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Fa'a Samoa means literally The Samoan Way which describes the socio-political and cultural way of life for the people of the Samoan Islands.
In addition to prescribed familial relationships, which extend to one's entire extended family (the aiga) with its familial chief (the Matai), one also owes respect to other persons in positions of authority, and to customs of long standing which have rather more force than mere etiquette.
For example, most Samoan villages enforce a period of prayer in the early evening signified by ringing a bell or blowing a conch shell. During this period (the sa) one should not stop in the village if passing through, and there may be appointed guardians standing by the road to ensure that travelers do not. Likewise, it is extremely rude to eat or drink when walking through a village. The host is responsible for the actions of his guests, and may incur a fine from the village authorities if any breach of custom occurs.
While this level of communal influence on what many Westerners might consider their private lives is pervasive, it also makes possible the allocation of communal resources in a predictable and coherent manner. With much land held in communal trust by the local matai, it is adherence to customary rights and traditions that makes this theoretical autocracy less onerous than many Westerners might believe.
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