Samoa is a South Pacific island nation known for its breathtaking natural beauty, rich culture, and friendly people. Its culture is sometimes described as optimistic, with a strong emphasis on community, family and faith.
At its simplest, optimism is an expectation that good things will happen and that things will work out in the end.
There are a number of factors that contribute to Samoa's optimistic outlook. The country has a long history of peace and stability, and its people are known for their resilience and ability to overcome adversity. Samoan culture also strongly emphasises the importance of community, which helps foster a sense of optimism and hope.
In a world where optimism may be in short supply, what can we learn from Samoans on fostering optimism?
In Samoa, the culture is deeply rooted in the values of family, community, and spirituality. The traditional Samoan way of life, known as fa'a Samoa, is based on respect, reciprocity, and harmony.
My friend, Peter Kiely ONZM, Chairman of the Pacific Cooperation Foundation, told me, "Samoans are welcoming and have always been accepting. It starts with their smiles and their sense of fun. It’s hard not to be optimistic when those are the fundamentals.”
Building upon Peter's insightful words, it is undeniable that Samoans are known for their warm hospitality, leaving visitors struck by the genuine generosity and kindness of the locals. These values and cultural practices form the bedrock of Samoan society, fostering an atmosphere of optimism throughout the community. With their infectious smiles and a spirited sense of fun, Samoans create an environment where positivity thrives, uniting people and providing unwavering support for one another.
Religion and Faith
Moreover, religion plays a significant role in Samoan culture, with Christianity being the dominant faith. Samoans are known for their deep faith and spirituality, which are integral to their sense of optimism. The Samoan culture greatly emphasises prayer, thanksgiving, and gratitude, recognizing the close association between gratitude and optimism. The belief that God is in control and will provide for all needs is a powerful source of optimism within the community.
Reflecting on this, Brenda Heather-Latu, the former Attorney-General of Samoa, shared her personal perspective, saying, "I find optimism in life: being alive, being blessed by love and God's great favor and provision, with the environment and nature all around me on this gorgeous island of ours." Brenda's words beautifully illustrate how the Samoan people derive optimism from the joys of existence, the love they receive, and their unwavering faith in God's abundant blessings.
Samoa has challenges like any other country. The country faces several socio-economic issues, such as relative poverty, limited formal-sector job opportunities, and a need for more high-quality education and healthcare. Despite these challenges, the Samoan people have shown remarkable resilience and perseverance. They have a strong sense of community and are known for supporting one another during difficult times.
A 2019 study conducted by the National University of Samoa and the University of Otago found that Samoans take a very optimistic view of their ability to deal with the challenges of climate change. The researchers interviewed 165 villagers across Samoa's main islands and found that exposure to serious environmental challenges has not made villagers 'fatalistic' or 'helpless', but instead has given them a more optimistic outlook on life. Professor Binns found the Samoan approach challenges general western perceptions about Pacific nations' ability to respond to climate change: Exposure to serious environmental challenges has not made villagers 'fatalistic' or 'helpless', but instead has given them a more optimistic outlook on life.
The Samoan culture also greatly emphasises the importance of hard work and determination, and these values could be seen as optimistic as they foster a sense of hope and possibility.
While it is difficult to generalize about an entire country and its people, it could be argued that Samoa has an optimistic culture. The Samoan people value family, community, and spirituality, which can be seen as sources of positivity and support. Despite facing several challenges, the Samoan people have shown remarkable resilience and perseverance, which could be seen as indicators of optimism.
Interviewed by the Village Voice in 2016, Laumua Pualau, from the village of Afega, “Life in Samoa is great; there isn’t much to complain about. The way I see it, being optimistic about life is the key to living happily. I can sit around and complain about every single issue that comes my way but wouldn’t it be better to deal with the problem instead of complain about it? Everything is great and I would like to keep it that way.”
Former Attorney-General of Samoa, Brenda Heather-Latu, told me,"I find optimism in life: being alive, being blessed by love and God's great favour and provision, with the environment and nature all around me on this gorgeous island of ours. Where life exists, I believe that there too lives hope that tomorrow will be even better than today, that your existence is part of a plan, and you have a positive role to play."
Peter Kiely ONZM, Chairman of the Pacific Cooperation Foundation, told me, "Samoans are welcoming and have always been accepting. It starts with their smiles and their sense of fun. It’s hard not to be optimistic when those are the fundamentals.”
Balys Stankunavicius told me, "In my experience, Samoans are optimistic, happy people. Optimism grows with patriotism, strong family ties and values. These bonds cement societies and create unity and optimism. We have much to learn from the Pacific peoples and the Samoans."
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