Language, Culture, Friends, and Social Life in Hawaii

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Man in Hammock, Big Island, Hawaii

Hawaii’s Laid Back Lifestyle

Sure, everyone works in Hawaii. Well, most do. But, even though everyone is working here is this underlying attitude that life is not about work. The people living in Hawaii understand well that the secret to a happy life is about what you’re doing outside of work. Work-style is a little more laid back. There is less intensity about it. People get their work done – but, it’s not a pressure-cooker environment unless you’re working in sales and your living – your income depends on it.

I had a friend that sold insurance over the phone in Hawaii and he did not enjoy his working conditions. I knew another couple that sold time-shares on Maui. They made a lot of money, but nobody could really stand them as they were far too motivated and concerned about making money off those they knew and were introduced to.

Those living in Hawaii like it laid back and want to keep it that way. After all, that’s why they’re living in Hawaii in the first place. To be surrounded by a like-minded group of laid back people is really invigorating and gives one a great feeling.

Cultural Experience

There are a variety of cultures to be experienced while living in Hawaii. As I mentioned, the Japanese and Filipinos are the predominant groups and of course there is the Hawaiian culture which most groups have adopted.

There’s a large variety of food to choose from. Imagine going through the McDonald’s drive through on Maui like I did most mornings and ordering rice with shoyu (soy sauce), scrambled eggs and Portuguese sausage! There are Korean food restaurants, Hawaiian restaurants, Japanese restaurants… every group has their own restaurants. Thai, Burgers, Filipino, Italian, it’s like the best foods from all over the planet assembled on Oahu.

Quite a nice experience if you like a variety of food. The best is when you befriend some locals and they ask you to picnic with them at Ala Moana beach park on the weekend. You’ll get introduced to some amazing local-style foods like lumpia and Kailua pig!

Anyone who has visited the islands has no doubt seen the famous hand gesture coupled with the greeting “shaka, brah!” A shaka sign – the unmistakable pinky and thumb salute – is the ultimate symbol of aloha and local culture in Hawaii. Interpreted to mean “hang loose” or “right on,” the shaka is a constant reminder that in Hawaii, it is not the norm to worry or rush. The shaka sign represents the embodiment of “island style.” It signals that everything is alright.

From surfers and keiki (kids) to bank tellers and news anchors, the shaka sign is universal in the islands. Use the shaka sign wherever and whenever you want to spread a little aloha, say thanks for letting you cut in on the road, or along with aloha as hello or goodbye. The shaka sign is more than just nonverbal communication. When you use it, you acknowledge the true concept of aloha and participate in the synergistic heartbeat of Hawaii.

Making Friends in Hawaii

This topic isn’t covered in most books about moving to Hawaii. IT’s a crucial factor in whether you will stay or leave sooner than “forever”.

A big problem is when a couple move to Hawaii and one has friends at their new job – and the other either doesn’t work, or doesn’t like the people at work – and doesn’t make new friends.

This happens so often in Hawaii.

Many people will say, after a year or two that they “don’t like Hawaii”. When in fact – it has nothing to do with Hawaii – it’s a lack of developing new friendships. Having some friends in Hawaii can be the difference between an enjoyable time and not. You should take some time to make new friends even if you think – ahhh, they’ll come later. Better now than later when you’re unmotivated and would rather hate Hawaii for it, instead.

How to Make Friends in Hawaii?

First off – get active in something. There are Buddhists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christians, the whole lot in Hawaii – and you can easily join whatever group you choose. All of them have activities going on.

There are many sports and outdoor related activities on Hawaii, of course, and you’re probably interested in some of them because you are moving to an island that seemingly revolves around outdoor activity.

There are running, fishing, rugby, Frisbee, running, hashing (hash house harriers have 3 groups on Oahu alone), drinking, social, boating, writing, computer, authors, and dozens of other groups and clubs that you can join which will help you make friends.

Alternatively – just go out and do what you enjoy – and try to meet people who are doing the same thing… If you bike, try the bike shops to see about weekly or daily rides. Seek these things out – because they might not just come to you – and you might not know intuitively what to do to find friends that are like you are.

I myself have a difficult time finding friends I like to hang out with. In Hawaii within the first couple weeks I already had a few friends that I enjoyed immensely. In Hawaii it’s easier to make friends than in other places I believe. See if you find that to be true also.

Moves to islands other than Oahu can be a little tougher. There are less people, less people like you, and less things to do because there are less people. Still – there are thousands on each island – that need friends like you do, so go find them.

The Shaka Sign

Originally it may have started out to be a fist with your thumb and pinky finger extended – as if waving (palm out), but, if you watch the locals do it – they don’t do it that way. It is more of a shake back and forth – twisting the wrist by pivoting at the elbow…and it is done palm facing in.

The Shaka sign means “hang loose”, and people give the sign usually when they are saying goodbye to each other or posing for a photo.

The Origins of the Shaka Sign?

Good question – and it has not been definitively answered, and it won’t be. Just accept that!

Some say the shaka sign was shown in the 1940s as a symbol of blessing by a local Hawaiian folk hero named Hamana Kalili from Laie who had lost his 3 middle fingers in a sugar-mill accident.

Some say it started when Kalili waved his deformed hand to shoo children away from jumping trains.

Some say the symbol started when one of the first surfers in Hawaii raised a shaking pinky and thumb out of the water after having his middle fingers bitten off by a shark.

Yet another possibility is that it began with the Spanish that immigrated to Hawaii. They would fold the middle 3 fingers in and brought the thumb to their mouth to symbolize drinking with the native Hawaiians they met.

To me, this is the most plausible since Hawaiians use it often while drinking and to symbolize drinking and good times.

If you drive, you might see the shaka sign used in traffic as you let someone enter the stream of traffic in front of you – or someone does something stupid, and throws up a shaka to calm your heated heart.

The shaka sign is a tradition empowered symbol reminding locals and visitors  of the way people look out for people in the islands… it’s also a way to spread the aloha spirit – the spirit of love between people.

Hawaiian Flower Leis

Upon landing in Hawaii – if you know someone here, or were part of a tour group, you might be leid with a necklace of fragrant pikake lei flowers around your neck – and even a kiss if you’re lucky.

this Hawaiian tradition is a really lovely way to welcome newcomers to the islands, and you’ll be doing it for others that come to visit you after you move too. It’s contagious!

There are many types of leis and they can be made from not only flowers, but feathers, leaves, shells, candy or whatever else someone wants to put in them.

[Photo credit – flickr.com member, redjef25]
2017-05-18T20:52:57+00:00

About the Author:

I’ve lived Hawaii since the mid ‘80s when I moved here at the age of 21. I arrived site-unseen in Honolulu with zero contacts and about $5k in savings. I worked from nearly zero and today Hawaii has given me the greatest gifts in the world in all aspects: spiritually, financially, romantically (married since early ‘90s w/ 2 children), and most important, peace. My goal with this site is to share the magic of this Land of Aloha and help others who are on a similar quest.

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