I personally know a few families that are making that giant leap, and for reasons of work or school – and lifestyle – have decided to live in Hawaii. Since I have seen many people come and go, some with relative ease and others with personal frustration, here is a list of etiquette tips I am reposting to help those who are coming to the islands to live, and often times to work interactively, with the locals:
1. Local style is about working together.
Everyone kokua or helps. Help is not always asked for, but rather people will volunteer. A good example is when my father died, there were people who volunteered to pay for the pig, cook the food for those that attended the funeral, make the box for my dad’s casket to be laid in the ground, etc. Others were asked and quickly agreed to help such as setting up refreshments, baking food for the people, digging my father’s grave, printing the flier (announcements), giving us thank you notes for those that attended the funeral, and all of this were done at no cost to us. Everyone came together as a community and chipped in. We all worked together. And my father’s example is not a unique one. This is what they always do.
2. There’s an intricate & intimate social dance that islanders perform together every day on and off the job. Unwritten set of rules of behavior, informally known as “local style,” is essential for anyone who has made Hawaii their home.
Basically certain etiquette needs to be followed while in Hawaii. A lot has to do with trust and being that Hawaii is a small place, this trust is pretty much set in stone, but not spoken of. In my friend’s situation, new neighbors who aren’t accostumed to the cultures and protocols of the islands had moved in next door. Rather than deal with the situation as we would, the new neighbors decided to write a letter in a threatening manner providing a date that the action that needs to be taken must be done or legal action would be taken. Was that necessary? Certainly not. The outsiders simply displayed how they had no trust in people. They crossed that imaginary line, didn’t follow protocols and the social etiquette that we are accustomed to that says out loud that they have broken those set of rules of behavior – a la Hawaiian style.
3. Understated way of social interaction is a complex mix of culture, race and history and is characterized by soft, humble, indirect communication and a respect for others’ accomplishments.
Because of the various cultures that obviously contributed these social behaviors onto our culture today, we all learned to adapt and incorporated them into our daily life. The humbleness, probably a Japanese influence as well as a Hawaiian one. Chinese have this as a part of their culture too. Maybe if people were mindful of these cultural differences, they really wouldn’t have such a hard time fitting in, getting in trouble with the locals and not be so disliked. It all comes down to adaptation, learning to adapt to the environment, the people and most importantly their culture, their ways.
4. Local style is collaborative, putting more value on the “we” and not the “I”.
Typical Haole mentality, throughout history has always been an individualistic one. Not to mention, this is very prominent with American society. It is all about the individual. The “we” thing exists in Asian cultures too, but in Hawaiian culture, since ancient days it has always been a “community” based culture. People, especially the commoners did not have much for their own personal use. Individuality is not or was not something you would really see. You have heard stories of how the people had to work the land for the chiefs. This is because it was a community based society. Individual ownership was limited to the malo, kapa, and their own name. That is why emphasis is put on the Hawaiian name because it was one of the few “individually possessed” items. Everything was about “we”. So this aspect has worked its way into today’s society.
5. Local style is not always very verbal and engaging. It isn’t all talk. Actions always speak louder than words.
I think we know this to be true. You can bullshit all you want but it won’t get you anywhere unless you can show that you can put out what you say you can do. Mainland style is all about impressions. You can lie all you want and people are impressed. It’s all bullshit talk! In Hawaii, the mentality is different. You can say you are a king but unless you can show your regalness, no one really would care.
6. Local people are up to their necks with Mainlanders telling them how they should be living their lives.
Change is one thing many people do not like, in general. In Hawaii however, it is magnified. Last thing people want is outsiders trying to tell them what they think would work best for them. They (outsiders) really would not know. Only the locals would know what would work best for themselves and future generations.
7. People with a superior attitude don’t last very long in Hawaii.
Mainlanders have that mentality that they are superior because of money, education and probably preconceived notions that locals are just inferior because of all those I mentioned. Other things that may make them think that, the mentality of locals, the speech, and basically the “local style” living or the laid back or passive character.
8. The islands have a long history of Mainland newcomers, who are lionized as people of vision and destiny, then publicly mauled for their inability to fit in. It goes all the way back to Hawaii’s first malihini, Capt. James Cook, whose divine aura wore off quickly.
Nothing irritates locals more than outsiders displaying this type of behavior. They (mainlanders) see themselves as a leader of change and find that there may be others who idolize them or seem to show some type of idolizing, probably just awe struck by their conduct or manner of doing things. Nothing more. But as always, these things do not last very long and people begin disliking them for it.
