By: Being Local
I’ve been contemplating writing this one simply because I know how fired up locals get about this stuff. But just for the record, I have 8 brothers and sisters. Three of them married haole. So that means I have nieces and nephews that are haole. All of them are wonderful people.
I work with two haole people who are hard workers and very respectful of our ways and culture. They have both faced discrimination from locals in the past and have shared those experiences with me.
I put this together in hopes that it will save some heartache for those traveling from the states and that it will give something to locals to give to their visitor friends and say, “here, read this,”
You don’t have to believe what we believe, you don’t have to agree with our beliefs, but you can certainly be a good human being and respect the beliefs of our local people.
Maopopo (understand)? Maika’i (good).
Disrespect our culture
We are a diverse group of people here in the islands. The word local always seems to conjure up visions of Polynesians but there are so many other ethnicities here that we consider local. Filipino, Japanese, Chinese and yes, there’s even local haoles here.
Each culture has different beliefs and value systems and we’ve all been able to co-exist under one unspoken rule.
Respect each other.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Japanese, Portuguese, Filipino or Polynesian. Respect each other and don’t try to force your way or style on to other people.
Take the rocks
Pretty simple one here. The rocks from the volcano? Yeah, leave those here. Those rocks are apart of our creation story. It’s a very spiritual part of the Hawaiian people. Seeing them for sale on the internet is a huge disrespect to Hawaiian practitioners.
There are ignorant people out there who say, “it’s just a rock.” That’s like me taking a statue of Jesus from your church and selling it on eBay and justifying it by saying, “it’s just a hunk of wood.”
The land is our church and the rocks are part of our genesis. Leave the rocks alone.
Try too hard to be local
I wrote an article about calling women aunty at the wrong time and a commenter proceeded to try and school me by saying that it’s always appropriate to use aunty with women and that I must not have known what I was talking about. He said he was “houle” (Seriously, that’s how he spelled it) and all his local friends called him uncle as a sign of respect.
Here was my response: “Whoa! Hold your horses, my fair skinned friend. Did you not read the hundreds of comments from women who felt offended when people around their age called them aunty? Go read all the comments.”
We went back and forth for a little bit until he deleted the comment. Should’ve taken a screenshot, I know.
Few things drive locals more nuts than people who try too hard to be local. It’s obvious and so not the business. And for goodness sake, stop trying to use pidgin just to fit in. We can understand your standard English perfectly fine. Be yourself. You’ll get much further.
Eat in front of other people
There’s a rule to eating in front of people that we were taught when we were young. If you don’t have enough for everyone, keep the food out of sight. Smashing one laulau plate in front of people when they didn’t eat yet is just plain rude.
When I was a kid, we could never go over to a friend or relative’s house without aunty telling us to come and eat.
When the kids come home ready to eat, they fed all of us. On the other side of it, you could also get whooped for misbehaving. Lol.
It’s ingrained in all of us from a very young age. Feed all or feed none. There’s no in between.
But the point here is simple. Be mindful of the people around you, especially when keiki and kupuna are present…they always eat first.
Don’t bring anything to the barbecue
The assumption may be that this is automatic all the time. You’re invited to the barbecue, so you bring something to put on the grill or maybe some poke to share.
However, a recent scientific study showed that only 67% of the people that attend barbecues and potlucks bring something to contribute.
So that means 1 in 3 doesn’t bring anything!
Okay, I just made that up😊, but dang it bring something to the barbecue.
Unless the host says something like, “I’m taking care of all the food so don’t bring anything,” you should definitely bring something. And in some cases, you should still bring something even if the host says they’ve taken care of all the food.
Here are some simple rules to follow.
- If it’s a barbecue, pot luck, beach outing or something of that nature, it’s always good to bring something. You could bring something for the grill, some poke or maybe a dessert.
- If the host says don’t bring anything, then it’s your option, but showing up with something small like chips and salsa, a pie or something for pupus can go a long way.
- If it’s a luau or a birthday party or any kind of party where the expectation is for you to bring a gift, then food is ALMOST always covered…unless you make the killer haupia or kulolo. Then you may be asked to bring it.
Oh, and two things to know…VERY IMPORTANT.
- Don’t be the one that brings Natural Light beer and then drink all the Corona or Heineken. MERP!
- If you’re bringing your ohana of seven people, don’t bring the one bag of Doritos. So not cool.
Talk nice (you’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy)
I’m gonna be blunt with this one so the easily offended should stop reading right now. Read on at your own risk.
There are times when you can hear a conversation (sometimes a complaint, sometimes in the normal routine of service) going on at a restaurant or at a grocery store or some other business that serves people and just by the tone and forcefulness in voice…
we can tell…
if it’s a local…
Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of locals that act like jackasses and complain about the silliest things. Some will even be downright obnoxious and display extreme ignorance.
But there’s one distinct trait in a conversational exchange that makes it very obvious for us to tell who’s talking. That trait is…
an attitude of patronizing superiority; disdain.
“a tone of condescension”
superciliousness, superiority, scorn, disdain, loftiness, airs, lordliness, haughtiness,
imperiousness, snobbishness, snobbery;
And I ain’t even lying about this.
It’s in the passive-aggressive words, the haughty tone and the blatant attitude of superiority that we notice because of our past experiences dealing with it.
In fact, do you know that there are actually people from the states who believe that because we don’t have a professional sports team here in Hawai’i that we can’t be considered true fans of any team?
It’s that kind of attitude that make locals say, “Must be one haole.”
Look I could sugar coat it for you and leave it to you to try and figure out but I’m trying to be helpful here. So, take it for what it’s worth or in whatever way you value it.
But if you’re offended by this then you’re exactly the person that I’m describing.
None of us is too good to get a verbal rebuking and no matter how old we get, we can always learn something. And if you are new to the island, check out our “4 Do's and Don'ts when moving to Hawaii“ post.
So, there you have it. Six reasons why locals get nuts. I hope this helps some of you in your understanding of local culture. And to all my local fam…help your haole friends out and share this with them. Better they get it from you than find out the hard way…through experience. 🤙
Which one makes you the most nuts? Did we leave any out? Vote and tell us in the comments:
The Hearbeat of the Big Island