Samoan cooking, an earthen oven, where fire is built over a pile of hot cooking stones on a level floor.


  • Always ask villagers for permission before taking photographs, using the beach, or engaging in other activities, however unobtrusive your actions may seem. Permission will almost certainly be granted.
  • In a traditional home, called a fale (fah-LAY), sit down on the floor before talking, eating, or drinking. Cross your legs or pull a mat over them; it is impolite to stretch out your legs uncovered.
  • Sunday is the day for church, for rest, and especially for quiet around the villages. Activities that are acceptable on other days, such as swimming, may not be permitted on Sunday.
  • Each evening around dusk, villagers observe a time for prayers called Sa. If you are entering a village during Sa, stop and wait quietly until Sa ends. You may even be invited to join in a family prayer. It is not necessary to stop for Sa on the main roads.
  • It is considered an honor to be asked to share ava (a local drink made from the root of the pepper plant). To show respect, spill a few drops on the ground or mat in front of you, then raise your cup and say "manuia" (mahn-WE-ah) before drinking.
  • Do not eat or drink while walking through a village.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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