Sure, everyone works in Hawaii. Well, most do. But, even though everyone is working, there is an underlying attitude that life is not about work. The people living in Hawaii understand well that the secret to a happy life is about what you’re doing outside of work. Work-style is a little more laid back. There is less intensity about it. People get their work done but, it’s not a pressure-cooker environment unless you’re working in sales and your income depends on it.

I told you about a friend that sold insurance over the phone in Hawaii and he did not enjoy his working conditions. I knew another couple that sold time-shares on Maui. They made a lot of money, but nobody could really stand them as they were far too motivated and concerned about making money off those they knew and were introduced to.

People living in Hawaii like it laid back and want to keep it that way. After all, that’s why they’re living in Hawaii in the first place. To be surrounded by a like-minded group of laid-back people is really invigorating and gives one a great feeling. If you don’t feel like you fit in, you won’t enjoy it, and people won’t enjoy you much either.

Cultural Experience

There are a variety of cultures to be experienced while living in Hawaii. As I mentioned, the Japanese and Filipinos are the predominant groups, and of course there is the Hawaiian culture, parts of which most groups have adopted as their own.

There’s a large variety of food to choose from. I mentioned the McDonald’s breakfast I liked most had Portuguese sausage, rice, and soy sauce. There are Korean food restaurants, Hawaiian restaurants, Japanese restaurants; every group has their own restaurants. Thai, Burgers, Filipino, Italian, it’s like the best foods from all over the planet assembled on Oahu.

Quite a nice experience if you like a variety of food. The best is when you befriend some locals and they ask you to picnic with them somewhere on the weekend. You’ll get introduced to some amazing local-style foods like lumpia and Kalua pig!

Making Friends

This topic isn’t covered in most books about moving to Hawaii. I believe it is one of the crucial factors in whether you will stay long-term or leave sooner than you intend.

A big problem is when a couple moves to Hawaii and one has friends at their new job and the other either doesn’t work, or doesn’t like the people at work, and doesn’t make new friends.

This happens so often in Hawaii.

Many people will say, after a year or two, they “don’t like Hawaii.” When in fact it has nothing to do with Hawaii. It’s a lack of developing new friendships. Having some friends in Hawaii can be the difference between enjoying your stay, and not. You should take some time to make new friends even if you think €˜ahhh, they’ll come later.’ Better now than later when you’re unmotivated and would rather just hate Hawaii for it instead.

How to Make Friends in Hawaii?

First, you should get active in something. There are Theravadan and Mahayana Buddhists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christians, and the whole lot, in Hawaii. You an easily join whatever group you choose. All of them have activities going on.

There are many sports and outdoor related activities in Hawaii, of course, and you’re probably interested in some of them because you are moving to an island that seemingly revolves around outdoor activity.

There are running, fishing, rugby, Frisbee, running, hashing (hash house harriers have three groups on Oahu alone), drinking, social, boating, writing, computer, authors, and dozens of other groups and clubs that you can join which will help you make friends.

Alternatively just go out and do what you enjoy and try to meet people who are doing the same thing. If you bike, try the bike shops to see about weekly or daily rides. Seek these things out because they might not just come to you, and you might not know intuitively what to do to find friends that are like you are.

I myself have a difficult time finding friends I like to hang out with. In Hawaii within the first couple weeks I already had a few friends that I enjoyed immensely. In Hawaii it’s easier to make friends than in other places I believe. See if you find that to be true also.

Moves to islands other than Oahu can be a little tougher. There are less people, so there are less people like you. There isn’t as much to do on the other islands. Still, there are thousands of people on each island that need friends, like you do, so go find them.

Dating as a Single Person

The dating scene in Hawaii is either awesome or horrible. There is really little in-between. It depends on who you are, what you’re looking for, and who is looking for you!

I have had so many people write me at Aim for Awesome to relay their stories about how bad the dating scene was for them in the Hawaiian Islands. Let’s take a look at a couple reasons that might be.

1. You don’t fit in. When you first arrive you don’t really fit in. You don’t know where anything is. You don’t know the culture. You’re not The Man or The Woman anymore, no matter who you are or where you came from. You’ll need to spend a few weeks, months in the islands to really get a feel for the dating scene. I’m talking about the social scene at the clubs for the most part here.

One thing you’ll notice when you first go out to some of the clubs is that, unless you’re in a tourist bar or club, everyone knows each other. It’s like a family reunion. You can’t help but notice that everybody in the club appears to know each other. There aren’t groups of two people standing and talking much, it’s groups of six to twenty. There’s a reason most people look like they know each other, they do and they’ve known each other for years. They probably went to school together. Hawaii is a small place, even Oahu, where there are approaching one million residents. I don’t know whether locals tend to go to the same club every time they go or not, but I think that’s probably accurate to some degree. Maybe the same group of clubs. So yeah, they all seem to know each other and you’re standing there with a mai tai in your hand trying to meet someone, and it probably is not going to happen unless you smile a lot, talk a lot, and it will help if you look local. LOL.

2. Locals gravitate toward locals.

3. You need to find a group of friends to introduce you to singles in your age bracket.

There are plenty of single people in the 18 to 25 age range. If you’re in that group, you probably won’t have trouble finding someone to date before too long. You know, assuming you ever found people to date before back in the mainland or wherever you’re from.

After 25 years or so, there is a serious dearth of prospects for males and females.  Another reason is the cost of living in Hawaii is very high. That means that people tend to partner up with someone as soon as they can to share living expenses. I think it also means there are fewer divorces. That’s just a guess, but it would make sense because survivability in Hawaii financially for some people is intimately tied to their partner status. If they remain married, they can afford to live there. If not, well, many just couldn’t afford to live as singles.

