Hawai‘i’s diverse population has made for an enviable cultural stew. (Melting pot seemed too cliché.) The aloha spirit is alive and well and akin to small town hospitality found on the mainland. After all, when you’re on an island, you are bound to run into the same folks, and being respectful of everyone’s differences is a necessity. Here are a few things to keep in mind while visiting the islands that will help you spread the aloha.
- All land and water is considered sacred to Hawaiians. To condense an elaborate and ancient paradigm, all parts of the environment, including people, are interrelated. Any harm that comes to one area will be felt in all others. Treat your time here like you’re a guest in someone’s house. (Imagine if you had a million people visiting your house. You’d want them to wipe their feet and clean up after themselves too, right?)
- Don’t litter. We’ve noticed that most visitors are very good about this. But take it a step farther. Try leaving a place better than you found it. Nothing brings out an appreciative smile more than picking up trash on the beach that someone else left behind.
- Don’t remove anything from the environment or cultural sites (heiau). This could be rocks, seashells, sacred offerings, plants and even sand (apart from what sticks to your feet and ´okole after sitting at the beach).
- Don’t try to imitate local dialects unless invited to. (Usually for resident’s amusement, because a visitor trying to speak pidgin sounds exactly like…a visitor trying to speak pidgin.)
- Be a courteous driver. There is only one road that only goes about ¾ of the way around the island and traffic can bottle neck. Things may move at a different pace than back home, but everything moves slower here, including the drivers. Take the opportunity to look around and enjoy where you are. Don’t be in a hurry to get there—you are there. And as you’re looking around, pull over onto the side of the road (when safe) if necessary to let the faster drivers go around you.
- If invited into someone’s home, take off your shoes at the door. This very Asian custom is the norm across Hawai‘i and nothing will annoy a local resident more than wearing your shoes inside their house. Chances are you will see where to put ’em. Add your slippahs to da pile, brah! And as we say at parties where there are giant piles of slippahs at the front door—no upgrading…
- If in doubt, ask someone about the proper way to go about something. If it is ordering from a local restaurant or about access to a waterfall, most locals are happy to help if you just ask. In Polynesian society, nothing is more rude than doing something before asking those with vested interests if it’s OK.