Given my only real choice of flight path to get to American Samoa called for a stop in Samoa (or as they call it here, Western Samoa), I figured why not make the most of it and spend a few days on either end of my American Samoa adventure scoping out the food and culture of this interesting pacific island.


The Samoan way of life is very basic. I don’t know how else to explain what goes on here but to draw on a few key points. It is a very religious Christian country, with most people living in villages, which are typically made up of a number of families who all live in open air houses called “fal-es”.

Open homes..with pigs sunbaking?!

Open homes..with pigs sunbaking?!

Most families own quite a lot of land, which they pass down throughout the generations. During my time here, the term mortgage didn’t seem to be on anyone’s radars.

When a couple gets married, they basically just decide whose village they will move to (and I am told, the women are the boss in this culture!), and join the families there.

Villages where people live (they bury their family members outside their houses!)

Villages where people live (they bury their family members outside their houses!)

There is a strong sense of family here, with every person I spoke with having made decisions about whom their partners were going to be, based on their parents wishes. One man married an Australian woman for 5 years, however when she wanted to move back to Australia, there was no question, he was not coming with her, he was staying with his parents.

Another woman shared with me the story of having a baby with an old boyfriend of hers, however her father did not want her to marry him as he was an alcoholic, and therefore they split, and he never sees the child. Potentially for the best…I don’t want to cast judgment though.

The words that came out of these peoples mouths were consistently “my father knows best” or “my mother knows best”, it actually was like there was no thought process that had to take place themselves on these decisions, but rather they simply went with whatever their parents told them.


The Samoan currency, the tala, exchanges at around 2.1 USD : 1 tala, or 1.8 AUD : 1 tala. Minimum wage here is about 2-3 tala per hour, for those that work within the banking, government, or public health care industries. There isn’t much of an economy otherwise, with very little exports, and most of the people growing, and either selling, or simply living off their own food crops.

These food crops include (but are not strictly limited to): taro (starchy vegetable), breadfruit (starch), bananas, coconuts, cabbages, fish, chickens, pigs, and some cattle.


I am told there is very little crime, and when someone does commit an offence, it is usually dealt with between the villages, rather than with the police (who are here, but apparently not too overworked!). I was provided an example, of if a child had stolen something of value from another village, a punishment may be something like the parents of the child, or the village, having to give the other village a cow or a large amount of taro as an apology (as this would feed the others for a substantial amount of time). Talk about going back in time in regards to settling issues!

Very little electricity is used as this would be expensive (and people are not earning very much), with most food being cooked on a piece of equipment called an umu, which is like having a grill at the bottom, and then the food is covered with a basket over the top to promote a steaming effect.


As I walked around the town I saw a lot of people just sitting…all day, every day. It really was quite a site, I wondered how slowly they must feel their days go…lets just say, I don’t think stress is what is causing any of the health problems in this country?!

From a health statistic standpoint, Samoas obesity rates are up around 57%, while diabetes is up at around 21%. As you can see, not quite as high as American Samoa, but still not fairing so well in the scheme of things.

Learning about how coconut cream is made on my tour in Western Samoa

Learning about how coconut cream is made on my tour in Western Samoa

There definitely didn’t seem to be as much fast food available here, however there were a number of BBQs set up along the side of the roads which provided reasonably cheap meals that were certainly not balanced in regards to providing non-starchy vegetables, lean protein, and a low glycemic index carbohydrate source.


Chicken was served with the skin on, chop sui was a common addition to a meal (which are fried noodles with a salty sort of sauce, and typically mutton mixed through in this country), as well as a large starchy component of either taro or breadfruit being the typical accompaniment.

Breakfast items sold along the side of the road in the main town of Apia consisted of fresh fruit as mentioned above, as well as white bread sandwiches with egg and mayonnaise, banana pancakes (which as mentioned in my American Samoan post, are actually referred to as donuts in other countries!), as well as 2 minute noodle style cup a soups. As you can see, not the healthiest of options, and definitely predominantly refined carbohydrate based.


The supermarkets are filled predominantly with NZ and Samoan products, along side a few from Australia, Fiji, and the USA. It seemed again, that the unhealthy versions of products (i.e. refined cereals, or peanut butter with palm oil or hydrogenated fats, were coming from the States).

Again, all the breads were highly refined and white, there were fatty cuts of meat in the freezer section, and the canned food section was extremely large. There were a couple more options in regards to no added sugar yoghurts or healthy nut varieties, however these came at a very high cost premium.


Unlike in American Samoa, the Samoan people do not seem to be rushing to develop their country. Immigration to American Samoa from Fiji, Tonga, and even Samoa, is a lot more common, than people coming over here to Samoa.

Economically, riding on the US dollar (in American Samoa), American Samoa is fairing far better, and this seems to be quite the influencer on the differences in pace of life, and changes that are occurring over in American Samoa compared to here in Western Samoa.

How both these countries will continue to evolve I do not know. However I sense that the continual influence of the Western world over in American Samoa will continue to widen the gap between these two countries way of life, and potentially their health outcomes too (one way, or the other).

My dinner one night in in coconut..yum!

My dinner one night in in coconut..yum!

I hope this has been a little enlightening for those of you that haven’t ventured to this part of the globe.

Time for me to head off to the airport to catch my flight back to Melbourne,

For now,

Travelling Dietitian x

About The Author

Kara Landau aka "Travelling Dietitian" is an Australian Accredited Practicing Dietitian based in New York City. She is a world explorer, healthy foodie, social butterfly, and barre class lover. When she isn't trying new cuisines, researching new product innovations in the health food space, or speaking to the media on behalf of her food industry clients, she can be found quietly conjuring up her next idea in how to make this world a healthier and better place.

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