A Quick Guide to Samoa’s People
Hailing from Polynesian ancestry, the people of Samoa have a proud heritage with traditions dating back around 3,000 years. Learn about the population, ethnicity and where the people of Samoa live in this complete guide to Samoa’s population.
To learn about the cultural aspects of the local people, be sure to head over to A Traveller’s Guide to the Samoan Culture.
What Do You Call People From Samoa?
Quite simply, a person from Samoa and/or a citizen of Samoa is called a “Samoan”.
The Population of Samoa
According to statistics in 2022, the population of Samoa is 206,179. The ethnic makeup of Samoa, according to the 2011 census, is made up of the following ethnic groups:
- Samoan – 96%
- Samoan-New Zealander – 2%
- Other – 1.9%.
See the “Where Do Samoans Live?” section below to see how the population is dispersed across the country.
Samoa’s Main Ethnic Groups
Samoa’s population is made up of one main ethnic group, Samoans. The small minority of other ethnic groups in Samoa reside on the islands mainly due to immigration.
What Ethnicity is Samoan?
Samoans are of Polynesian ancestry, thought to have originated from early Polynesians, known as the Lapita, who came from the Malay Peninsula and the East Indies. Some Samoans, especially in Samoa as opposed to American Samoa, are also part Chinese or European (especially German). You can learn why with the history of Samoa’s settlement outlined in A Brief History of Samoa.
Where Do Samoans Live?
Samoans live across Samoa and American Samoa, as well as overseas, particularly in New Zealand where Samoa has close ties, and the United States where American Samoa has close ties.
Samoa’s Population Per Island
Samoa consists of two main islands and a handful of smaller islands, most of which are uninhabited. Around 77% of the population lives on the island of Upolu, where the nation’s capital is located. The rest who reside in Samoa are scattered across the other islands, including Upolu, and in order of population:
Samoa’s Town Populations
Most people in Samoa live in the nation’s capital, Apia, with a population of around 40,407; approximately one-fifth of the population. After that, Samoa’s population is scattered across the country’s many villages, in the order of Asau (6,643), Mulifanua (4,508), Faleula (2,592), Siusega (2,226), etc. Most villages are on the coast. Learn more about the most populated in The 5 Biggest Towns & Villages in Samoa.
A significant number of Samoans live outside of Samoa, of course, in American Samoa (55,103 in 2021) and particularly in 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).
For more interesting facts about the people of Samoa, check out the 25 Fun Facts About Samoa.
The Samoan Lifestyle
To oversimplify, the Samoan lifestyle surrounds ‘aiga, that is, family and extended family. Samoan society is built on a collectivist system known as fa’a Matai, where each ‘aiga has its own Matai (chief/leader). Individuals are expected to prioritise the interests of the group/community over their own. For example, goods and possessions tend to be shared rather than individually owned.
There’s a big distinction between village life and urban life in Samoa. In village areas, local laws and customs prevail, which can vary from village to village. On the other hand, urban life in Apia is, for many Samoans, about living there temporarily to make money for their communities before eventually returning to their village.
Of course, there’s a lot more to the Samoan lifestyle and psyche, so take a look at A Traveller’s Guide to the Samoan Culture to learn more.
Frequently Asked Questions About the People of Samoa
What are the questions most people have about the people of Samoa? See if your own question is answered here!
What Races are Samoan?
Samoans are a Polynesian race (ethnicity) with some Samoans being part European and a small fraction being part Chinese.
What are Samoans Mixed With?
Some Samoans have a mixed ethnicity which could include those of other Polynesian heritage (Tongan, Fijian, etc.), as well as European (particularly German) and Chinese, due to these ethnicities settling on Samoa throughout the country’s history.
What’s the Difference Between Polynesian and Samoan?
Polynesians are those whose heritage derives from people across Polynesia, from Hawaii down the South Pacific to New Zealand, and are a subset of the Austronesian ethnicity. Samoans, on the other hand, are Polynesian people specifically from the islands of Samoa and American Samoa. In other words, all Samoans are Polynesians but not all Polynesians are Samoans.
Is Maori a Samoan?
Maori are Polynesians, like Samoans. However, Maori is a distinct ethnicity from New Zealand and the Cook Islands, while Samoans are from Samoa and American Samoa. Some Maori legends, however, trace back their lineage to Savai’i or “Savaiki”, the largest island in Samoa, as their cradleland.
Are Samoans Considered Hawaiians?
No, Samoans are not considered Hawaiians. However, they are both Polynesian ethnicities so are closely related.
More About the People of Samoa
That’s it for our guide to the people of Samoa. For more about the Samoan people, check out the following guides:
- A Traveller’s Guide to the Samoan Culture
- The Guide to the Religions in Samoa
- 10 Best Cultural Activities in Samoa
Finally, make the most of experiencing the culture when visiting by following the advice in How to Have an Authentic Samoan Experience.