Pasifika Cultures

Generally speaking, Pasifika peoples are from ‘high-context’ cultures. They are collective; they live for the common good. They value interpersonal relationships and have members that form stable, close relationships. This is evident by the way they organise how they live. Traditionally, this was often in village/tribal settings with thatch-roofed houses without walls. Their languages rely heavily on implicit messages and contextual cues (such as body language and tone) to relay information. Many Asian cultures and indigenous cultures come under this category.

Again, generally speaking, Western cultures on the other hand are ‘low-context’ cultures. They are individualistic which means that individual achievements are valued higher than group accomplishments. Members of these cultures are independent of one another and expected to look out for themselves, with the exception of family. Privacy and personal space are valued. Low-context languages are usually very direct and mainly depend on words to communicate messages.

It has been said that for Pasifika peoples, family/community is power while in Western countries, knowledge is power (Ravulo, 2015). The difference in what is valued has flow-on impacts on how people choose to live their lives; what they choose to invest their resources such as time and money on; and which career paths they take.

It is common for Pacific peoples to enrol into university to improve and progress their communities. On the other hand, it is common for people from individualistic societies to enrol to enhance their lives and chances of success. This is an example of how two people from different cultures can make the same decision (e.g. enrol into university), but for very different reasons (for the community compared with for themselves)

The descriptions above are not to place one above the other but to highlight the cultural differences – it may be an opportunity to check your own perspectives and whether you are more likely to consider yourself as from a low-context or high-context culture, and why.

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