Oahu Customs and Etiquette

Posted by on Dec 28, 2012 in Hawaii | 0 comments

When you visit Oahu and the neighboring Hawaiian islands, there are some customs and cultural nuances that are good to learn before you arrive. While here is where the coupon lives. Testing 123. Hawaii has some traditions that are different than other parts of the United States, people who live there are generally gracious and easy-going. If you follow these ten suggestions, you are sure to receive a positive response from those who call this tropical paradise home.

  1. Only native Hawaiians are called “Hawaiians”. People of non-Hawaiian ancestry call themselves “locals”, even if they were born there. If you’re visiting, it’s polite to refer to non-Hawaiians as “locals of Hawaii” or “people of Hawaii”. Locals will simply say that they are “from Hawaii” or tell you their ethnicity, as many people from Hawaii claim more than one ethnic background.
  2. Hawaii is part of the United States; it became the 50th state on August 21st, 1959. When referring the United States, you can say “the mainland” or simply “off island”.
  3. When visiting someone’s home in Hawaii, take your shoes off at the door. In Hawaii, it’s also polite to bring a small gift when invited to dinner or a house party. If someone gives you a lei¸ or a flower necklace, do not take it off in his or her presence.
  4. Geckos are tiny lizards that do a great household service- they scurry up and down the walls of Hawaiian homes eating flies, gnats and other pests. They’re also good luck- never kill a gecko!
  5. If you are staying in Oahu, refer to the other Hawaiian Islands as “neighbor” islands, not “outer islands”.
  6. Everyone in Hawaii speaks and understands English. You might hear locals speaking pidgin English, which is influenced by Hawaiian Filipino and Japanese. If you are not fluent in pidgin, don’t try to speak it with a local, or they might think that you are making fun of them.
  7. Opala is Hawaiian for trash- pick up after yourself and respect Hawaii’s beautiful beaches, coral reefs and nature reserves. On the Big Island, both the black sand and lava rock are sacred to the island, and removing it could anger Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, dance, lightning and volcanoes. It could be just a myth, but there are more than enough stories of visitors who have suffered ill fortune for stealing from Pele; better to be safe than sorry and respect her property!
  8. Drive slowly. If you’re from a big city, you might be shocked at the slow pace on the roads. The rhythm is different in Hawaii- slow down! There’s nothing that singles a tourist out more than speeding. Avoid using your horn unless there’s a genuine road emergency, and use your blinker to change lanes instead of cutting off a slower driver.
  9. Embrace The Aloha Spirit. Aloha and Mahalo are two important words in Hawaiian to learn. Aloha can be used both in greeting and in parting, and translates as in love. Mahalo means thank you, and residents of Hawaii will appreciate your use of these special social niceties.
  10. Pau hana is another Hawaiian term that you’ll hear- it can mean “after work” or an “after shifter”drink. When a local tells you it’s pau hana, it’s time to start having fun!

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