Wednesday, September 8, 2010

10 Things Tourists Should Know about Hawai'i and its People

1.  Hawai'i is a state. There are 50 states. We are a state of islands; you came from the "mainland". When you go back, you'll go back to the "mainland". You can use it in a sentence like this: I live in a small town on the mainland.

2.  We don't use the term "Hawaiian" to refer to anything place-based here.  Because of the cultural and political history of Hawaii, only Native Hawaiians are Hawaiian.  For example, we don't refer to Hawaiian weather or Hawaiian politics.  Instead we say Hawai'i weather or Hawai'i politics.

3.  Sometimes local drivers will tailgate slower cars.  Sometimes tourists will drive slowly, taking in the Ko'olau range on one side of the road and the ocean on the other.  If you find another car following yours too closely, you should pull over and let him/her pass.

4.  Many people who speak pidgin (what linguists call Hawaii Creole English) can speak standard American English.  If you hear someone local speaking pidgin, its because that person feels most comfortable speaking it or because the context of the situation allows it.

5.  Sharks in Hawai'i don't eat people.  Many here consider them our "aumakua" or guardians.  As an example, when Bethany Hamilton lost her arm, she went back to the water and apologized to the sharks.  People here try to live in harmony with the animals and the land.

6.   Aloha Spirit, while generous and expansive, is also reciprocal.  That means if someone in Hawai'i is gracious to you (thus reflecting the Aloha Spirit), you should return the favor, thereby keeping the Aloha Spirit alive.  We'll even let you take some Aloha back home with you.

7.  People here eat Spam but they don't eat it every day at every meal.  And its not polite to react negatively to the idea of eating Spam.  Its like me going to your house and turning up my nose at something you like to eat.

8.  Take your shoes off when you come visit our house; it shows respect to our culture and our home.

9.  Never, never turn your back on the ocean.  It will sneak up and knock you down. Don't ask me how I know.  As a related aside, if lifeguards post signs warning you not to go into the ocean, you should comply.  They know Hawai'i waters better than the malihini, or visitors, do.

10.  The people of Hawai'i are just as warm and beautiful as the islands themselves.  If you remember this during your visit, often the rest will take care of itself.

**If all else fails, listen to some IZ.  He will help you understand Hawai'i nei.

Mahalo nui loa to @kailualisa and @underdad for their feedback and assistance with this list.  Hawai'i tweeps no ka oi!


  1. Oh my lord #1 cracked me up!
    It probably wasn't meant to be funny but just the way i could see you saying it to someone.
    By the way.. i can read the new header YAY lol

  2. good! funny is ok, snarky and anti-tourism not so much. people visiting often talk about going home "to the states" and i'm always "wha--?" glad you can read the new header!

  3. Too funny. The ocean does tend to sneak up on one.

  4. I especially love #8. I think shoes should be left at the door and I really hate when anyone wear their shoes in my home. My husband doesn't seem to understand this. We are different cultures.

    I loved reading more about Hawaii and I think the one about the ocean happened to my son! :) I simply cannot explain how one minute he was standing and the next he was soaked.

  5. I lived in Mililani for several years. The thing I miss the most is the Mom and Pop Pizza places. You have to admit, they put every national pizza chain in the US to shame!

  6. The link to this was at the bottom of a recent post and I had to read your 10 rules. Good advice and good laughs!


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