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It doesn’t take long to notice that folks in Hawaii are different from folks on the Mainland. You may have noticed some of our quirks. It’s partly because we have been influenced by so many outside cultures—everywhere from Asia to Portugal. It’s partly because we live in eternal summer. It’s partly because we like to stand apart. We love our Island roots.

It's a Hawaii ThingsWe eat a ton of rice. And noodles. Sure, we like potatoes and bread, but, when it comes to our choice of starch, rice is an addiction. When we go on a diet, we try to cut the “two scoops rice” to one, but it’s tough. We also like our salt, so you’re going to see lots of shoyu and Spam.

We talk funny. It’s called pidgin, a chop suey version of English that results from all the immigrant groups attempting to communicate with Hawaiians and the ruling-class haoles (whites). Even when we are outside Hawaii, we automatically say “pau” to mean finished. And “mahalo” for thanks (or “t’anks, eh”).

We run hot and cold easily. When it comes to weather, we are really only comfortable when the temperature reads between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Even at 70, folks are bundling up with hoodies and sweaters, while 80 degrees means the air conditioner must go on.

We consider driving 10 miles a big deal. That’s because time—not distance—is a key factor. It’s not very far from Kailua to Honolulu, but it seems to take forever at certain times of the day and on weekends. And forget the freeway during the morning and afternoon rush hours.

We appreciate a good lei. Everything is celebrated with lei: graduation, birthdays, anniversaries, art openings, promotions, housewarmings and on and on. We make them out of shells, flowers and even little bottles of booze.

We wave other cars INTO our lane. And we think honking the horn is totally uncool.

We don’t know east from west. We give directions in terms of heading toward the mountains (mauka), toward the sea (makai) or toward an obvious site (Diamond Head, Ewa). We sort of know north and south because there is huge surf on the North Shore in the winter and good waves on the South Shore in the summer.

We think the ocean is holy. It’s where we surf, bodysurf, sunbathe, sail and swim. Our state Supreme Court enacted a law making the coastline accessible to all of us.

We wear rubber slippers everywhere. Pronounced “rubbah slippahs,” flip flops are worn from the cradle to the grave, which is one of the reasons our feet are so beat up and tend to be extra wide (known as “luau feet”). Evidence of their constant use is those funny tan lines on local feet.

We prefer aloha shirts to suits. If you see someone wearing a suit, he’s probably on his way to court. Or maybe getting married (but the bride and groom are still wearing slippers).


Photos by Shutterstock






  1. Linda Hofstedt

    Great! Enjoyed this a lot. Having lived there for all most 30 years. Now living in Illinois. I still say certain Hawaiian phrases. Hope to move back in a year or two.


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