Is American Samoa too "Americanized"?
At least one travel advisor thinks so. The capitol city, Pago Pago, certainly has an American industrial flavor - there’s a large containership port, a U.S. National Park Service visitor center, and a huge American-owned tuna-canning plant which is by far the largest employer in either American or Independent Samoa (though it provides more than 3,000 jobs, people predictably grouse about the aroma). Kids also ride to school on classic American-style schoolbuses.
Prices, too, tend to be more American than Samoan. They’re quoted in U.S. dollars and far higher than those in Independent Samoa. Chartering a taxi for a half-day tour of American Samoa’s main island cost me U.S. $80; a half-day charter from Apia, Western Samoa, would have been less than $30.
There were some near mansion-like American-style homes west of the airport, and the smaller outlying villages didn’t seem quite as quaint as the ones in Independent Samoa.
On the other hand ...
Though I didn’t want to completely forsake the amenities of city life, and asked my travel agent to book me into a downtown hotel for my stay in Western Samoa, I did accept his recommendation of a guest house in American Samoa that was next to the territory’s only golf course, a $5 taxi ride from the airport, and near absolutely nothing else. After a while, I’m sure I’d have been bored. But for a two-night getaway, being near nowhere was sheer relaxation.
And, though this is ‘American’ Samoa, Fa’a Samoa, the slow-paced, take it as it comes ‘Samoan Way', still prevails. Nobody’s in a hurry, and nobody’s afraid of a stranger. There are strict formalities to observe while visiting Samoan villages, but children can address their elders in ways American kids wouldn’t dare. For example:
"Hi, Mister. What’s your name?"
"Take my picture, John?"
But unlike many countries, where cute kids posing for pictures are followed by hands out for coins, there’s no begging in Samoa, and no tipping. Just a lot of laughter and smiles.
If you demand vacations packed with new activities and places to see, Samoa’s probably not for you. Come here for a leisurely week of loafing, swimming, or perhaps golfing; you’ll find superb mountain and coastal scenery and enjoy settling into the simple but elegant Samoan way of life. You might even be invited to spend the night with a Samoan village family - or at least join them in their Chief’s fale for a cup of Kava.