Samoa General Information, Pacific Islands

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About Samoa

General Info

Image Source: Samoa Images. Vavau Beach, Upolu
Vavau Beach, Upolu
kirklandphotos.com

Consisting of 10 stunning islands in the South Pacific Ocean, Samoa is the epitome of natural beauty. Its islands are the home to lush rainforests, waterfalls, lagoons and breathtaking reef bordered beaches. There are plenty of things to do in Samoa, whether you're looking for a laid back vacation or a more adventurous experience.

Originally named Western Samoa because it encompassed the Western part of the Samoan Islands. Samoa became independent from New Zealand in 1962.

Samoa consists of two main islands, Savai'i and Upolu and two small islands, Apolima and Manono, plus six other uninhabited islands. Located on the westerly end of the Samoa Archipelago, it is halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean.

Although Savai'i is the largest island of the Samoan archipelago, the capital Apia is on the more populated island of Upolu, which is also the seat of government centre for commerce. Faleolo International Airport is also found on the island of Upolu.

Samoa's principal export is canned tuna and their main trading partner is the USA. Products exported to the USA are duty-free. Agriculture and fishing are the country's mainstay of economy with the majority of the population employed in agriculture. Agriculture is also responsible for most of the country's exports. Samoa exports coconut oil and cream, taro, cocoa, copra, bananas and timber. Tourism is also an important source of income. The local currency is the tala.

The official flower of Samoa is the Paogo.

Samoa, or 'The Jewel of the South Pacific', is blessed with natural beauty. The islanders are friendly and hospitable and offer a culture treasured by all.

Samoa is governed by a constitutional Monarch – starting with the head of state, followed by the Prime Minister who is the head of Government. The head of state has the power to dissolve the legislature should he or she wish

Language

Samoan is a Polynesian language and is the first language for most of the islands' population as well as the many Samoan people living abroad.

In both Western and American Samoa, the Samoan language is an official language alongside English, with English being the official language of business, especially for those involved in the tourism industry. Most modern Samoans are fully bilingual in both languages. Samoan is written using a Latin-based alphabet and comprises of just 14 letters. Spelling is used in accordance with the phonetic sound of the word. A vowel must sit before or after a consonant, no double consonants are allowed making it a difficult language to master.

The language used by the Chiefs (formal Samoan) is quite poetic and figurative. Symbolic phrases are often used lavishly in speeches and during ceremonies. The everyday language however, is used by all – including the chiefs and elders during personal conversations within their own homes.

Important Dates

The following are a list of holidays observed in Samoa:

2013

1 Jan – New Year's Day
29 March – Good Friday
1 Apr – Easter Monday
25 Apr – ANZAC Day
14 May – Mother's Day
1 Jun – Independence Day
13 Aug – Father's Day
14 Oct – Lotu-a-Tamaiti (Day after White Sunday)
1 Nov – Arbor Day
25 Dec – Christmas
26 Dec – Boxing Day

Flight Times

Direct flights to Samoa operate from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Los Angeles and American Samoa.

Japanese travellers can choose to fly to Samoa through either Fiji or through Auckland, New Zealand.

Time Differences

Samoa is 11 hours behind GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). In summer Samoa uses 'daylight saving', with clocks put forward one hour to GMT -10.

Daylight saving begins on the last Sunday in September and ends on the first Sunday in April of the following year, when clocks are put back to GMT -11.

Shopping

Business hours in Samoa are generally Monday to Friday from 8am to 4:30pm. Lunch is from 12 to 1pm, and some shops and businesses may be closed for lunch. Saturday business hours are from 8am to 12:30pm. There is no Sunday trading, so buy what you need on Saturday. All business and shops are closed, with the exception of some convenience stores.

Samoa's handicrafts are some of the finest in the South Pacific. Baskets, bags and fine mats woven from pandanus fibres are inexpensive to buy and make excellent gifts and souvenirs.

Wooden crafts include weapons and model canoes, and many people take home the beautifully carved 'ava (kava) bowls. These are the wooden bowls used for the ceremonial kava drinking. Samoa also offers a huge range of coconut shell jewellery, shell ula (leis), kirikiti bats and balls, printed t-shirts and the local lava lava (sarong).

Flag

Adopted on January 1, 1962 (Independence Day) the red base of the flag represents courage, the blue stands for freedom and the white represents purity.

The five stars symbolize the constellation the Southern Cross, representing the stars Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon, which is smaller because it doesn't shine as brightly as the other stars in the constellation. The cross represents Samoa's geographical position in the world and its link to New Zealand, which also incorporates the Southern Cross on its national flag.

Culture

A culture treasured by all. The traditional Samoan way of life is communal, based on Fa'a Samoa, or "The Samoan way". Most activities are carried out together as a family. The three most important components are faith, family and music. Traditionally, the living quarters, or 'fale', does not contain any walls and up to 20 family members may sleep on the ground in the same fale. During the day, the fale is used for sitting or chatting amongst extended family.

There are many items of cultural value in Samoa. The women play an important role with their skills making finely woven mats used in ceremonies and gift exchanges. Other items include bark cloth made from beaten mulberry bark, pictures are painted on with a natural dye and used for clothing or decorative purposes. Ornaments and jewellery are typically made from sea shells or coconut.

The 'ava (or Kava in many Polynesian societies) ceremony is a very significant ritual which takes place on important occasions. The ceremony is highly ritualised with specific phrases and gestures being used at various times. The Chief is served by the 'distributor' first, followed by a ranking order of the rest of the participants. 'Ava is served in a polished coconut half.

Traditional Samoan dance is called 'Siva' and is probably the one area of Samoan culture not touched by Western influence. The Samoan women dance with gentle hands and feet in time to music while the Samoan men traditionally perform a slap dance, or 'fa'ataupati' This is usually performed in a group without music.

Image Source: Samoa Images. Kayaking off Lalomanu Beach
Vavau Beach, Upolu
kirklandphotos.com

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