Many locals, once they reach the age where they can leave Hawaii – do. There is a big-time brain-drain in the islands. That means basically, that the smart people leave for greener grass and more green in their bank. Salaries in California are enough to lure almost anyone with a prospect of high income, away from the islands. Hawaii just doesn’t offer high salaries for most positions because they just don’t have to. There are plenty of people who will work for a fraction of what they can make in the mainland USA just so they can spend time in the amazing islands. It’s the trade-off for living in Paradise.

The singles scenes on Big Island, Maui, and Kauai are virtually non-existent. You’d have to be carrying four-leaf clovers around in your pocket to find someone that is a good match for you. If you are keen on finding a partner in Hawaii, you probably don’t want to move anywhere but Oahu. Then, you’ll have to be a very open-minded type of person because you’re probably not going to find your ‘ideal’ if you have some image of what that is. You might, who knows right? I’m just saying, don’t get too attached to the idea that you’re going to find your perfect girl in Hawaii. I did, and then she wasn’t. LOL.

The Shaka Sign

moving to Hawaii

The shaka means “hang loose,” be patient while you’re waiting for your things to ship! Public domain photo. Image is in public domain.

Originally it may have started out to be a fist with your thumb and pinky finger extended as if waving (palm out), but, if you watch the locals do it they don’t do it that way. It is more of a shake back and forth twisting the wrist by pivoting at the elbowand it is done palm facing in toward your body.

The Shaka sign means “hang loose”, and people give the sign usually when they are saying goodbye to each other or posing for a photo.

The Origin of the Shaka Sign?

Good question and it has not been definitively answered, and it won’t be anytime soon. There are some ideas about it though.

Some say the shaka sign was shown in the 1940’s as a symbol of blessing by a local Hawaiian folk hero named Hamana Kalili from Laie who had lost his group of three middle fingers off one hand in a sugar-mill accident.

Some say it started when Kalili waved his deformed hand to shoo children away from jumping trains.

Some say the symbol started when one of the first surfers in Hawaii raised a shaking pinky and thumb out of the water after having his middle fingers bitten off by a shark.

Yet another possibility is that it began with the Spanish that immigrated to Hawaii. They would fold the middle three fingers in and brought the thumb to their mouth to symbolize drinking with the native Hawaiians they met.

To me, this is the most plausible since Hawaiians use it often while drinking and to symbolize drinking and good times.

If you drive, you might see the shaka sign used in traffic as you let someone enter the stream of traffic in front of you, or someone does something stupid, and throws up a shaka to calm your hot head.

The shaka sign is a tradition empowered symbol reminding locals and visitors of the way people look out for each other in the islands. It’s also a way to spread the aloha spirit, the spirit of love between people.

Update: I recently was given an incredible gift about this story.  Big Mahalos to Ms. Joy Kamakea S! Check this out:


I enjoyed your site!
What a lovely discovery on this Sunday afternoon.
Hamana Kalili is my Tutu from Laie.
The history is true and factual on the Shaka sign. His fingers were not deformed, however injured in an accident. The mana’o to support this data was actually gathered by the late Honorable Mayor Fasi of Honolulu. The information should be available at Honolulu Hale City Hall along with his bust. I recall being in attendance of that event as a young girl with the Mayor and my o’hana at the unveiling of that special day many decades ago.
As a Native Hawaiian, it’s important that your coverage is appropriately accurate and not a folk tale. Also, the flower lei, is always bestowed, with a honi.

Warmest Mahalo,
Joy Kamakea S

Thank you so much Joy!  I’m blessed that you contributed this story!

Hawaiian Flower Leis

accepted by native Hawaiians

Don’t try too hard.
Honolulu Festival Parade – Pikake Leilani Hula Halau by Daniel Ramirez is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original

Upon landing in Hawaii if you know someone here, or were part of a tour group, you might be leid with a necklace of fragrant pikake lei flowers around your neck, and even a kiss if you’re lucky.

This Hawaiian tradition is a really lovely way to welcome newcomers to the islands, and you’ll be doing it for others that come to visit you after you move too. It’s contagious!

There are many types of leis and they can be made not only from flowers, but feathers, leaves, shells, candy or whatever else someone wants to put in them.

Racism in Hawaii

Racism occurs everywhere you are in the world. I’ve seen that in the mainland USA, Hawaii, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. I’ve not really been affected by it much, I see myself as a person who can fit in anywhere. If someone is intolerant of me because I’m white skinned, I can ignore it and it goes no further than a comment or a look. It’s something I’m used to living in Thailand. It is something that many people cannot get used to moving to Hawaii.

If you haven’t been around other cultures much, I encourage you to read some, and watch some videos on Youtube about the subject. You don’t really have any choice about whether or not you’ll interact with groups from other cultures in Hawaii – you will. You’ll need to be culturally sensitive to local Hawaiian, Japanese, Filipino cultures as a minimum… there are Chinese, Thais, Vietnamese, Mexicans, Fijians, Samoans, Tahitians, Guamanians living in Hawaii, and people from all over the world vacationing in the islands.

Overt racism isn’t tolerated in Hawaii. I’ve experienced it when someone is drunk or high. I’ve experienced it in areas where the locals consider it their own territory and don’t want to encourage tourists coming around. Some people have a real difficulty with living in Hawaii because they say it is so racist. That hasn’t been my experience, but then people are different and experience different things. It begins with you – usually. So, make yourself culturally aware and sensitive and if someone is racist toward you – just laugh it off inside and go about your business.

If you want to see overt racism there are some videos on Youtube where locals are calling visitors Haole – in one case I saw, the guy was obviously drunk at Ala Moana Beach Park. In another case the guy was possibly out of his mind.