Interesting Facts About Samoa
Want to know something fun about Samoa? We’ve compiled some of the quirkiest and most interesting facts about Samoa right here! Let’s not waste another second…
1. Samoa is the First Country to See the New Day
Samoa is the first country to experience the new day thanks to its position closest to the west side of the International Date Line. With that, Samoa is also the first country to celebrate the New Year, which you can learn more about in How to Spend New Year’s Eve in Samoa. In contrast, Samoa’s closest neighbour, American Samoa, is one of the last countries to experience the new day despite being only around 70 km (43.5 mi) away!
2. Samoa Lost a Day in 2011!
Another time zone oddity, Samoa moved to its current time zone in 2011 which resulted in the country losing a day! By the end of Thursday 29 December 2011, Samoa shifted time zones from east of the International Date Line to west, skipping Friday 30 December completely! The country went from being one of the last countries to celebrate the New Year to the first. The time zone was changed to bring it in line with its closest trading partners, New Zealand and Australia.
3. There are Birds That Live in Caves and Behave Like Bats
Samoa is home to several endemic bird species but the most unusual is the pe’ape’a or the white-rumped swiftlet that can be found in just about every cave in Samoa and uses echolocation to fly around in the dark. You can hear the clicking noise of their sonar as they are flying overhead!
4. The Police Force Has a Marching Band That Parades Through the Capital Every Morning
Each weekday morning from around 8:45 am, the Royal Samoa Police Band brings the streets of Apia to life with trumpets, trombones and drums as they march from the Police Station Headquarters. At 9 am, they raise the Samoan flag on the lawns of the Government Building before marching their merry way back to the Police Station. A sight not to be missed!
For more quirky attractions like this, check out the 10 Most Unique Things to Do in Samoa.
5. Samoa Changed its Name in 1997
Samoa was known as “Western Samoa” up until 1997 when the name of the country was officially changed to “Samoa”. That’s why you will still see the currency of Samoa, Samoan Tala, often shortened as “WST” and website domains ending in “.ws”.
6. It is Considered Rude to Sit Pointing Your Toes at Someone
Samoa has many customs and traditions dating back thousands of years. One such tradition is that it is considered rude to sit pointing your toes at someone. When sitting in a fale (house), where you usually sit on a mat on the ground, you should cross your legs, sit on your legs, or cover your toes with a lavalava (sarong) or mat.
Check out more cultural rules to follow in the Samoan Etiquette: Samoa Customs & Traditions.
7. Respecting Your Elders is of Utmost Importance (Which Can Make Kids Grumpy)…
Arguably, the most crucial aspect of the Samoan culture or “fa’a Samoa” is fa’aaloalo (respecting elders). Everyone is expected to obey not only older immediate relatives but all the matai (chiefs) and people in the village that are older than oneself, even older siblings.
There is a common word used in Samoa for when kids and teens resort to a form of protest where they won’t speak to anyone: “musu“.
8. … But Kids Get Their Own Day Called “White Sunday”
Much like mothers and fathers get their own days in many countries (although they also do in Samoa), there is a special day in October, White Sunday, where Samoan children are celebrated as the centre of attention in church, they are made their favourite food and are given gifts.
Check out more special events in Samoa in The Top Events & Festivals in Samoa.
9. Apolima Was the First Island in the South Pacific to Run Solely on Solar Power
That’s right, in 2006, the small volcanic island of Apolima with a village within its crater was the first in the South Pacific to fully generate its electricity from solar panels.
There are more fascinating facts to learn about this lesser-visited island in Samoa, so check them out in The Travel Guide to Apolima.
10. Traditional Tattooing (with a Bone Tapped into the Skin) is Still Performed Today
One of the most important and fascinating features of the Samoan culture is the tatau (tattoo), which is a rite of passage and a mark of one’s personal and spiritual maturity and commitment to fa’a Samoa.
A tradition that has gone unbroken for thousands of years, even down to the pain-staking application method of a sharpened tooth dipped in ink and forcefully tapped into the client’s skin, the art form has spread the world over. In fact, many believe that Samoa is the ancestral home of the tattoo and have theorised that the modern word for tattoo is derived from the Samoan “tatau“.
For a privileged insight into seeing real tatau being performed, visit Samoa Cultural Village in Apia, which you can learn more about in the 25 Best Things to Do in Apia.
11. There’s a Giant Footprint on Savai’i
According to legend, a giant named Moso stepped his right foot onto Savai’i, extending his left foot across the Pacific onto Suva in Fiji. The 2 m (6.6 ft)-long foot-shaped depression known as “Moso’s Footprint” can be found near Falealupo Beach!
For more fun sights on Samoa’s largest island, take a look at the 50 Best Things to Do on Savai’i.
12. Samoa Was the First Country in Over 40 Years to Switch From Driving on the Right to the Left
In September 2009, Samoa became the first country in more than 40 years to make the switch of which side of the road is driven (from driving on the right to driving on the left, in this case). It’s also the reason why the speed limit in Samoa is an unusual “56 km/h” – an expedient conversion of the old 35 mp/h.
13. Famous Samoans are Savage, King Kapisi and J Boog; Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is Part-Samoan
Some of the most famous people out of Samoa are rappers and rugby players. Savage, King Kapisi, Scribe and J Boog are some of the most famous musicians out of Samoa, while Samoans picked for international rugby teams have included Mils Muliana, Manu Tuilagi and Brian Lima.
Perhaps the most famous person associated with Samoa is an actor and past wrestling star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson whose maternal grandparents are Samoan.
14. Kilikiti is a Samoan Sport (and Everyone is Part of the Team)
Sports in Samoa is a community event where anyone whose anyone gets involved during the cooler hours of the late afternoon at the malae (village green).
