Fa’a Samoa has three key structural elements to it – the matai (chiefs), aiga (extended family), and the church.
Matai are the heads of the extended family unit and their role is very complex; covering family, civic and political duties in the village.
There are 362 nu’u or villages found throughout the islands with a total of 18,000 matai.
The aiga or extended family is made up of parents, brothers and sisters, children, grandparents, cousins, nephews and nieces living together within the village. When family members marry partners in other villages, the in-laws become part of the extended family unit and in times of happiness or sadness all come together to pitch in. It is the duty of a Samoan to be of service to our aiga for life.
Christianity has been one of the few western influences that has been accepted into Fa’a Samoa.
John Williams from the London Missionary Society arrived in Savai'i in 1830 with eight Tahitian and Rarotongan teachers to spread the word. Today the motto on Samoa’s crest reads, Fa’avae I Le Atua Samoa – 'Samoa is founded on God', and found in every village are churches of various denominations. Samoans are devote Christians and Sunday is a day of worship and spending time with family and no physical work is done.
Fa’a Samoa culture has a strong focus on welcoming visitors, however, it is important that visitors follow protocol when entering villages and family homes as well as using and accessing village resources.