The cultural no-nos in Hawaii encompass the culture’s taboos and things that people of the islands frown upon. If you haven’t already learned from this website, Hawaii’s local culture is very different from the mainland’s culture; and just like with any other cultural group, Hawaii has a few top no-nos that are seen as taboo in everyday interactions between people. Our top 5 no-nos include things like honking in traffic, keeping your shoes on in someone’s house and wearing a suit to work. I know, the “no suits” rule may be something you’ll have to get used to if you’re moving here, but people really only wear aloha shirts here. I think the only time men ever wear suits is for high school prom or their weddings; and even for weddings, men still wear aloha shirts to their own weddings!


If I were to honk at someone in traffic for moving into my lane or driving too slow, I would definitely be looked down on by everyone in the area. Beeping is one of our cultural no-nos. It’s seen as a rude and arrogant way to push people around in traffic to make room for your vehicle to move faster, when the Hawaii lifestyle is focused on relaxing and “hang loose,” the complete opposite of driving fast. The Hawaiian driving mentality follows a “if you’re stuck, we’re all stuck” motto; one individual doesn’t get to advance just because they have somewhere to go, we’re all running on island time!

the bus system in Hawaii

The Bus runs throughout the islands!
A TheBus New Flyer DE40LFR bus crossing Nimitz Highway on Bishop Street in downtown Honolulu. by Musashi1600 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original.

Taking all the credit

The local mentality with regards to hard work and merited credit prevents any one person from taking all the credit. For example, at the end of a birthday party or family potluck, it’s not right or culturally accepted for one person to take all the credit for doing the work and planning and cooking. It’s common for people to willingly give credit to others at the end of an event, and it is frowned upon for an individual to take all the credit for something.

slippers feet kids

Rubbah slippahs are where it’s at in Hawaii! Pixabay image. No attribution required.

Keeping your shoes on

If you keep your shoes on while walking through someone’s house, they’ll definitely know you’re haole. I remember the first graduation party I went to on the mainland I was so confused because there were no slippers outside of the home, everyone had their shoes on inside! Make sure to take your shoes off when you’re visiting someone’s home!

Wearing a suit

We don’t wear suits around here. Suits are one of the cultural no-nos in Hawaii. Professionalism in Hawaii entails aloha shirts and slacks for men, and that’s kind of an everyday thing. In fact, even for formal meetings, men still wear aloha shirts. This goes for our politicians as well, you’ll see most of our elected officials in aloha shirts, especially for public events. 

business suit

Business suits are practically unseen in Hawaii. Image is in public domain.

Talking down to others

Talking down to someone is not a component of the “aloha spirit,” hence it’s not welcome in the island culture. It’s very frowned upon to talk down to someone because of their job or wealth-status, and it’s especially frowned upon if you’re haole talking down to someone, that’s forbidden. Although talking down to others is probably frowned upon in most cultures, in Hawaii’s culture, it’s thought of as one of our taboos, so there’s more of an emphasis on this.

cultural no-nos in Hawaii

Talking down to others is definitely a big no-no.

At the end of the day, cultural no-nos in Hawaii are not something to be scared of, they’re just something to be aware of!