4 Do’s and Don’ts When Moving to The Big Island, Hawaii

Thinking about moving to the Big Island from the mainland? Here are 4 do’s and don’ts that may help you.


1.) Do own a truck.

As a lifetime resident here, there were times when I owned a truck and when I didn’t. Life is better with a truck here, period. From hauling garbage (since the city doesn’t do it for you), to helping a friend move (cause you make lots of friends on the Big Island), to enjoying all the things the Big Island has to offer, a truck makes life soooo much easier…and more fun.

2.) Do learn to pronounce street names.

Gone are Main Street and Hobart Blvd., and in their place you’ll find Kanoelehua and Queen Ka’ahumanu Hwy. Seven consonants and five vowels, people…not hard to learn. I’m not telling you to speak Hawaiian fluently or anything but butchering Kalaniuka Ave. and Kilauea St. will get you nowhere fast.

3.) Do have a job lined up.

Some will be afraid to say it, but I’m going to say it anyway. The Big Island is a mostly “who do you know” place. It’s no coincidence to find family members working at the same place or best friends serving in government positions. You can most definitely find work on your own but knowing someone makes it a heck of a lot easier. Of course, you could always change your name to Kamakawiwo’ole or Kobayashi that might help. Hey, I’m just saying…don’t hate.

4.) Do be prepared for the Aloha Spirit.

We interviewed someone who just recently moved from the mainland and the biggest adjustment for her wasn’t the food or the lifestyle. It was all the kisses on the cheek that she received. And she’d be right. Instead of handshakes, women are greeted with kisses on the cheek and men usually greet with hugs. And whatever you do, don’t wipe your face right after someone kisses you on the cheek! You may as well slap them.


1.) Don’t wear matching aloha attire.

Yes, families do it at luaus and maybe even at funerals, but not to Walmart or Target or to the beach. If you’re a tourist then MAAAAYBE you get a pass… but if you decide to live here…dump the flowers for board shorts and tank tops. You’ll be a lot more comfortable.

2.) Don’t fake the pidgin.

The only thing worse than butchering the Hawaiian language is butchering Pidgin English. When you attempt to speak Hawaiian, it’s considered learning. When you attempt to speak Pidgin, it’s considered trying too hard. People here understand Standard English just fine. So just be yourself…brah.

3.) Don’t whine about the cost of living.

If I hear one more person complain about the price of milk and bread here, I’m shipping you back to where you came from myself. We hear about it in videos, we see it in articles but we also know that there are places in the mainland where the cost of living is high too (we’re looking at you Manhattan and San Francisco). In fact, Hilo ranked #5 in the nation for most expensive in terms of cost of living (coli.org). So yes there’s a price for living in paradise. But it is a paradise. Consider yourself warned.

4.) Don’t use aunty or uncle with every person that’s older than you.

While many locals may disagree because of the “respect” factor, this one is definitely true. Yes, we do call our elders aunty and uncle here out of respect, and in many cases, it’s disrespectful when you don’t use it. My very good, haole friend told me that he’s completely confused about when to use aunty/uncle and when not to use it. So here are a few guidelines for you.

If you’re meeting someone for the first time, don’t use it…unless they’re introduced to you as aunty or uncle.

If you’re at the grocery store or a department store, don’t call the clerk aunty or uncle no matter how much older they “look” than you.

If you’re in a business meeting, then MOST DEFINITELY, don’t call anyone aunty or uncle…unless they introduce themselves that way.

If you’re in a situation where you’re not sure if you should be using it, DON’T USE IT. You can attach their last name to Mr. or Mrs. and you can always use the cordial titles of sir and ma’am.

For a breakdown of the Rules for calling someone Aunty, CLICK HERE.

Well, that’s it, four do’s and don’ts for you if you’re thinking about moving to the Big Island from the mainland. And if you’re still planning on moving here even after all of that, then sharpen up your Hawaiian pronunciation and dump the matching flower clothes…and don’t say that nobody told you so.


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