The Samoan ‘Visiting Gift’ Etiquette Pt. 1

Visiting family is always a great thing – catching up on the stories, updates on family members, sharing food and sometimes sharing tears, all in the name of ‘being together’ is no doubt one of life’s simple pleasures (if you are close to your family lol)

And then there leaves the question of etiquette. Sure, most families would have some type of give and take, the token of love can be in a simple plate of food, a nice chocolate cake and even just a bucket of KFC! But what is the procedure and requirements when you visit a family in Samoa? What amount of gifts or monetary ‘mea alofa’ is required? No one wants to appear to have no-regard to this custom of visiting gifts and as a first timer (the fact that you even think about it is at some point, a success).

So my grandma returned back from Australia over the weekend. Glad to have her back and missed her like crazy! And the weekend brought on a serious of ‘asiasiga’ visits to family to bear gifts or ‘oso’ as commonly referred to.

Nowadays, if you visit a village in Kua backs the acceptable amount is (may vary to different families depending on close relationship) a gift of SAT$200-500 and if required, either a few bags of Moa, Mamoe, Bread, Butter, Suger (basic groceries) are acceptable – and also depending on the size of the family.

(alot for a visit eh?)


Best to visit on Saturday – Recieving a monetary gift before Sunday will ensure that the family can use this gift for Sunday Tithe and Atina’e etc etc. also Saturday afternoon would mean that most stores in Apia are closed and transport to town to spend this money is limited, leaving the money to be used for Village affairs & Church. (not that its anyone’s business what your family does with the money, but more for a peace of mind that this money, given with love, is not splurged on Bingo and other un-essential items.

If there are a few visiting from a particular family – go together! this would mean that the family that is visited is given amounts at the same time and therefore would not feel as if they did not recieve AS MUCH as if you’d visit alone (not to mention, it provides a ‘he gave this much, so I don’t mind if I give the same or more/less) but its not a competition!

If the gift is not accepted – depending on the families pride, give it to a daughter or son or somebody that lives with the family – it is better than taking back your gift with you and again, pride is still part of being Samoan. E talia ma le faaaloalo.

Too Much! It is also a problem – do not over-give your ‘present’, whatever is available and given as a gift with a clean heart is worth more, don’t break your budget because you ‘think’ it may not be enough.

Its the thought that counts: even if you visit with a small gift, people are forgiving, just apologise that the gift may not be enough, but you have brought it as something to show your love.

Frequency: The rule of giving is also depending on how many times you visit, if you intend to ‘live’ with your family while you are here, do not give a massive stack of cash and then expect it to cover the entire 3 week trip, hand it out in installments! lol, or agree to buy groceries, pay the power bill, pay the water bill, gift gifts sparingly as to not instigate a situation where there would be an expectation to keep giving gifts at a high value limit. (also to avoid the ‘thinking to much of a situation’ – eg. you arrive and give SAT$1000.00, the next couple of days you give SAT$50, it may be percieved as if they are not a gracious host and not providing to you expection in which, the monetary offerings are getting less and less, but really, you’ve busted your wallet in the first showering of ‘alofa’.

And if you’ve visiting for the first time (in a very long time) its preferable to invest some time, visit and stay for an afternoon, accept thier invitation to ‘toonai’ with them etc.

If your visiting family that you have never met, less is more – and since you have not gained an overall idea of who they are or what thier financial status is, don’t offend by giving a ‘well off’ family SAT$50 or even SAT$100 but again, stick to a small gift.

It gets even more trickier!

Visiting a family member who is the Sa’o of the family (the highest cheif representative of the family) in this case, monetary gifts are fine – alongside a box of pisupo (if available) or a box of moa (chicken) and sometimes even two or three – to show your appreciation of the fact that they represent the entire family (and also, the food would be used for the entire family don’t worry too much about where its going)

Theres more to this.. but I’ll come back..




Shanghai Expo 2010

The plans are underway for Shanghai Expo 2010, well, actually – the coutdown is on and if by any chance I come across a ticket to Shanghai LOL, I’ll be gone in a flash!

The Pacific Pavillion is going to be a must see and to have Samoa represented is going to something off the hook! Google it!

The Lovely Bones

Alice Sebold wrote a gripping story on a 14 year old girl whose spirit told the story of her untimely death.

Aunty Kath, my ‘rock’ during my stay in Brisbane a few years ago had handed me this book to read, at first I hadn’t grasped the idea as the book was given to me alongside ‘the five peope you meet in heaven’ – I never judge books against each other – you know, every story has a value in its own way of storytelling and for some reason, I held onto the ‘The Lovely Bones’ as a reflection of how I would approach ‘thinking’ in my spiritual being looking back into the world.

