1. People In Honolulu Are A Bunch Of Haoles
Being born and raised in Hawaii doesn’t make you a Hawaiian, it makes you a local. And moving to Hawaii certainly doesn’t make you a Hawaiian; it takes a while to be considered a local.
The island is mostly made up of non-natives, which the locals refer to as “haoles,” which directly translates to “foreigner.” But it has become synonymous with Caucasian descent—usually American, although it can be used in reference to anyone non-native to the island.
Some people take it as a derogatory term and Hawaiians have been called racist on more than one occasion. But that’s just not true. If you’re good to the island and the people on it, Hawaiians will embrace you, making you their “hanai” brother. In haole translation, their brother from another mother.
2. Everyone In Honolulu Lives The “Aloha” Way
Aloha isn’t just a way to say “hello,” “goodbye,” or “thank you.” It’s a spiritual law that has become the Hawaiian way. While people in other cities around the country have a tendency to be defensive and even rude to their neighbors, the people in Honolulu are bred to understand that the world is a loving place and if you give love, you get love back.
It’s a romantic and overwhelmingly welcoming calm that exudes everywhere on the island. You can see it everything and everyone – from the signs on the streets and the bumper stickers on the cars to the hula dancers on the beach and the smiles on their faces. It’s a native peace.
If they’re having a bad day, they ask themselves “What would Aloha do now?” Aloha would love. And so, they give love.
3. People In Honolulu Know Malasadas Fix Everything
Simply put, a malasada is a Portugese donut without a hole, and they’re wildly popular throughout Hawaii, but especially Honolulu because it’s where the best ones are found. Locals travel from every island and even sometimes the mainland to get their hands on them.
The best ones are from the local bakeries, but are also a popular seller at fundraisers. And while the rest of the country is drinking themselves stupid on Fat Tuesday, people in Honolulu are feasting away on Malasada Day.
The love for malasadas is so strong, just about every successful donut chain from the mainland that has tried to open on the island has closed as quickly as it came. That’s because to the locals, nothing can ever compare.
If you’re having a bad day, feeling under the weather, having a good day and want to celebrate, it doesn’t matter. The answer is always a malasada.
4. And Everyone In Honolulu Is Also Obsessed With Spam
The people in Hawaii are big fans of the ham in a can. Seven million cans of Spam are sold every year here, more than any other state in the country, and Honolulu has a lot to do with it. They like Spam in every way imaginable – fried, mixed with rice and vegetables, or grilled in a sandwich. It’s so popular, it’s been nicknamed the “Hawaiian steak” and can even be found on menus at McDonalds.
The spiced ham delicacy in Honolulu is the Spam musubi, which is a slice of grilled Spam over a block of sushi rice, wrapped in nori seaweed. Ask any local where to get the best musubi and they’ll have a plate in front of you faster than you can say “mahalo.”
5. Everyone In Honolulu Speaks Like Pidgins
Pidgin (pronounced like Bert’s favorite bird) is the “unofficial” language of Hawaii and has largely bled into English and Hawaiian languages on the island forming Hawaiian Pidgin English. Think of a Jamaican Creole dialect.
It’s still mostly English, but you’ll often hear words scrambled, abbreviated, and every so often pick up on a word you’ve never heard before. Sometimes it can sound almost entirely unrecognizable.
For example, “Ho! Bugga’s masaladas so ono, broke da mout, brah!” loosely translates to “Wow, that guy’s donuts are ridiculously delicious, man.”
Most locals in Honolulu don’t talk that extreme. In fact, some people are completely turned off by the way it sounds. But it’s not uncommon to hear a word or two creep into everyday language, or signs that might make you take a second look.
6. People In Honolulu Are All Surfing Beach Bums
I have a cousin who lives in Waikiki. I once asked him if he spends all of his time at the beach (I sure know I would).
His response was, “No, that’s such a common misconception. I have a day job, so I can’t get to beach as much as I’d like. I only got to go out on my board, like, three times last week.”
Cry me a river.
When you’re surrounded on all sides by the world’s clearest ocean and the year-round warm weather, being a beach bum is kind of your lifestyle by default. And with the world’s best surf, the beaches are swarming with surfers from around the globe fighting over wave territory.
And if you’re not a local, ask about the best surfing spots where you won’t get in the way. The last thing you want to do is go making enemies with the surfers while trying to make friends.
7. But They All Still Know How To Get Leid
Leis aren’t just a fun novelty prop for your luau party, they’re an important cultural symbol in Honolulu, that hearkens back to the people’s native roots. Leis were used as a peace agreement among opposing chiefs when the land was being settled.
Today the tradition still holds true, and leis are used to represent the spirit of Aloha and to welcome tourists with open arms to signify that they have arrived in a peaceful paradise.
The Lei Day Celebration is held every year in conjunction with May Day in Honolulu where it started. Locals and natives gather to celebrate their culture with hula, music, exhibits, and the crowning of the Lei Queen and Court.
8. Everyone In Honolulu Is A Bit Behind The Rest Of The Country
Living on a small island, you get used to things taking longer to get to you from the mainland. If a new movie comes out, Honolulu usually sees it a couple of weeks later.
If the store is out of something that you need, there’s a good chance you’re just out of luck for the time being.
And there’s no such thing as waiting until the last minute to buy Christmas gifts here. Locals have to plan in advance for everything.
If it sounds stressful, that’s just because you’re probably from the mainland. The people in Honolulu know how to go with the flow better than anyone. It’s the way of life here. Hang loose, brah.
9. But They’re Not Afraid Of Anything In Honolulu
Although Honolulu is a much more laid back, peaceful way of life, it’s also not always for the squeamish with elements that people from the mainland rarely face.
For starters, their waves are enormous and are very often not recommended for beginning surfers. Sharks attacks have been on the rise. There are volcanoes and tsunami warnings. And, most obviously, you’re completely isolated from the rest of the mainland. While the isolation is much of what gives Hawaii its Aloha, it can also be intimidating having no “escape route.”
But it doesn’t faze the people in Honolulu much. The volcanoes? They’re mostly dead. Go inland during a tsunami warning if you’re feeling uneasy. And giant waves and sharks? Please. There’s nothing that will keep them off their boards.
10. People In Honolulu Don’t Care That They Pay Through The Nose To Live In Paradise
Almost everything you’ve ever heard about the cost of living in Honolulu is absolutely true. House prices are ridiculously high, a gallon of milk will cost you what three gallons will cost you on the mainland, and all those shipping costs! It’s definitely not an inexpensive way of life, that’s for sure.
But the assumption that you have to be a millionaire to live here isn’t true. Not everyone here is rich, and not everyone who isn’t rich lives in the slums. People have given up their lives as they knew them to relocate to Honolulu knowing full well what their cost of life was going to be. They sacrifice and simplify to make it work. Because, really, it’s a small price to live in a little slice of paradise.