Spreading the Aloha

For my English class I had to write a paper in which I taught people something. So I wrote about how not to look like a tourist when going to Hawaii.

Here it is.

Are there houses? What about cars? Should I bring my own cereal? Some might think these questions are important as they get ready to go to Hawaii. People are slightly obsessed with these stupid questions. However, they always forget to ask the one that could actually make a difference. How do you not look like a complete and utter tourist? Well hopefully I can provide a few tips to help you with that question.

When you are packing to go to Hawaii there are a few things you shouldn’t forget, and a couple others that you really should. For guys: Make sure to bring your surf brand T-shirts such as Ripcurl, RVCA, and Hurley. If you have any bro tanks in these brands they would probably be good too. But make sure to get rid of your farmers tan before wearing them anywhere besides the beach. Now, for the beach the right board shorts are important. Do not, and I say this with complete seriousness, wear board shorts with an elastic band/drawstring at the waist. This causes the top to be scrunchy and the only guys who wear them are either under the age of 12 or old men; and when I say old men I mean over 70. So again, do not wear surf shorts with scrunchy tops! These should be left at home, preferably never to be worn until you hit retirement. Girls wear pretty much the same things in Hawaii, except they might show a bit more skin. It’s hot out and so shorts and a T-shirt are the norm. For the beach the usual is to wear a bikini, but if you’re not comfortable with it then I’m not gonna say you have to. Girls dresswear to the beach is pretty universal. The biggest difference is that you will probably see a lot more of their butts in Hawaii then you would in somewhere like West Michigan.

Shoes- this is a very important thing. Some people might think that bringing their chaco sandals to Hawaii is a super smart idea. Sure, they might be practical and yes you might be able to work on the chaco tan that people are weirdly obsessed with. But if you want to fit in and not look like a tourist then please leave the chacos at home. Nobody in Hawaii wears them, they are not a thing. Tennis shoes are another thing, they’re good for hiking but not for everyday life. You can wear vans, toms,  and converse if your feet really need to feel secured, but tennis shoes and chacos are a no go. If you want to be a true local you’ll wear slippers all day every day. What are slippers? Well that question leads me to the next topic. How people talk and what slang you should know.

Slippers are what Hawaii people call flip-flops. So if you slip up and say flip-flops to a local, then you’ve automatically been targeted as a tourist. Now as you venture to the wonderful state of Hawaii you must be prepared for the language people use. And no, that language is not Hawaiian. Yes, there are some people who speak Hawaiian but it isn’t common to find people who speak it fluently. The locals speak pidgin English which is a specific kind of slang. Words are left out and words that you might think have one meaning have a completely different meaning. I am telling you all this not so you try to speak it (because then you will sound even more white), but so that you are prepared for the conversations you might hear. Here is an example.

Person 1: “Ho brah, you like go da kine beach with Kaweka guys?”

Person 2: “Shoots braddah.”

Entering room, person 3: “You going beach? I like come. Got choke kine waves.”

Person 1: “Can. Bumbai gotta pick up one surf board at my aunty’s.”

The translation of this would be as follows:

Person 1: “Hey dude, do you want to go to the beach with Kaweka and his friends?”

Person 2: “Sure!”

Person 3: “You’re going to the beach? I want to come. There’s a lot of waves.”

Person 1: “You can come. I have to pick up a surf board from my Aunty’s a little later.”

This is not a joke, this is in fact a very real conversation that could occur. It is important that you understand what a big part of the island life this is. But as I said before, do not try to speak like them. You will get stink eye (glared at) because only people who have lived there their whole lives speak with a pidgin accent. Anyone else who tries just sounds ridiculous and like a tourist. Another thing, did you notice how the first person said he had to pick up a surf board at his aunty’s house? Well there is no guarantee that person is actually related to him. Everyone in Hawaii is an Aunty or Uncle. It does not matter if you’re meeting them for the first time or not, but chances are you will get a hug and you will be calling them aunty or uncle for the rest of your life. It’s a very big part of the culture there.

Since Hawaii has had major influence from Asian cultures there is a lot of food that you might not find in the mainland. For one thing people eat white rice with most of their meals. It is very common for there to be a rice cooker on the counter at all times with fresh rice in it. Another thing is spam. Most peoples first reaction to spam is that it’s some disgusting canned meat that they will never eat. But you should never say never, especially if you want to fit in with the locals a little more. Something that you can get at most grocery stores and gas stations are spam musubis. They’re always made fresh that day because day old musubis are not very good. A spam musubi is fried spam wrapped in rice and seaweed, kind of like sushi. It’s the perfect thing to grab for a beach trip. I mean, if you want to offend a local go ahead and say it’s disgusting without even trying it. But let me tell you, you are missing out.

One of the last things you should be aware of is Aloha. Aloha is not just a term used to greet someone, it’s a way of life also known as the Aloha Spirit.  This term basically refers to the kindness of people in Hawaii, everyone is part of the ohana (family). It doesn’t matter if you know someone or not, as you’re driving down the back roads you wave or throw a shaka (hand gesture others know as “hang loose”) to everyone who passes. It’s a sense of caring and harmony within a community.

Going to Hawaii you have to have an open mind, especially if you don’t want to be spotted as a tourist right away. Try the food people offer (but do not smell it before trying it because that’s seen as very disrespectful), call your shoes slippers and not flip-flops, try to interpret what the locals are saying, be prepared to call a complete stranger aunty or uncle, but most of all do your best to be filled with Aloha. If you do all the things I told you chances are you won’t be spotted as a tourist from a mile away. You will be respected more for doing these things. In all honesty, no matter how hard you try they will always figure out you’re a tourist. But at least this way it’s not quite so painfully noticeable.


One thought on “Spreading the Aloha

  1. Nice blog post! I’m from Kauai and have a couple of classmates on the Big Island. I love to look like a tourist until some local guy starts chatting with me. Then out comes the pidgin. I miss the food the most but I’m luckily in Seattle now and we have a lot of Hawaiian influences here. Thanks again for your posts! Enjoyable to read!


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