This is from a series of 6 articles written to help those new to Hawaii and visitors understand the subtlety of local culture.  Especially when it comes to social interaction.  “Aloha” is alive and well on the Islands.  Tune in and take the time to understand the subtle, but I think, cool differences in these tight social networks.  

Articles in the Living in Hawaii 6 part series:

  1. How to Make New Friends in Hawaii
  2. Some of the best ways to make new friends in Hawaii
  3. Shut up and don’t be so haole
  4. It’s all about them and not you
  5. House party etiquette
  6. Leaving your shoes outside

House party etiquette in Hawaii

Everybody knows you’re a recent mainland transplant, so you’ve got that working against you. If you’re ever fortunate enough to get invited to a local house party, you can do a few simple things that will speak volumes about your embrace of local culture and values.

Help out with everything

Remember, actions speak louder than words. What you say matters, but what you do matters more.

So you figured out how to have great conversations with your friends and discovered it’s way more fun to hear about their lives than to hear yourself talk about you. Nice job! Now what?

Make yourself useful if not indispensable.

At this mythical house party, it means you get to work. The host is working their butt off to make sure their guests are having a good time. Your job is to make the host’s job easier. It doesn’t matter whether the host is the friend that invited you or even related to your friend. How do you make their job easier? Do the things that most guests don’t do at a party: help clean up, help serve, get in the kitchen and help prepare food, take out the trash, keep things in order, watch out for the children and pick stuff up that’s blown around the yard.

Typical mainland haoles don’t do this. So by you genuinely helping out, you’re sending a loud and clear message. You’re saying, “Yeah, I’m from the mainland but I’m doing my best to embrace local culture and values” in a pretty strong way.

Here’s your goal – you want the host to tell your friend to bring you back again next time. This not only welcomes you back, but more importantly, it makes your friend look good in the eyes of the host. Everybody wins here – you, the host, and your friend.

Bring food and for bonus points, bring a house gift.

One of the Asian values that has been imported and embraced in Hawaii is the Japanese concept of omiyage which is about special gift-giving such as souvenirs, keepsakes, or party favors. A common (some say mandatory) practice is when you visit friends on a neighbor island, you always bring something special that your island is known for as an omiyage to your friends.

So, for example, if you’re coming from Maui, you would bring something like Maui onions, or Maui potato chips, or recently it’s become Krispy Kreme donuts (because only Maui has a Krispy Kreme store). If you’re coming from Oahu, you bring manapua or perhaps Liliha Bakery cream puffs.

When you get invited to someone’s home, bring an omiyage. You can’t go wrong with something like a dessert, a bottle of wine, a few pounds of poke, or any food that fits the occasion.

If you really want to set yourself apart from practically everyone else, bring a tasteful house gift that would enhance the party. You can’t go wrong with flowers – everyone loves flowers. Get creative. Maybe bring a nice looking table cloth with a Hawaiian pattern on it and offer to put it on the table where all the food is gathered to make the whole event look great.

Next up: the one most important cultural no-no

There is one cultural misstep you could make that will make it clear that you’re clueless. What is it? Find out at our next exciting episode and season finale!