Known for its spectacular beaches, lush forests, and perfect year-round weather, it’s no wonder people flock to Hawaii every year to experience these incredible islands. But like any touristic place, this influx of visitors can tend to get on the nerves of the locals trying to go about their day, especially in the main cities. Now I’m not saying locals will treat you poorly here, but there are a few ways you can blend in so as not to be targeted – and potentially taken advantage of – as a tourist!
1. Locals don’t say “aloha,” they say “how’s it.”
This is one of the easiest ways to set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd. Eventually, you’ll find it become slurred into just saying “howzit!” That’s when you know you got the greeting down! Pro-tip: If you make a point of trying to be the first person to initiate the greeting, it’ll be appreciated even more. So the next time you find yourself hiking around the island, keep this simple yet effective greeting in your pocket.
2. They don’t say “Mahalo” either
Mahalo means thank you in Hawaiian, but like you and me, locals just say thank you! In general, you won’t hear much of the actual Hawaiian language spoken – aside from those working in tourism. Unless there are two islanders in one place, people won’t mix and match the language. It’s all just “thank you!”
3. Always respond when someone throws you a shaka
The shaka, more commonly known as “hang loose,” is one of the most notable hand gestures used around the world (or maybe just around Instagram). Not recognizing when someone throws the shaka to you is considered extremely rude. Either throw it back, toss up a peace sign, or respond in another appropriate way. Whatever you do – don’t leave them hanging!
4. You can wear your slippers anywhere
This may not seem like a very relevant tip to note, but hear me out. For some reason, people here call sandals and flip-flops, “slippers.” If you Google “slippers,” you’ll see a collection of fuzzy slip-ons that you wear when you’re shuffling around the house in the morning. In Hawaii, they’re always, without fail, called slippers. I heard this term used a surprising amount, and using it myself helped camouflage the fact that I didn’t live here.
5. You don’t have to pay $5 for that coconut
If you have a car and you know where to look or can find a local to point you in the right direction, you can easily find free fruit! Anything growing wild is up for grabs. You can find anything from papaya, mango, coconut, breadfruit, bananas, starfruit, and anything else that grows wild on the island. This goes for the flowers too – don’t buy a lei, just pick the flowers you want and find a YouTube tutorial! As always, be responsible and respectful of the wildlife when picking. It’s not worth it if you have to damage wildlife to get a free snack!
6. Older people are “Auntie” or “Uncle”
On the mainland, we’ll most likely call someone who’s our senior either “sir” or “miss.” Of course, everything is less formal here on the island. So when you find yourself at the grocery store and someone obviously your elder is in your way, you’ll say “Excuse me, Uncle!”
7. Soy sauce goes on everything, but ketchup goes on rice
This one is super weird. When I first saw someone put ketchup on their rice, I was pretty darn disgusted. But, if you’re like me and you’ll try anything once, give it a shot and you might find it’s not as nasty as it looks! For almost everything else, soy sauce will be the common choice. Bonus: ordering a mac salad on the side will get you far in Hawaii.
8. Nobody actually wears those flower shirts
Unless they’re forced to wear them for a hospitality or tourism job, locals won’t be caught dead in the tacky fake Hawaiian shirts every tourist seems to purchase. When given the choice, they’ll live in slippers and shorts with a tank top. Of course, living in Hawaii, you won’t want to wear anything more in the incredible year round heat!
9. Hawaiian time is real
Hawaiian time is the term used to refer to the locals loose attitude towards punctuality. You say you’re having people over at 6pm? Expect them to show up at 8. Hawaii is easily the most relaxed state in the U.S. Everything is slower, showing up on time is relative, and every day is casual. This even applies to the professional environment at times!
10. Live the Aloha
Aloha is more than just a greeting – it’s a way of life. It’s sharing what little you may have with your neighbor. It’s letting someone in traffic get over when no one else will. It’s sharing your own culture and embracing others. It’s greeting a stranger you pass on the street – first, if you can. Living the aloha lifestyle is the most unique and incredible thing about island locals, and brings such a positive, relaxed vibe to the culture. It could potentially be where the concept of Hawaiian time comes from too – due to everyone putting others first, whatever the situation may be.