5 cultural faux pas in Hawaii you should definitely avoid

Have you ever been somewhere where you feel out of place, like you’re sticking out?

Hawaii is known to have that effect on visitors. The culture here is so unique and peculiar that even the most confident of visitors can be made to feel like outsiders.

But that’s okay, there’s a way through this, and it starts with education.

Here are some of the top faux pas to be aware of when visiting Hawaii:

Trying to speak Pidgin

This is by far #1 on the list, and for good reason: Hawaiian Pidgin English is a dialect of standard English that people pick up over years of living here (i.e., grow up with) — it’s not really a language you can learn in a classroom. And, like any dialect or language, you have to continually speak it to keep it up.

With that said, there is nothing more cringy than someone who doesn’t know pidgin who attempts to utter some pidgin word or phrase, or trying to enunciate a “normal” English phrase with a Pidgin accent.

Our advice: since everyone here speaks and understands English, just speak the English you’re most comfortable with. You’ll be fine.

Wearing your shoes or slippers in the house

It’s not uncommon on the mainland to wear your shoes in the house. In Hawaii it’s just not cool. Part of the reason is cultural, and the other is practical: nobody wants the outside ground tracked into their house.

Our advice: leave your shoes or slippers at the door like everyone else.

Aggressive driving

It’s not a cliche — island life really is more laid back. This way of life applies on road as well, where speeding and road rage are rare, drivers let people in, and  barely anyone honks their horn.

Despite rush hour traffic, this way actually works.

Our advice: slow down, relax, and be friendly — you’ll get there 🙂

Avoiding locals

It’s unfortunate to have to admit this, but the distribution of wealthy, educated people across Hawaii is incredibly lopsided. Many local resident don’t get the chance to go to college, and the ones that do often leave Hawaii indefinitely for better opportunities.

Because of this, you don’t often see locals enjoying the same luxuries as visitors or part-time residents. The socio-economic gap is palpable, and many visitors come to Hawaii with the intention of keeping to themselves or only engaging with people like them.

Avoiding locals is problematic because it widens that gap, and leads to more fear, resentment, and ignorance on both sides.

Our advice: get out there and talk to all the people! Be friendly and genuine and share what you have.

Dropping in (surfing)

If you’re a surfer, you already know this.

If you’re not a surfer but plan to surf  in Hawaii, never do the following: paddle for or catch a wave that a surfer who’s deeper where the wave is breaking is already paddling for or riding.

The consequences of dropping in can be very harsh.

Our advice: be patient and spend time watching what’s going on in the water and the lineup. There’s a pretty well organized system out there.

Image credits: Sean Bernstein, Michael Olsen, little plant, Matheus Vinicius, Claudio Schwarz, sanjiv nayak

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