8 Things You Should Never Say to Hawaiians

February 11, 2015
8 Things You Should Never Say to Hawaiians

After growing up in Hawaii and moving from Oregon to Italy to Indiana, I’ve had to battle tons of cliches about my home state. I’ve gotten questions from “Did you live in a grass shack?” and “Do you eat pineapple with everything?” to “Do you have running water?”

There have been times when I was so fed up with these inquirers (also known as, damn haoles, which means a foreigner or someone who is not a native of Hawaii). But I’ve also learned to be patient. These people weren’t lucky enough to grow up in such an awesome place.

Here are 8 ways to piss off someone from my Hawai’i nei, beloved Hawaii:

8 Things You Should Never Say to Hawaiians

1. Asking us if you need a passport to visit Hawaii

Believe it or not, I’ve gotten this question quite a few times. Before you plan your trip to Hawaii, please freshen up on geography and history. We’ve been a state for quite some time now, since 1959 in fact.

2. Telling us how funny we pronounce words like “Hawaii,” “Mahalo,” “Aloha,” etc.

We live here. “Hawaii” is pronounced huh-vi-ee, because Ws are pronounced like Vs. Also, vowels are pronounced as follows:

A: “ah”
E: “eh”
I: “ee”
O: “oh”
U: “oo”

There are 13 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet, counting the ‘okina symbol as a letter. The ‘okina is the apostrophe mark and is a glottal stop/break in the word, which is very fast. There is also the kahako, which is a stress mark that appears only over vowels  and serves to make the vowel sound a little longer.

Mispronouncing the ‘okina or kahako can cause a change in how a word sounds, as well as its meaning.
Therefore, you pronounce those words funny.

8 Things You Should Never Say to Hawaiians

3. Littering

Nothing upsets me more than seeing people trash our beautiful beaches or anywhere else for that matter. Because Hawaii is an island, your trash will end up in our oceans. Live and learn malama da aina (to take care of the land).

4. Assuming that everyone from Hawaii is actually Hawaiian

Hawaii is home to thousands of ethnicities. So many times I have been referred to as the “Hawaiian girl,” when in fact I do not have Hawaiian heritage. I’m Filipino, Japanese, Okinawan, Italian, French, and German. From the time we’re in elementary school, we learn to befriend people of every ethnicity and embrace the Hawaiian culture.

5. Defining “cold”

If we say we’re cold, then we’re cold. We don’t care if it’s 65° and you’re used to it being in the 20s. We don’t appreciate your constant reply of “Cold?! You don’t even know what cold is!”

In Hawaii, the lowest temperatures are in the low 60s, and anything below 74 is considered cold.  And that’s okay.

8 Things You Should Never Say to Hawaiians

6. Being a rude driver

Now, I know there are always exceptions to the rule, but in Hawaii most of us tend to just tro’ da shaka, or let someone into your lane. And we usually only honk to say hello to someone we know on the road.

7. Assuming we spend all of our time at the beach

We have jobs, too. Just like any other place, people in Hawaii need to make a living, usually work 8 hours per day, deal with the insane cost of living, and sit through hours upon hours of pau hana (time after work) traffic, which is, by the way, some of the worst traffic in the U.S.

8 Things You Should Never Say to Hawaiians

8 Things You Should Never Say to Hawaiians

And last, but not least, one of my favorites….

8. Asking us why we fly to the other islands when we can just … swim

Like, really?


8 Things You Should Never Say to Hawaiians

Related Reading

5 Reasons Why I Loved Growing Up in Hawaii
Visiting Hawaii: A Conversation with Connie Pearson
Maui Travel: 48 Hours in Paradise

Have you traveled to Hawaii? How was your trip? Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Photo credits for 8 Things You Should Never Say to Hawaiians by Jodi Marie Smith.

About Caitlin Basilio

Caitlin Basilio is Pink Pangea’s Italy Corespondent. She is a writer by trade, traveler at heart, eater of all foods and avid wine-drinker by choice. She is a Seattle-based creative slowly making her way around the world.

3 thoughts on “8 Things You Should Never Say to Hawaiians

  1. Lauren
    May 18, 2019

    Mahalo for this! 🙂 My ohana will be vacationing to Hawaii is August. I feel like it’s mostly common sense but it’s still nice to be sure.

    I’m working on learning some Hawaiian words but I also, don’t want to be offensive if I mess them up. Is it better to try or not try?

  2. Win Wang
    November 16, 2018

    Hawaii is like totally boring and congested that it’s not even funny. Too many fat people too. We sin on Spam, ask a Hawaiian that.

  3. Donny Brook
    November 17, 2017

    You should also never tell Hawaiians that they are immature whiners and complainers because that is their main thing to do all the time.

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