On the malae, locals play volleyball, rugby or kilikiti. Kilikiti is Samoa’s very own version of cricket, which is played with a three-sided club, a rubber ball and as many players and cheerleaders as possible and who all contribute to the game! The best time to catch a game is between June and September.
15. More Samoans Live Outside of Samoa Than in
The population of Samoa is approximately 206,000 but more Samoans actually live outside of Samoa. Of course, many ethnic Samoans can be found in American Samoa (55,103 in 2021) and New Zealand with the New Zealand 2018 census stating 182,721 Samoans or of Samoan descent. There are also around 24,000 Samoans living in Australia, while ethnic Samoans (although mostly from American Samoa) also reside in the United States (204,600).
Learn more about the people and population of Samoa in our guide, Who are the People of Samoa?
16. Samoa Doesn’t Have Any Poisonous Land Snakes or Spiders
That’s right, there are no nasty land animals that can seriously harm you in Samoa, including no poisonous land snakes and spiders. There are, of course, mosquitos, nasty little centipedes, coral and the rare jellyfish and stonefish that you wouldn’t want to get too friendly with. Other than that, Samoa is a pretty safe country.
Learn more about safety in Samoa in our Samoa Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Samoa?
17. Fa’afafine is the Third Gender in Samoa
An integral part of Samoan society are fa’afafine which roughly translates to “in the manner of a woman”. In other words, fa’afafine are men that behave and/or dress like a woman. They traditionally fill an important role by doing the work of both a man and a woman, which is supposedly why you find many fa’afafine working in the public sphere in shops, resorts, restaurants and offices.
With the introduction of rigid Christian values into Samoa, however, you’ll find a paradoxically conservative attitude toward homosexuality. Therefore, fa’afafine is not usually likened to homosexuality or transsexuality as in Western cultures, but more its own notion.
18. Samoa’s Buses Look Like Something Out of Pimp My Ride
An iconic part of the landscape, Samoa’s public buses all have their own personality with vibrant paint jobs, hood ornaments, LED lights and blasting the latest island tunes! Needless to say, riding one of these bad boys around the island is an experience; see our guide to Taking the Bus in Samoa to learn more.
19. Samoa Produced the First Whisky Made with Taro
A unique drinking experience and fun souvenir to bring back from Samoa, Samoa Whisky is the world’s first whisky made from talo (taro). The whisky was developed by the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (SROS) as a response to government plans to develop export goods from Samoa’s agricultural products and is now produced by Nafanua Pure Products Company.
Learn more about Samoa’s home-brewed beers, hot chocolate, coffee and more in the 14 Drinks in Samoa You Have to Try.
20. Samoa Was Colonised By Germany Back in the Day
Unlike many of its South Pacific neighbours who were colonised by Britain and France, Samoa’s colonial history actually lies with the Germans. Although Germany, Britain and the US all fought for rule over Samoa, the three powers settled their disputes with the Tripartite Treaty, giving control of western Samoa (today’s Samoa) to the Germans and eastern Samoa (today’s American Samoa) to the Americans.
Of course, that’s a very simplified story so for more context, take a look at A Brief History of Samoa.
21. The Village Ruins in a 20th Century Lava Flow Can Be Seen on Savai’i
Between 1905 and 1911, Mt Matavanua had a series of eruptions that send lava flow cascading across the northeastern coast of Savai’i. An old LMS Church still sits in ruins with a lava flow solidified right through its arching entrances, while nearby is the mysterious and unusual “Virgin’s Grave” where the lava flow is said to have avoided the grave of a young girl.
Find this bizarre attraction at the Saleaula Lava Fields, one of the 10 Most Unique Things to Do in Samoa.
22. There’s a Reef Worm That Can Only Be Caught on a Waning Moon in October and/or November and is Considered a Delicacy
An annual phenomenon and cultural event that you can almost set your alarm by, the rising of the palolo reef worm is an exciting time to be in Samoa. Just before dawn during the waning October or November moon (sometimes both), locals flock to the reefs with their nets, buckets and lanterns in paopao (canoes) or on foot to haul in the tails of these unique and incredibly tasty reef worms. All the while, the heads of the palolo remain in the crevices of the coral reef non-the-wiser…
Find out about the fascinating animal of the palolo worm and what it tastes like in How to Experience the Palolo Season in Samoa.
23. Samoa Scrapped Daylight Savings Time in 2021
More timely facts, in 2021, the Samoan Government decided to no longer observe Samoa’s daylight savings. As a result, Samoa’s time zone stays the same all year round!
24. The Samoan Alphabet Only Has 14 Letters
Samoa is home to two official languages: Samoan and English. There are only 14 letters in the Samoan alphabet: a, e, i, f, g, l, m, n, o, p, s, t, u and v. The letters k, h and r are also used for colloquial language and foreign loan words.
Learn about the history of the language, how to pronounce the alphabet and how to say important words in What is the Samoa Language?
25. Samoa is Considered the “Cradle of Polynesia”
According to legend, the Polynesian homeland to cultures spread across the Pacific, from Hawai’i to New Zealand, is said to be “Hawaiki” or “Avaiki“. Many believe that this island is, indeed, the island of Savai’i in Samoa. With a history dating back some 3,000 years, Samoa is thought to have one of the oldest social histories in Polynesia.
More Fun Facts About Samoa
That’s it for our list of fun facts about Samoa. For more interesting tidbits, check out more of our articles:
- Fun Facts About Samoa for Kids
- 15 Samoan Words You Need to Know When Visiting Samoa
- What is it Like to Visit Samoa?
Finally, learn more about the islands and a few quirks you need to be aware of when visiting in the 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa.