5 Struggles of the Mainland Hawaiian
(A Person from Hawaii Goes to the Mainland)
By: Chanel Bentosino
Hawaii is the most isolated island chain in the world, and with that comes a unique culture that you can’t find anywhere else. With warm weather and beautiful beaches, it’s hard to believe anyone would ever want to leave this paradise. But, whether it’s for college, business, or vacation, there comes a time where a person from Hawaii leaves the islands and realizes just how different we are from the rest of the world.
As a tita who has been to the continental US and abroad, I found that from the way I talk to the food I eat, I stick out so much that I should have “Made in Hawaii” stamped on my forehead. So, I compiled a list of just 5 of my struggles while in the main 48. Everyday struggles of the mainland Hawaiian….
1. Missing local food.
I listed this first because it is the struggle that hurt both my heart and my stomach while being in the mainland. The main struggle I dealt with was the lack of rice. I went everywhere, BBQs, potlucks, restaurants, not a single pot of rice. If you’re from Hawaii, you know that rice is one of the main food groups, and it goes with pretty much everything.
Now, I say local because being the melting pot that Hawaii is, ‘onoliciois is not limited to just Hawaiian food. Puerto Rican panadeja, Portuguese bean soup, Hawaiian kalua pig, Japanese ramen, Filipino pancit, Chinese char siu, these are just a few of the diverse dishes that have become a part of the local Hawaii culture and the average local person’s diet. I can even think of a few restaurants where I could get all of the above on one plate!
Although Hawaiian and local food are spreading across the United States, and “poke” shops and “Hawaiian style” restaurants can now be found all over the country, we can all agree that there’s nothing like a kanak attack induced by a mix plate of local grindz in Hawaii.
2. Slippahs in the house!
In Hawaii there is only two reasons for there to be footwear inside the house: either someone is getting lickens with um, or a cockroach is getting killed with um. The first time I went to a friend’s house in the main 48, I did the normal Hawaii protocol, stop at the front door and take off those shoes. As I began, my friend’s mom stopped me saying, “What are you doing? It’s fine if you leave your flip flops on.”
I was shook. Not only did she just call my slippahs “flip flops” but she also wanted me to leave them ON. I couldn’t help but feel like entering her house with footwear on equated to lepo-ness and disrespect, so I tried to explain, “Aunty-.” (Another mistake.)
“I’m not your aunty, call me Karen,” she replied.
“Aunty Karen,” I repeated, “In Hawaii, we ALWAYS take off our slippahs before we go inside, I’ve been to college house parties where they STILL take their slippahs off before they go in the house. We no care if get 200 slippahs outside the door, just make sure you leave with the ones you came with.”
She insisted I still keep my “flip flops” on, and not wanting to disrespect her mainland culture, I complied. But I will tell you that the entire experience felt like blasphemy.
3. Trying to understand daylight savings.
All this springing forward and falling back doesn’t make sense to us Hawaiians. In Hawaii, we got one time, HAWAIIAN TIME. Our hours vary in order from person to person but they’re easy to identify: wake up, go work, pau hana, inu, kaukau and moemoe. No matter how often or how long I’m in the states, I just can’t seem to grasp the when, how, or whys of Daylight Savings.
4. Experiencing seasons.
I don’t know about you, but to me, anything over 80 degrees is blazing and anything under 60 degrees is freezing. In Hawaii, we’re spoiled. We want to be able to swim, go to work, and go out all in the same day and in the same outfit.
In the mainland, I didn’t have that luxury. I had to wear a coat, a sweater, boots… all things I didn’t even own before I went. Don’t get me wrong, watching the leaves change and the snowfall are beautiful experiences, but I think I prefer seasons Hawaiian style. You know, the kind where winter means winter surf swells and snow is just something that your uncles bring back in the bed of their truck after their drive to Mauna Kea.
5. Forgetting that not everyone speaks Pidgin.
This is one that I constantly ran into, especially in my first days in the mainland. Being the tita that I am, there are words I have adopted into my vocabulary that I forget aren’t common use… or even English. When I try fo talk to my frenz in da mainland like dis, dey look at me like I stay speaking one nadda language. I don’t know why, in my head I stay speaking English.
“Ai, Get one puka in your shoe.” Is a sentence that I once spent 30 minutes both explaining and debating with a friend from Virginia. We later came to the agreement that the English translation would be, “Wow, there is a hole in your tennis shoe.”
Being in the states taught me that phrases like “you pau”, “how come”, “no can”, and “where stay” are not “proper English”. And as you’ve seen above, you can’t just go around calling every older woman aunty. To read more on that check out our article “4 Times Calling Someone Aunty (or Uncle) Could Be A Bad Idea.”
You ever cheehoo’d at a concert in the mainland? I have. I got a lot of stares and no hana hou-s. But that’s another struggle for another article.
These are just 5 of the struggles I experienced as a mainland Hawaiian. Can you think of any more to add to the list? Have you experienced the same struggles? Vote and share your stories in the comments, I’d love to hear them.