Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Samoa Continues its Drive to Australasia by Jumping the International Date Line

The Independent State of Samoa (ISS) (formerly Western Samoa) and American Samoa (AS) are an interesting example of how outside forces can split and affect a culture.  The 1899 Tripartite Convention divided the islands between Imperial Germany and the United States.  Western cultural insituitions and norms were rapidly planted and grew on the Samoan islands.  The major German cultural contribution to western Samoa was right-side traffic movement (driving on the right side of the road).

The cultural split was further advanced by New Zealand taking over the western islands from Germany during World War I.  Even though western Samoa used non-violent means of protest to gain independence from New Zealand in the 1960s, it still adopted many cultural traits that have continued the slow but steady split from American Samoa.  Rugby, cricket, and netball (a form of women's basketball popular in former British colonies) are the main sports as opposed to American Football, basketball, and wrestling in American Samoa.  ISS Samoans who live the country for employment or tourism go to New Zealand and Australia while the United States is the popular places for AS Samoans.

Since the 1990s the government of ISS has taken an activist approach to bring ISS closer to Australiasia, and by default split from American Samoa.  In 1997 the country renamed itself from Western Samoa to the Independent State of Samoa, Samoa for short, despite protests from American Samoa over the ISS monopolizing "Samoa."  In 2009 the government changed from right-side traffic to left-side traffic.  This aligned traffic patterns as in Australia and New Zealand.  Now, ISS is changing it's location on the international date line from one of the last places on earth to experience the new day to one of the first.  Currently ISS is twenty-one hours behind Sydney, Australia but it will be four hours ahead starting next year.

These moves do make practical sense.  Australia and New Zealand are the ISS' biggest trading partners and approximately half of all western Samoans live in Australia and New Zealand.  While ISS will no longer be the self-advertised last place on Earth to see each day’s sunset, the ISS will expierence as new dawn as part of the Australiasia/Greater Asia sphere.

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