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 SAT0-500 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 SAT00.00, the next couple of days you give SAT, 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 or even SAT0 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 anyway..so don’t worry too much about where its going)
Theres more to this.. but I’ll come back..