Hawaii, the 50th and most recent US state, is an island paradise for many. It is rich in natural scenery – azure waters, lovely beaches and amazing mountains and volcanoes. It is in Hawaii where you can find established traditions and Western modernization co-existing harmoniously. The state is also famous for being a melting pot of cultures.
You may have had some preconceptions about Hawaii, a few of which are true but most of which actually aren’t true. So to help you in getting to know Hawaii better, here is the handy list of the things you should expect before traveling to Hawaii (especially for the first time):
1) Not all locals wear Hawaiian shirts (and they’re not called “Hawaiian shirts”)
Granted, you will see many locals wearing those loud, floral-printed shirts especially at luaus and beach parties. But not all of the people in Hawaii wear those shirts. They may wear them, but not all the time either. And please, they’re not called “Hawaiian shirts.” They’re correctly called “Aloha shirts.”
2) Not all people who live in Hawaii are Hawaiians.
The term “Hawaiian” refers to people who are of Hawaiian descent, but they now comprise about 10% of the total state population.
The more correct term for the the non-native Hawaiians is “Haole,” in the Hawaiian language. The term was originally applied to white people settling in Hawaii but now it refers to any non-native Hawaiian who come from other ethnicities such as Japanese, Chinese and Filipino. If you have trouble remembering or pronouncing the word “Haole,” you can call them merely as a “local” and at least you may gain some respect from doing it.
3) You can say it with “aloha.”
Hawaii has two official languages: English and (what else) Hawaiian. Although you will be able to get by just fine in English, learning some basic Hawaiian words and phrases may endear you to the locals and will help you to understand their culture better. Plus, it will help you to show a sense of goodwill and respect to the locals, who will definitely appreciate your effort.
You can say aloha in greeting (“hello”) and in parting (“goodbye”). Aloha also means “love.” You can also expand your aloha knowledge by greeting the locals during a particular time of the day. Say aloha kakahiaka which means “good morning,” aloha awakea = “good noontime” (just past morning), aloha ‘auinala = “good afternoon” and aloha ahiahi = “good evening.”
A very important reminder on pronouncing aloha ahiahi: ahi means tuna in Hawaiian and you don’t want to end up embarrassing yourself by saying “tuna tuna.” Pronounce ahiahi instead as “a-hee-yah-hee.”
4) Men can dance the hula too
Blame that on Hollywood movies and the whole Westernization of Hawaii. Most people (especially white Americans) picture the hula dance as consisting of women wearing grass skirts and coconut bras, with their hips seductively swaying to the beat of the music. Cut that stereotype – in the true Hawaiian tradition, men and women alike dance the hula.
In fact, many forms of hula dances for males are distinct from females’ dances. During the ancient times, males used to dance the hula as a preparation for a battle. In the males’ hula dances, the movements mimic the local martial art known as “Lua.”
5) Snows in Hawaii? You betcha!
It sounds improbable – snow in the tropical paradise? But yes, it happens in Hawaii! You can experience snow in Hawaii at the top of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea during the winter months. You can actually spend a winter wonderland atop a 14,000-foot dormant volcano. Cold winter storms are not unusual at the mountain peaks and some forms of alpine vegetation are present. At the summit of Mauna Kea lies the Mauna Kea Observatories.
Next time, tell your friends that you’ve actually snowboarded in Hawaii and they will think you’re spinning some fantastic story – until you show them some pictures and videos.
Read the article “Interesting Facts about Hawaii” to know more about this truly unique US state.