I heard the claims before I arrived: “Samoans are exceptionally friendly.” It sounded simple enough; they must live with a tattooed smile and provide a helping hand to those in need. But, as I discovered, it is much more. Samoans have what I’ll call an aggressive friendliness. As I walk around town, the never-timid local Samoan will unfailingly pepper me with questions within the first couple minutes. All questions that I undoubtedly would be unwilling to answer a stranger in the US. And was quite reluctant to answer my first couple days here.
Greetings are always initiated by, “where are you going?” (“Over there”)
Then, “what are you doing here?” (“Working”)
Followed by, “where do you live?” (“Back there”)
And at some point, “what religion are you?” (“Is there a correct answer to this question?”)
Always concluded by the unanticipated, “do you want to come to my village?” (“Don’t you think we are rushing into things a bit fast?”)
In the States, a reflexive retort of “none of your business” (or often a less polite version) would be the common response.
These people could not possibly be that interested in my answers. They must be building information on me. Determining where I live and work. Luring me back with a false sense of security to their homes. I couldn’t suppress my skepticism and leeriness.
But after a few days, I realized my suspicions of their generosity were unfounded. Everyone asked a nearly identical list of questions.
The motives for their questions were much more innocuous.
“Where are you going?” is simply a greeting like “how’s it going?” Often, they don’t even care about your answer. If so, they are simply curious about where this palinga (white person – strangely translated as “from the sky”) was headed.
Where someone lives indicates with what village they are associated. In a country without street names and addresses, a significant way of identification.
The importance of religion needs no further explanation in this country that has more churches than banks, bookstores and restaurants combined.
On the topic of inviting me home, their hospitality is truly that powerful that they wanted to take me in. (Ex. Though not typical behavior, as I believe the man to be under the influence of an intoxicating substance, a local hugged me and gushed with joy of my visit to his country.)
In other hospitable nations, entering someone’s house affords you guest status. In Samoa, entering the country affords you guest status./>