Hawaiian Culture 101

19 April 16


In Spanish cultures, the word Sobremesa refers to the time spent after lunch or dinner, talking to the people you shared a meal with.

In Japanese cultures, the word Komorebi refers to the sunlight that filters through the trees.

In Inuit cultures, the word Iktsuarpok refers to the feeling of anticipation that leads you to keep looking outside to see if anyone is coming.

How interesting it is to be able to describe a feeling or a placement in time with a single solid word. Cultures are a fascinating thing. They are so uniquely fashioned both outside of us and within us. They create a boundary of separation and yet a connection of togetherness. Above all, cultures should not be ignored. Being culturally conscious is a by-product of respect and should not just stick outside the realms of a specific country.

There are various cultures within a single region as well. The typical one that comes to mind in the United States are the cultural differences between the northern and southern states. However, one culture that many travelers must be aware of is the distinct cultural norms within the state of Hawaii. Thus, we have compiled a list of Hawaii basics to help you navigate these beautiful islands.

Dialect:Aloha” means “hello”; “mahalo” means “thank you”; “wahine” means “women” (ie. on a restroom door); and “kane” means “men” (again, on a restroom door). Offering a warm welcome, showing sincere gratitude, and knowing which bathroom to use will take you far with the locals.

Leis: These wreaths of flowers are presented, usually upon arrival or departure, as a symbol of affection. Always accept a lei, and never take it off in the presence of the person who gave it to you. Maybe even try leaving it on your pillow for sweet scented dreams! (Note: if you are an expectant mother, you may be given a lei with an open end as to encourage a safe delivery.)

Hula:hawaiian-hula-dancers-377653 The iconic dance is more than just entertainment; it’s spiritual in a ritual sense, and when you as a tourist understand that, you will see its honest beauty. Men may participate in the hula dance, as well.

No shirt, no shoes, no problem: Hawaii breathes an air of casualty from its locals to its tourists. Do not be alarmed if you see women or men entering shops or restaurants in only beach attire. In fact, embrace it! Enjoy the laid-back idea of not having to be dressed up all the time, and go with the flow.

Food: Surprisingly enough, one canned product that most of us pass right by in the grocery aisle is a Hawaiian staple…Spam! Although many people think of this product as an inexpensive canned meat, Hawaiians devour it. However, as opposed to eating it straight out of the can, it is typically cooked. It is even served at the local McDonald’s and Burger King restaurants.

flowerFlowers in the hair: Like many things in Hawaii, the classic flower tucked behind a woman’s ear has significance. If the flower is behind the left ear, it means the woman is married, but if it is behind the right ear, it means the woman is single. An easy way to remember this is that a wedding ring goes on the left hand.

Myth or Reality?: Pele’s Curse is one of the most well-known myths (or truths) in Hawaii. It states that any visitor who takes rocks or sand away from the islands will suffer bad luck until the native elements are returned. This modern legend may have some legs to it, seeing as each year, hundreds of visitors send packages back to Hawaii full of natural materials. We will let you decide!

Knowing the ins-and- outs of Hawaii’s culture will make any visit, whether it’s a family trip or a honeymoon, much more enjoyable. Being culturally aware is something that not everyone takes the time to learn, but these tid-bits should help you start off your adventure to Hawaii.

Want to learn more? Be sure to read some of our other blog posts about Hawaiian honeymoons:

Two is the Magic Number When Honeymooning in Hawaii

T-W-O-gether in Hawaii

Say Aloha to a Hawaiian Honeymoon

Ready to experience Hawaiian culture first-hand? Set up a consultation today with one of our Hawaii specialists.

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