7 things I want to know before travelling to Samoa for the first time


I’d be lying if I said I had always wanted to go to Samoa. As a second generation immigrant, life in New Zealand and all it’s comforts (first world problems) were all I had ever known.

My only connection to my Samoan roots were through my grandmother Vae and grandfather Pili.

They had always wanted me to go to Samoa and learn more about my heritage. But like most spoilt kids these days, my response often consisted of loud sigh and an empty promise.

Years passed and eventually both my grandparents passed away…When life got tough, I would find their words stirring within me. I never knew why. And I was too stubborn to care.

Even more time has passed but now my outlook on life has changed. I have mellowed out (a little bit) enough for me to humble myself and learn. And with culture being a central part of my work life, I am in a position to go out and rediscover myself in a way I’ve never done before.

Despite my fear, shame and embarrassment of not knowing anything about my Samoan roots, I made a goal to go in 2018 and track down my ancestors. This will in some ways serve as a reminder of my commitment to do this and not to chicken out for unknown (made up) reasons.

Samoa is one of the most popular holiday hotspots in the Pacific. Below are some of the reasons why the thought of going there scares me. Hint: Refer to first world problems.

My nana and grandpa would slap me over the head for waiting this long and still not knowing as  much as I should about Samoa. While it’s true I could google some of these things, I wanted to offer a snapshot into my naivety and fears as they are today. I’m not proud of them but they’re true and I want you to know that I am trying and learning.

I will be revisiting each of these after my trip so you can see how different Samoa is in my head compared to the reality.

1. Weather

I spent Christmas in Auckland in 2017. The weather was unbearable for me… I just checked the weather for that week and it averaged 21 degrees. That can’t be right can it!? Otherwise, I’ll turn into a human raisin as soon as I step off the plane.

Is the heat dry or humid? And when is the coolest time to travel to Samoa? And how much sunscreen should one take if you’re planning to be there for 2 weeks?
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2. Etiquette

The extent of my Samoan etiquette was when I lived with my grandparents as a child. This included making tea for guests, crouching low and saying ‘tolou’ when walking past people (this was my best guess at spelling the word but it sounds like ‘too low’ – you know what I mean!), saying ‘talofa’ when greeting people and ‘fa!’ when saying goodbye.

What are some of the major do’s and don’ts when dealing with the Samoan people?
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3. Transport

The map of Samoa looks small enough for me to walk the island…but then so does New ZeaIand (compared to the rest of the world) and that is definitely not walking distance. The thought of travelling between islands is exciting although I’ve never been on a boat long enough to know if I get seasick.

What is the best to travel around and between the islands of Samoa?
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4. Food/Drink

I have always proclaimed that my number one reason to travel is to taste the food of other cultures. Although I’m familiar with some versions of Samoan food (shout out to Otara) but I’m excited to try actual Samoan food in Samoa.

Any recommendations on foods to try that we don’t have or have but are not as good as in Samoa? What is the ‘Marmite’ of Samoan foods that I absolutely have to try?

I’ve always taken tap water for granted (we all do) but the thought of going without it scares me somewhat.

Is water freely and readily available by tap? Or is it best to buy bottled water over there? Can you drink from fresh water streams?
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5. Sleeping

As someone who suffers from sleep apnea, I don’t often sleep away from home or at friends places.

Do people live in regular houses or is it under a roof in an open marae-style? (I can’t think of any other way to describe what I am picturing in my head – Sorry!)

Additional Side Question: Are the power sockets there the same as in NZ?
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6. Toilets/Bathrooms

I hate camping because if there is not a seat to sit on and toilet paper, I’m drowning myself in the nearest pool of (clean) water. This point proves just how first world my life and problems are.

Please tell me there are flush toilets and toilet paper…Even if there isn’t I need to convince myself to still follow through with this, so lies will be accepted for this point.
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7. Dangers

Tourists are typically oblivious to these but locals and people familiar with Samoa will know what to look out for. Any wildlife, people, phrases etc I need to be aware of so I don’t get hurt or beaten up over there?

So… what now?

…This is where you come in!

I am reaching out to you as a reader. I want to hear about your experiences!

Please comment any insights and suggestions below or via our various social media channels using the hashtag #beforesamoa. I will be recording my thoughts and experiences while I am in Samoa for the follow up post #aftersamoa.

Jaemen

About Jaemen

I am a second generation immigrant to New Zealand and I was raised with no connection to my cultural roots. I have lived almost 30 years of my life disconnected from the culture that raised my parents and my ancestors before them. I write from the perspective of a modern day millennial seeking to reconnect with those who came before me.

Jaemen

I am a second generation immigrant to New Zealand and I was raised with no connection to my cultural roots. I have lived almost 30 years of my life disconnected from the culture that raised my parents and my ancestors before them. I write from the perspective of a modern day millennial seeking to reconnect with those who came before me.

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