Skip To Content

    As A Samoan Woman, I Absolutely Hate Hearing People Say These 12 Things

    If one more person tells me I'm too skinny to be Samoan, I will lose my mind.

    Hi, there! I'm Morgan, and I'm a 28-year-old Samoan woman.

    Writer smiling on the beach
    Morgan Sloss / BuzzFeed

    Throughout my life, I've had tons of people say offensive things and ask annoying questions. So here are 12 things I'm tired of hearing:

    Note: These are my personal thoughts. Pacific Islanders aren’t a monolith; just like any other group of people, we all have differing opinions!

    1. "You’re too skinny to be Samoan."

    This one really pisses me off. Before the colonization of the Pacific, Polynesians lived off the land. They were generally in great shape, eating only what nature provided. It wasn’t until the Westernization of the islands that processed/junk food was introduced over time. Now that some islanders are heavier from eating these foods and adapting their lifestyles to fit with Western ideals, they’re criticized for it? And it’s a surprise if I don’t fit the stereotype that all Samoans are big? GTFO.

    2. "Are you a hula dancer?"

    Hula is a sacred dance form that has been passed down for generations in Hawai'i. While I did go to a hālau (dance school) while growing up and was taught hula there, many Polynesians haven't. It would be more respectful to ask me if I've learned any Samoan dancing, since I'm Samoan.

    3. "Can I get a Samoan tattoo?"

    Did you know the word "tattoo" actually comes from the Samoan word "tatau"? Tattoos are extremely important in my culture. My Samoan tattoos represent protection, purpose, direction, and staying grounded; they connect me with my culture and ancestors. And while I haven’t done it, many of my family members have gotten the traditional tattoos (the pe'a and malu). They're done using handmade tools rather than a tattoo gun and usually cover the lower body. These are deeply significant and often convey people’s history and lineage. To get the traditional tattoo is a great honor; it represents a person’s acceptance of their responsibility to their community and celebrates their permanent dedication to the culture. 

    I’m pretty traditional in my stance on this: Our tattoos are too deeply rooted in the culture for an outsider to get. I don’t care if you appreciate the islands or our culture. If you don’t have islander blood running through your veins, you shouldn’t get an islander tattoo.

    The writer's hand tattoo
    Morgan Sloss / BuzzFeed

    4. "You don’t look Samoan! You look Persian, Mexican, etc."

    I can't tell you how many times I've gotten this. Please, just stop. If you guess what I am and you guess wrong, that's fine. But then if I tell you I'm Samoan, why would you still compare me to other races/ethnicities? It's just weird.

    5. "I went to Hawai’i on vacation once!"

    Cool? I’m not Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian). While Hawai'i is at the top of the Polynesian triangle, it’s pretty far away from Samoa. If you bring up Hawai'i when I tell you I'm Samoan, it feels like you're lumping us together and don't recognize us individually.

    6. "Can I dress up as a hula dancer for Halloween?"

    In my opinion, it's perfectly okay to dress up as a specific person. Lilo and Moana are super popular, and I think it's fine to dress up as them as you would any other Disney character.

    However, I do not think it's okay to dress up as a hula dancer in general. Hula is a very important part of Hawaiian culture, and we should all know by now that using people's cultures for Halloween costumes is wrong. Just stick with Lilo and Moana, please.

    Lilo and Moana

    7. "Where are you from? No, where are you really from?"

    I hate this whole cat-and-mouse game. If you're interested in my ethnicity, just ask! There's no need to beat around the bush.

    8. "You must be great at sports if you’re Samoan."

    Um, no. It’s so weird to me that Polynesians are constantly shoved into this box. Just because I’m Samoan doesn’t mean I’m super athletic. I’d much rather curl up with a good book than exercise.

    9. "You don’t speak Samoan? You’re not really Samoan, then."

    Like many children of immigrants, I understand more than I speak. I'm currently working on it, but honestly? It's no one else's business. My blood is Samoan, whether or not I'm fluent.


    10. "Can you do the haka?"

    The haka is a ceremonial dance, often accompanied by chanting. It is practiced by the Māori, the Indigenous people of Aotearoa (New Zealand). The only one I know is the Ka Mate haka, popularized by the All Blacks. But this question reminds me of the Hawai'i ones in that it makes me wonder if you realize we are separate peoples.

    11. "Samoans aren't Indigenous."

    This is just silly to me because you could spend one minute on Google and educate yourself. Samoans are the Indigenous people of — shocker! — Samoa.

    12. And finally, "You're so exotic!"

    This isn't the compliment you think it is. If you call a woman exotic, you're basically saying her beauty is "other" — against the backdrop of mainstream white beauty. It's also kind of degrading, like I'm an animal at a zoo. If you're trying to be nice, any of the usual compliments you give to women will do!

    Writer standing on the beach and the words "not exotic"
    Morgan Sloss / BuzzFeed

    Are you tired of hearing things based on your race/ethnicity? LMK in the comments below!