While I only spent 10 days in Oahu, Hawaii, it was more than enough time to notice a few things that really differed from mainland US. This list is not in any way comprehensive, but I just thought it’d be interesting to share.
1. Taking your shoes off for class
Taking your shoes off when entering your home is usually a personal preference and can be seen on both the mainland and Hawaiian islands. However, when Tyler and I went to grab a bite to eat at a vegan food truck at the University of Hawaii, we noticed that all the classrooms had shoes in front of their doors. It seems that this cultural preference extends to some public places, whereas mainland universities would find this custom impractical.
2. Employment opportunities
I have never in my life seen so many “Help Wanted” signs. It’s strange because before coming to Hawaii, I was fed the idea that it is so difficult to find a job there. I think the fine print to this fact is that it’s difficult to find a “career” job in your field of study, not just any old job. The majority of the restaurants we frequented were looking for new employees. The picture below even shows a grocery store listing out their wages to tempt applicants!
A local taught me the term Vog (Volcanic + Fog). The big island 200 miles away has an active volcano which often shrouds Oahu’s mountains in a dull haze of ash.
4. BYOB in restaurants
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Ok, we all know what BYOB is (if you’re foreign it means “Bring your own beer/beverage”), but have you ever seen it in the context of a restaurant? Since many locales don’t have liquor licenses on Oahu, a lot of restaurants will put up BYOB signs, which allows the customers to bring their own alcohol to enjoy with their meal! If you bring hard liquor, you should expect to pay for the mixed juices or sodas at the restaurant. It’s only fair! (Note: if you look verrrry closely you can see the BYOB in sign in the picture here.)
5. Shaka sign
Most people from US coastal towns will have seen the shaka sign. It’s a popular hand gesture among surfers that originated in Hawaii. What I didn’t realize was that this sign was also used on dry land among locals to express solidarity. I saw a young boy on a school bus throw the shaka sign to an older woman in her house as the bus drove by; she signed it back. It was such a subtle expression, but it really represents the tight-knit community the local Hawaiians have created throughout the decades.
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I had no idea what this brand was before coming to Oahu, but my brother had seen it before. He>I is a Christian clothing brand that originated in Hawaii. If you drive around Oahu, you will see tons of these logos plastered on people’s bumpers.
7. Surfboard bike mounts
I’m sure this isn’t unique to Hawaii, but I hadn’t seen it before coming here. Given the large surfing population and tough traffic, it only makes sense to get creative! I wonder if he made the mount himself?
8. Camping on the beach
Growing up in Florida, I never once saw someone with a tent camping on the beach. In Hawaii however, this is a very common pastime. If you can get the right permits, you’ll be set to enjoy the sunrise and sunset facing the water. We saw quite a few families set up large tents, air mattresses and grills so they could enjoy the whole day there. What a great way to take advantage of the island life.
9. Pineapple grave offerings
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I’m not sure if this is a wide-spread phenomena or not, but at a local cemetery we saw a pineapple offering on a gravestone among a sea of flower offerings. Since pineapples are a staple of Hawaii, this is probably not unusual there.
10. Different colors
Hawaii has yellow firetrucks and the occasional blue stop sign.