I am a firm believer that whenever you step foot in another country you should make every effort to respect that cultures customs, beliefs and values. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything with they do, or participate in it but I do appreciate that I am a guest in their country. Having said that I am constantly making mistakes (eating whilst walking through a village in Samoa) and inadvertently offending people (sitting with my feet outstretched and pointing at a monk in a temple in Vientiane), but I do try to minimise these occasions.
There are so many ways you can do this but I believe one of the easiest and most effective ways is by learning a little of the language. Unfortunately I don’t have an ear for languages, and my memory is useless too (except for trivial things like celebrity gossip) but even I can pick up a couple of simple phrases – and of course the more you use it the easier it is to remember until it eventually rolls off your tongue.
I can absolutely guarantee that if you try to use even one of these phrases in Samoa you’ll be rewarded with a face splitting grin, most likely engulfed in a hug and treated to peels of laughter that will make all the effort well worth it. Plus you’ll connect with the locals on a level that will likely be beneficial to you. They will be more than willing to share their lives with you. Plus – how many people can say they speak Samoan? It could benefit you in other ways too…;)
Just a note before we begin, so few Palagi’s speak few Samoan, the locals just don’t know what to make of those who do and they react by bursting into laughter. It is extremely off-putting at first, but don’t be scared off – chances are you’re not saying it wrong, they’re just surprised. And the Samoan people laugh a lot, truly – they laugh at everything.
Essential Samoan Phrases
Hello (informal) Talofa lava (Tar-low-far lar-var) (can also be shortened to just Talofa)
Hello (formal – use it if you want to impress) Malo Soifua (Mar-low soy-foo-ah)
Thank you Fa’afetai (Fah-a-fit-eye)
Thank you very much! Fa’afetai tele lava (Fah-a-fit-eye tele lar-vah)
Goodbye (informal) Fa (Fah)
Goodbye (formal) Fa Soifua (Fah soy-foo-ah)
Have a good day Manuia le aso (marn-wee-ah lay at-so)
There you have it, as simple as that! Have fun with your new skills!