Photo: brycekauai/Shutterstock

20 Signs You're Back Home in Hawaii

by Wailana Kalama Jul 28, 2016

1. Aunties are lovingly stuffing you with raw aku and poi while at the same time bemoaning your life choices.

“You haf a Master’s in what? Writing? Aie aie aie. What you goin’ do wit dat? Here no forget ‘alaea salt. You so skinny girl!”

2. And so you’re slipping into pidgin.

You haven’t used it in years except on those rare occasions when friends were curious. Now you drop phrases like a wet swimsuit on the porch: “Hoh Auntie, dees kalo wen broke da mout!”

3. “Wat, you lolo, brah?”

“Hey sistah, you like go for eat?”

3. You’re getting up early just to grab the fresh poke before it sells out.

Poke done right is a hard thing to come by, even in Hawaii. You drive down with your mom to a tiny, dim-lit grocer to pick up a bowl of delicious fresh tuna, green onions, red chili pepper, and sesame seeds, drizzled in sesame oil and shoyu.

4. You’re appreciating things you once dismissed as too touristy.

Years of winters in landlocked states have taught you to not take the sun and the ocean for granted. You go boogie-boarding on the leeward side of the island. You hike to those panoramic outlooks, the ones you used to say were too crowded and candy-flavored with tourists. You even go scuba diving once, and you wonder why on Earth didn’t you try it before?

5. Your beverage choices are back to guava juice or over-sweetened lilikoi iced tea.

Your uncle’s fridge on the porch is stacked with Budweiser and canned juices, the same as it’s been for years. You take one and stick it in a foamy, wrap-around coaster colored with purple hibiscus. Nothing breeds nostalgia like guava juice in a can.

6. You call them slippahs again.

Not flip-flops, not sandals, not slippers. Slippahs. And maybe “zoris” if your mom’s first husband was half-Japanese and she still uses the word in the same way.

7. You start calling everyone sistahs, tutus, and bruddahs.

And aunties. Everyone is an auntie or an uncle. It’s a term of endearment. More surprisingly (and a bit unnerving), people start calling you auntie.

8. You’re eating rice with everything.

Eggs. Burgers. Chili. Teriyaki. Loco Moco. EVERYTHING.

9. You’re referring to directions as mountain and sea.

It’s not north-south, it’s mauka-makai. Driving closer to the ocean is on the makai side; farther away is the mauka side. There’s also windward and leeward side — west and east sides of the island, respectively.

10. You’re cramming your face full of azuki bean shave ice from that place across from Ala Moana.

As soon as you’re off the plane, you devour those local delights you can’t get anywhere else. Green mango dipped in sea salt. Slow-cooked kahlua pork. Oxtail soup, kulolo, malasadas, haupia, saimin, macaroni salad, poiso ono!

11. It’s no big deal to see the odd gecko or trail of ants in your kitchen.

Living on a tropical island means bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. Mosquitos, ants, cockroaches and spiders are an everyday thing. You got spoiled in the Northwest where it’s too cold. But now, expect to see them on the wall every now and then. If you open a jar of peanut butter, put it in the fridge or pretty soon there will be a trail of hungry ants. And remember: Geckos are adorable! They eat mosquitos and even grow back their tail if it’s cut off. Plus, they’re good luck.

12. You don’t only know what poi is, you like it.

You know the difference between two-finger poi and three-finger poi and know where to get the best on your island.

13. Aloha wear has become perfect formal attire.

Got a brightly colored shirt printed with flowers? Or a dress with poofy sleeves and turtles? Perfect for that Sunday brunch or baby shower.

14. You grab yourself a plate lunch.

The most Hawaiian of all foods: two scoops of white rice, macaroni salad with meat. Huli huli chicken, anyone?

15. You’re remembering how refreshing life is without billboards.

Thankfully, Hawaii outlawed billboards way back in 1927, so you don’t have anything standing between you and the gorgeous view of the mountains and the sea.

16. You start to call things by their real names.

You’re not “finished with work,” you’re “pau hana.” Turtles are honu, tuna is ahi, soy sauce is shoyu, toilet is lua and boogers are hanabata.

17. You think anything less than 65 degrees is chilly.

All those years acclimating to mainland weather — all for naught. Now you shiver in a strong breeze. Unless you’re on the top of Mauna Kea, of course, where it snows.

18. You’re seeing faces of all types.

Hawaii is a cultural mishmash and it’s common to see people from all backgrounds — Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Chinese, White, Thai, Portuguese — and almost everyone is mixed.

19. You get to use your kama’aina discount again!

The magical discount on purchases for locals. Tourism has inflated prices at many restaurants, shops and hotels — so you just get out your Hawaii rainbow license and prove you’re a local for a markdown.

20. You’re remembering what green looks like.

I swear, the colors are more vivid in Hawaii. Purple is deep purple, green is luscious green, and the air smells like flowers with a hint of rain.

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