1. Turn your back to the ocean.
Checking out the shoreline with your back to the ocean? You’ll be sorry when a giant set rolls in and spits you out topless moments later in plain sight of everyone at the beach. Never underestimate the power of the ocean and its ability to completely humble, and sometimes humiliate you.
2. Attempt speaking pidgin unless fluent.
Believe me, you’ll get lost after two tree sentences, brah. Pidgin is an amalgamation of Hawaiian, Portuguese, Japanese, and Filipino dialects. It’s okay to incorporate some slang into your vocabulary, but to try to speak pidgin without being fluent will leave you lost in translation.
3. Use titles like sir and ma’am to address your elders.
Just call ‘em auntie and uncle! Overly formal language in da islands will make you stick out like a sore thumb. Showing respect for your elders is always a good idea. Just make sure to use the more relaxed vernacular.
4. Whistle indoors.
A happy-go-lucky person might whistle a tune unknowingly, but never do so indoors. Soon your good mood will turn to embarrassment when the locals scold you for summoning ghosts and bad spirits to their home. Not exactly the housewarming gift you had in mind, I’m sure.
5. Be a novice chopstick user.
In Hawaii, the utensil of choice is chopsticks, and they accompany pretty much any meal. The novice chopstick user has two choices: Be the one person in the party to ask for a fork, or fail miserably to get any food in your mouth for the duration of the meal. My advice? Suck up your humiliation and go for the chopsticks. Practice makes perfect.
6. Wear shoes inside someone’s house.
When you see a sign that says, “Mahalo for removing slippers,” it isn’t an endearing piece of art meant for your entertainment. The Hawaiian custom of removing your slippers or shoes before entering someone’s home is deeply ingrained. To track sand, dirt, and debris into someone’s house by wearing your shoes indoors will likely get you a scolding.
7. Leave your SPF at home.
Locals do love their sun, sure. But, they know how to limit their intake. Forget your SPF at home and you’ll be sporting a wicked burn that will draw offers of condolences and hand-picked aloe vera plants for your suffering.
8. Attempt to get things done fast or hurried.
You’ll always get told, “Try go slow.”
9. Refer to the mainland as the States.
Wait a minute! Hawaii is a state, too! The mainland is the acceptable term to refer to the continental US. Don’t be that guy or gal that dismisses Hawaii’s statehood.
10. Take offense to the term haole.
Haole means “no breath,” and derives from the way Europeans greeted each other when first coming to Hawaii. Polynesians greeted each other by touching noses and sharing breath, or life force, while white people did not share the custom of “kissing” when greeting one another. Nowadays, haole is a general term to refer to a white person.
11. Refuse to “make plate.”
Locals love to eat. Any gathering you attend, there’s likely to be a spread of onolicious grindz (delicious food) to choose from. Your host derives much joy from watching others eat said delicious food. Once the spread is set, you’ll be instructed to “make plate” and eat with everyone. Don’t embarrass yourself by turning down their offer because you want to be polite or you’re full. In fact, the polite thing to do is “make plate” and join in, even if it’s a small amount.
12. Honk your horn.
It doesn’t matter what the scenario is: If you honk your horn in Hawaii, you’re automatically the cause of frustration. You might not feel humiliated by your hot temper, but everyone around will shake their heads and feel embarrassed for you.
Best Travel Credit Cards
Top offers from our partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
100,000 bonus points
The Platinum Card®
100,000 bonus points
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 bonus points