9. Should visionary leaders spend valuable time learning the lay of the island landscape when their job is to blaze new trails in the first place? Is the prevailing culture preventing the state from making significant and necessary change?
There’s always that balance. How much is too much. Most importantly, how much are they really losing if “opportunities” are not available by way of modernization or industrializing an area? It’s always good to communicate this type of information with the locals and get their input. If they feel they should try to progress by building new things, then they should have that opportunity to express that feeling because it is their life at stake. And unlike these “visionaries”, locals are not necessarily for these things for “profit” but rather for a much more comfortable living.
10. Newcomers to the islands often have difficulties fitting in, due to the fact that in Hawaii people have strong associations with family, so a lot of their activities involve family and extended family.
Mainlanders seem to be disconnected from their own large and/or extended families to begin with. So it is easy for them to just concentrate on themselves. Those that have assimilated became part of someone’s ‘ohana and I have heard some say that. That tells me that they learned to adjust to their new environment. They may or may not have had some difficulty at first but learned how to quickly adapt in order to survive in Hawaii.
11. As a rule, most locals are bicultural. That is, they know how to behave in different ways when situational pressures dictate it. Culture and cultural differences are programmed into the locals.
We all grew up with different cultures. For me personally, there was the Hawaiian culture which we all were exposed to. Then there was the Japanese people in our town whose influence was unavoidable. And in our household it was Filipino culture with a combination of the other two that I mentioned. This is normal for local people.
12. 6 degrees of separation. In Hawaii, it is more like 1 degree of separation. Be mindful of what you say to people because you’ll never know if they are related.
Everyone knows everyone. Or, they end up knowing that person’s aunty, uncle, cousin, neighbor, etc. It’s a very small place. Just a man who works in our buidling asked if I was from Oahu after finding out that I was from the islands. I told him that I was from Molokai. He said he didn’t know anyone from Molokai, and told me that he was from Kauai and I said that my uncle was from there and he asked the name. I said “VILLABRILLE” and he said, “Kenneth?” Turns out that this guy and Kenneth were classmates. That is 1 degree of separation, not 6. Recently in school a young Hawaiian man saw me with a “Justice for Hawaiians” t-shirt. He stopped me and we began talking, following the normal protocol by identifying genealogy. Although he comes from Waimea on the island of Hawai’i, his great-grandparents were from the island I am from and he began asking me if I knew who this person and that person was. How many degrees of separation? One! But multiplied so many times. He and I share the same cousins. My classmate is also his cousin. And the list goes on. So it is a very small place.
13. Hawaii is all about developing relationships. Regardless of your qualifications, people aren’t likely to work with you until they have established a relationship with you.
This goes back to culture. Emphasis is put on family and becoming a part of that family, the community is what it boils down to. This is how relationships are established, through familial connections.
14. Do not confuse slow with incompetent. Some people equate the slower pace with people as not having talent.
Nothing more than different lifestyles. Some may see New York as a much more faster pace environment than the laid back Californian environment. Californians do things differently from New Yorkers. It’s just the way that it is. Hawaii is no different. Their standards are different from other places. People need to learn to accept things as they are rather than trying to judge based on what they are accustomed to.
15. Fast-talking braggadocios may get by on the mainland, but people in Hawaii have very little tolerance for the brash and arrogant.
This goes back to the part about how local style isn’t just all talk but a lot has to do with actions. This “talk” can come across as arrogant, snobbish, high-makamaka. Locals just cannot deal with that type of bragging because it really doesn’t matter to them. Unlike here in the mainland, people thrive on those type of things. It’s basically the norm.
16. Learn to balance confidence with a healthy dose of humbleness. There’s a certain style of leadership in Hawaii – humility, coupled with results. It is the most highly respected form of leadership.
This is just basic “good character” and what gets people admired. If we look at those “successful” in Hawaii, they are the ones that exhibit both of these type, and that is confidence and humbleness. One example is Nainoa Thompson, who was a key player in revitalizing the ancient Hawaiian navigation system across distant seas. He is now one of the Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estates’ trustees. He was selected as a trustee because of his commitment to the culture, his knowledge and he is very humble about it. This I am sure why one of the reasons he is admired, because he has balanced the two.
Aloha, and welcome to Hawaii!