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November 2005

Local Customs


On the Honolulu Advertiser website there are excerpts from “Living in Hawaii – A Newcomer’s Guide to Hawaii". It is designed to help people moving to the islands make a smooth transition from “Haole tourist” to “Haole neighbor.” I’m not sure how big this market is. With prices the way they are, Bill Gates could sell his property here, take that money, and buy a 3-bedroom 1.5 bath rambler in Waikele. So let’s analyze some of the highlights.

The Local Customs section tells us to be sensitive to differences:

Be the first to smile or greet people. They may be shy, but they’ll respond to your friendliness. Or, they’ll slap your face. But if you make two friends while getting one slap in the face, consider it a good day.

Don’t be offended if people don’t make eye contact.It is not unfriendliness, but a tradition taught to avoid seeming rude.
The fear of being accused of giving “Stink-Eye” is very real in Hawai`i. The state Staring Competition champion gazed at his opponent for a lifetime-seeming 8 seconds, winning him the trophy and scorn from his family for being disrespectful.

Unless you have Hawaiian blood, do not call yourself a Hawaiian. Say you are from Hawaii.
I agree with this one. That’s why when I lived in Ballard I did not call myself Old and Norwegian.

Don’t say you came from the “states”. Hawaii is a state.
If you were able to make the move without a passport, this is kind of self explanatory, isn’t it?

Leave your shoes outside the door.
And no matter how much you’ve had to drink, be sure to take the correct footwear when you leave, no matter how big the pile is. Your slippers don’t fit me.

Hawaiians love to “talk story", so don’t be afraid to chat. Be friendly and share experiences.
Unless you are: the person in front of me in the bank line, an air traffic controller, or very very annoying.

Don’t try to mimic Pidgin Hawaiian. It may sound like ridicule.
No, it sounds like a hyena scratching a chalkboard while playing bagpipes. That’s why here in the northwest I never refer to soda as “Pop” and I never sing ABBA songs. It’s just respect.

Take a gift when you go visiting. Maybe some cookies or mangoes from your tree or flowers.
Don’t take the Mac Nut Brittle that the person you are visiting brought over a few months before. That’s right, Chris, I’m talking about you. Like I wouldn’t know.

Try not to refuse food when you’re invited to eat.
This is one of the most important things you need to know. If you make the mistake of visiting three Aunties in one day, you MUST eat at the third Auntie’s house. Put some Shoyu Chicken in a blender and take it intravenously if you have to. Don’t anger the Aunties. They can make the Sopranos look like the Cosbys.

The Getting Around section of the Newcomer’s Guide tells us to buckle up and not to tailgate or speed. Duh. And then:

No honking. It’s considered impolite to sound your horn.
So just let the accident happen. Hold on tight and pray for an airbag. No matter what happens, remember this: during the eulogy, no one will say you were rude.

Drive with Aloha. Be gracious to other drivers.
If you’re going 50 mph in the right lane, feel free to slam on your brakes to let a car in. You may get a “shaka” from the grateful driver. Then you can turn on the radio and hear about the pile up that happened behind you.

One thing they didn’t mention is this. On Oahu , unless you are leaving the house at 3:00am, be sure to go potty and pack a lunch. Bring a razor because you may be in traffic long enough to get a five o’clock shadow. On Fridays, walking is actually faster.

And then they mention bugs.

More than three dozen species of ants live in Hawaii.
There are so many ants that 28 of those species have a union. They constantly file grievances about the quality of crumbs left on the floor, and their queen ran for City Council.

Roaches grow up to two inches and can take off and fly.
There is nothing more scary than a tennis ball sized roach flying angrily at your head. It can make a 6’2” man run screaming like a baby. Anyone who doesn’t believe in evolution need only see a flying roach to realize a God that would plop that on earth either has way too much free time or a really dark sense of humor.

There are other tips which I might cover in a future column. But for now, my main advice to people moving to Hawaii is to always remember why you love it. Be it the people, the food, the weather, the beauty, or the Aloha, those of us who have moved away think about those things all the time. Respect those things and you’ll be fine. And send a care package every once in a while, Haole.


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