Cultural shocks of Hawaii


Slippers lined up inside an apartment

On my first day of class here at Chaminade, my professor came in and said, “Andre, welcome to Havvii.” I didn’t even question it, I accepted it and moved on. But that was just one of many eye-opening cultural shocks I received my first few weeks here, after moving from London and, more recently, Colorado. 

Slippers or slippahs?
They’re called “slippahs,” guys! Not shoes or boots. I grew up calling them only flip flops, as most of the world does. But to avoid stink eye from every angle, you must take off your socks and wear some local rubber slippahs. This is not a culture where you just wear slides to the beach. You must live in slides, otherwise, you will be roasting in the heat and your feet will begin to radiate a foul stench that will get you no friends. It’s how [Havvians] live their life. I love it; wearing flip flops means fewer socks for my laundry and fewer struggles when matching my shoes with my everyday outfits. 

Hang loose to the max
Men wearing sarongs are a trend here. You will come across men and women wearing kilts like attire which are labeled as sarongs, they come in all different colors and patterns. It took me some adjusting because I was truly concerned because if they were anything like the good old Scottish kilts, we instantly worry about whether they had underwear on underneath because on a windy day it is not going to be as pretty as the queen’s smile. 

Pidgin is a [Havvian] language or slang that is used amongst fellow friends. Pidgin sounds like you are losing oxygen and say sentences much quicker in an overly expressive manner. “Ay brah you like scrap, yeah?” which means “Hello brother, do you want to fight?” But what is most interesting is that when speaking in pidgin, I’ve noticed a common association by saying “yeah” at the end of all questions and passive statements. So get used to hearing that and don’t be fooled into thinking they are trying to manipulate you into saying yes to someone asking a favor or question, like myself, yeah. 

High five or Shaka?
The shaka sign, sometimes known as “hang loose,” is a gesture of friendly intent often associated with [Havvii] and the surfing culture. As we all have seen, used and heard of this significant sign of the state, I figured out that the more firm you do the hand gesture, the more of a haole you are, which means you are not from [Havvii] and are an outsider. Whereas if you do it loosely and basically show all five fingers at a horizontal fashion, you are in. You might as well be called a local. 

And rice … with every meal
Never have I ever eaten so much rice in my entire life. Chicken with rice, Spam with rice, noodles with rice, cereal, with rice. Rice rice rice. I’m getting tired of saying and thinking of that overly starchy ball that perks itself quietly on the side of my plate. Don’t get me wrong, I do love some rice, but for breakfast, lunch and dinner? 365 days a year. Havvians take this as the norm. They would question if there was no rice on their plate. And most likely have withdrawn symptoms, so brace yourself to put on weight fast.

Dress down to feel up
This may sound strange, but the more you dress down, meaning casual wear and becoming an opposite of a “try hard,” you will fit in way more than if we dress the same as if we we re in another state or even country. Where I’m from, if you don’t look “swaggy” or have designer on, you are near homeless. Here, the slippahs, casual shorts and a tank top, or plain T-shirt will get you by just fine. So pack white T’s and shorts, not Gucci shirts and chino jeans.

I hope I have given you a solid amount of preparation for the cultural shocks I have experienced. Follow and be aware of these guidelines of my mistakes and you will be more or less a local in my books. Shoots brah, yeah. Mahalo.