By Kelton Cheney | Contributing Writer
[Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. Please see below for details on the correction.]
Since moving out here, I have always described moving to Hawai‘i as moving to a different country. Being from State College Pennsylvania, I had no idea how drastically my palate would change, or my wardrobe would shift. From the screeching mopeds to island fever, I’m going to tell you what the biggest culture shocks are for a Hawaiian newbie.
1. No worries: The most refreshing thing about living out here was how relaxed and helpful everyone is. Small things that people do to make another person’s day better. Holding the door at the grocery store. Helping someone push their car who ran out of gas. Most people have seen the bumper stickers: “slow down this isn’t the mainland.” Or perhaps a cop has told you that. Either way that applies to life out here, not just driving. Learning that being in a hurry at someone else’s expense is wrong, was a hard one for me.
2. Slippers: I brought exactly 5 pairs of shoes from Pennsylvania to Hawaii. That’s correct, no slippers. I don’t even think I owned a pair of slippers before coming to Hawaii. I remember in one of my classes the teacher was addressing professional attire for the various guest speakers that would come in. She said “It is okay to wear slippers. But understand this wouldn’t be okay outside of Hawaii.” Everyone had slippers on the next day. Finding a situation not to wear slippers is more of a challenge.
3. Pidgin: A big surprise moving out here was pidgin. It was everywhere, the lawyers, doctors, teachers, policemen. This was also a major learning curve. Learning what “shootz(bye)” meant took a while. Including learning to replace “that thing” with “da kine” or figuring out that “grindz” was food, which was on various menus and restaurants. “Rajah(dat)” is one I hear on a day to day basis along with “no need.” Finally, I learned that you can’t just show up to BBQ and eat food. You must bring some for everyone, so people don’t call you a “aku bird.”
4. Uncle or Auntie: everyone is an Uncle or Auntie. Everyone knows at least one. If you’re having trouble, go to your nearest grocery store. Learning that depending on your age, a person older would be considered an Uncle or Auntie was new. It is so much better than the traditional “everyone is a sir, or ma’am.” It’s a positive way to start out a conversation and I use just about daily.
5. Hawaiian shirts and muumuus: I knew Hawaiian shirts were popular. But I didn’t understand how much of the work force wore them. Lawyers, business men, scientists, teachers etc. Watching a Hawaiian shirt take the place of a three-piece suit was awesome. No, seriously. I have yet to see a shirt and tie. I normally associate muumuus with Sunday for church. Although, I recently have learned they are worn during maternity. The various dresses are brightly printed, very long, hanging from the shoulders. Floral patterns are common like the Hawaiian shirts. Learning the role of the Aloha shirts and muumuu’s in Hawaiian culture was a big shock to me.
6. Did I mention being on an Island is weird? In Pennsylvania, there aren’t many places you can’t drive. NYC and Philadelphia are three to four-hour drives. The only four-hour drive you’re going to have is the one to ‘Ewa Beach during rush hour. In my experience island fever has been a myth. Having oceans on all sides is a good compromise everyone is willing to make. But occasionally, I feel that longing to drive home.
7. Mopeds are everywhere! The high cost of living out here makes the moped a perfect means of transportation. They are inexpensive (I got mine used for $250); brand new mopeds go for about $800. As people are aware, mopeds do have a down side. Did I mention that they are extremely annoying and most drivers in cars look down on mopedists. It is not uncommon to get yelled at while driving. Everyone out here has a opinion on them. With mopeds, love or hate, and people will 100 percent let you know on the road.
8. Delicious new food: I come from a small landlocked town. You would be a bold individual to try our gas station sushi back home. The availability to fresh fish as well as the amazing quality of the different Asian cuisines continues to be one of my favorite aspects of the island. I have discovered a new love for Thai and Vietnamese food. Particularly the Pho and Pad Thai but only if it’s extremely spicy! Not only that but my favorite drive-in spots (Rainbow Drive-in) or plate lunch places. I have redeveloped a love of Mac salad and have it at least once a week. Although the food is never cheap, it is always delicious.
I don’t think there is any other state with this much cultural diversity. It has been a big shock to be behind on so much culture even though I haven’t left the United States. Pidgin, Hawaiian shirts, and new food have been part of that learning curve for me. The more you embrace and dive in to the culture of Hawaii, the more fun you will have.
[Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakingly said that muumuus were worn during paternity. The article has been corrected to state that muumuus are often worn during maternity. We apologize for this error.]