There are ways to show respect when a whānau supporter meets a Samoan family for the first time.
Latu To'omaga: Understanding pacific parents
So a lot of it is experience in knowing what Pacific families have gone through or are going through. What is our history in New Zealand?
Likewise with Māori, what’s really the history with Māori and how have they felt about being in New Zealand as tangata whenua? So for me, I know I’m not tangata whenua, I know where my place in Samoan I’m from Si vu fanga that’s my turangawaewae. I’m here a person living in this beautiful country understanding that turangawaewae are Māori.
So for me to have western person, a person who is non-māori or pacific coming into my whare or fale. I would really ask them to have empathy, to have a little bit of knowledge of my background story, what’s my back story here? What is the back story of this whānau? What do I need to know before I go in?
Are they traditional Samoan? Or have they adapted New Zealand culture? What is this whānau about?
So there’s a little bit of background that you need to do, I always say what’s the backstory? Whenever I’m working in a whānau I always say, what’s the backstory?
Here are some tips for non-Pacific whānau supporters meeting a Samoan family for the first time. This advice comes from Latu To'omaga.
Whānau worker: Where do we start, Latu?
Latu: It's a good idea to know some simple greetings and words. Here are a few words that you might find useful.
- Talofa lava (Hello)
- O a mai oe? (How are you?)
- Manuia fa'afetai (Good thanks)
- Manuia lou aso (Have a good day)
- Tofa soifua (Goodbye)
- Tulou (Excuse me)
- Fa'aaloalo (Humble)
- Fa'amolemole (Please)
Whānau worker: How should I get ready before I go into the house?
Latu: Get yourself a lavalava. Wrap it around yourself before you enter the house.
Whānau worker: Okay, I can wear a lavalava. How will that make a difference?
Latu: That shows that you are respectful of another culture. Be prepared to take your shoes off too. You'll probably notice that there are shoes on the porch or at the door.
Whānau worker: I hear Samoan people saying 'tulou' a lot. What's that about?
Latu: That's another way of showing respect. Put your head down and say 'tulou' when you enter the house, especially if you're moving in front of someone else.
And be prepared to sit on the floor, or just go with the flow – whatever the host indicates for you to sit. The lavalava will help with modesty if you do need to sit on the floor. Then be ready for a lotu.
Whānau worker: What 's a lotu?
Latu: A lotu is a prayer. Your host may wish to begin with a prayer before any meeting. It's quite common. Just lower your head and be respectful.
You can be guided by your host. Listen, be humble, watch and be present, and you'll be fine.
Be honest, accepting, empathetic – and above all, smile.