It spun me into that deep thinking of categorising everyone I’ve ever met (or remembered that I had met) in my life and who would be important to me to communicate to before I die?

So when Peter Jackson was billed as the director for ‘The Lovely Bones’ I was excited to see it and with the snippets of visuals shown on the NZ News that we get here in Samoa, I was on the hunt to find a copy of the movie.

It didn’t disappoint, the sections of the movie where Susie Salmon is drifting into the nether-realm with the beautifully designed ‘worlds’ was visually stunning and more than I had expected – I watched the movie and gaped at how colors and transitions were so slick and (non-technical-eyed) amazed at ‘how….do…they…do…that..’ well, I know its computers, but still… its so damn pretty!

So now, The Lovely Bones is pick for the most visually stunning movie, alongside Chinese Hollywood & Bollywood who in almost every movie provide color and visuals to the max…

I love movies! and amongst the oh-no-another-book-turned-movie breath, this was one that I was relieved at watching.

– Check it out!!!

London Girl

I read an awesome blog on 1Samoana, not an actual blog-site but a profile page blog entry written by a Samoan girl in London.

Amongst so many different bloggers in the massive blogosphere, her entry and her experience of moving to London from New Zealand, looking for a job, adjusting to being one of the few Samoans living in London – made me quite curious, and a small bit envious!

London to me – has always been the ‘ultimate’ europe, and while all my Melbourne friends were raving about London and the ‘party’ scene, pubs, restaurants all I was focused on was travelling the Pacific.

Now, the quest is on, I’ve booked my flight and slowly trying to pay off my ticket for London in April.


The Security Lights of Samoa

In Melbourne, I remember that there would always be a family or two that kept pet dogs as an extra Security measure along with the sensitive lights, the padlocked screen wire doors, the alarm system, the car alarm system, the strobe lights and a sensitive alarm trigger at various points of the house property – NOT that I was some sort of cat-burglar, but the ugly contraptions were easy to spot out and visiting my palagi friends houses there would be those security-camera-like sensors all over the house.

In Samoa, the only security we need comes in the form of mans best friend – the dog.

Every house on my street in Vaitele, has at least 2 dogs – bigger houses have at most 5 or 6 dogs and not the cute fluffy type of dogs – but the vicious bite-your-head-off-because-I’m-hungry type of dogs.

I’ve been lucky not to have been bitten yet by a dog – safe to say that even if you go for a walk around Vaitele – YOU NEED to walk with a stick to fend off any stray dogs that may come out of nowhere – early morning exercises is the typical time of dog attacks and the fact that the stray dogs tend to have lice and sometimes rabies – it is most probably the scariest thing besides the Samoan Police.

This week, APS (Animal Protection Society) and Animal Balance are gearing up to begin its biggest ever desexing campaign, with the 3 week long project due to begin this Wednesday 24th February.   The APS will be joined by 18 Volunteers from international welfare organization Animal Balance, with some volunteers traveling to Samoa from as far away as the Caribbean.

During this first campaign, it is estimated that over 500 dogs and cats will be desexed in an attempt to control these animal populations in an effective and humane way, with previous culling campaigns proving unsuccessful at long-term control.  All the animals that are desexed will also be treated for intestinal worms and external parasites like fleas, which will help to prevent infections in humans with dog worms.  And for the first time ever, the volunteer team will be capturing and desexing stray, roaming dogs around Apia, as well as owned dogs that are brought to the clinics.

And also, just on a more personal note, Samoa has this problem of stray dogs and I sincerely hope that this program causes (at least awareness) but the need to address this issue – the stray dogs that roam around Apia become a problem for all Samoans – and effectively the worst at risk is our children.

I’ll be back to update on the progress and hopefully some positive and great results.

What we need in Samoa!

Or I guess, if your somebody reading this with a lot of money and thinking of running a business in Samoa – these would be my suggestions:

– A proper Shoe Store: There are two choices in Samoa – its either Jandles/Sandals or Church Shoes – nothing in the middle and no chuck taylors to be seen anywhere, not to mention – there aint even a havaiiana store to find some fancy looking jandals anyway.

– A Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) Store: Anyone growing up in NZ, Australia, U.S would understand our love for the Kentucky Fried heaven! (even if it was an institution built by the KKK)

– A CD Store that supplied more than just Island CD’s that were copied: A Border’s would be nice!

– A bowling alley (ok this one LOL) I never really frequented bowling alleys before, but suddenly without the option, I kind of wish there was something else besides the clubs

Ok, thats all I could think of right now. Everything else is fine.