Hawaii culture is a very special, unique and different style. The island offers something you have most likely not experienced before and that’s the aloha lifestyle. The food, people, culture and warm waters are different – and amazing! I love it, who doesn’t! There are a few things I noticed about what makes Hawaii feel so different than most parts of the mainland, and it has to do with certain cultural norms. 

Hawaii Culture Norm #1: Shoes Off Before Entering the House 

Make sure to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home while in Hawaii. This is a well-respected norm and looked down upon if you wear your shoes into the house. You’ll notice at house parties and gatherings, there will be a pile of shoes at the front door because all of the guests took their shoes off! It’s a sign of respect for your friend and also an easier way to keep your home clean! 

Hawaii Culture

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

Hawaii Culture Norm #2: Always Bring Food to Visit Friend’s Houses 

The term is “omiyagi.” It is like a gift of food for visiting a friend’s home. It has Japanese origins and is a common practice in the islands. I remember growing up, we would always bring food to a friend or relative’s house when we visited, it was just what we did. My mom never let me go to a sleepover without bringing over musubis or cookies for my friends. I still practice this today, even on the mainland! 

Hawaii Culture

Tan like these burned spam musubis.
Spam musubi dllu by Dllu is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original.

Hawaii Culture Norm #3: Small Dogs 

Everyone loves their small dogs in Hawaii. It’s a thing. Everyone walks their dogs in the evenings and you get to know your neighborhood pretty well just based on the dog population. It’s great and cute at the same time! My mom knows all of our neighbor’s dogs by heart, more  than she knows the actual neighbor themselves. You’ll notice that small white maltese dogs are very popular. People bring their dogs everywhere. 

Hawaii Culture

My haole dog + I! Image Copyright CyberCom, Inc.

Hawaii Culture Norm #4: Address Elders as “Aunty/Uncle” 

I have done this since I was a kid. It is common, accepted and encouraged to address your elders or people in authority as “aunty/uncle.” It is almost disrespectful not to do so. Although this individual may not actually be your aunt or uncle from bloodline, it is most respectful to call them your aunt or uncle. I highly recommend doing this in the islands, especially with close friends and relatives. However in public for example, people don’t practice it as much with strangers but if you did, it wouldn’t be weird! “Oh aunty where da bathroom at?” Every aunty in the room would turn and answer you! 

Hula dancer by Quinn Dombrowski is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original

Hawaii Culture Norm #5: Sashimi at New Year’s 

Fresh plain sashimi is a common cultural practice at New Year’s Eve celebrations in Hawaii. It has Japanese origins but has rooted itself in local island culture. At Costco during this time, they sell thousands of these fresh sashimi trays ready to go. They are the best. I can eat an entire tray in one sitting. I was raised on raw fish. 

Poke bowls are similar to plate lunches in that the whole meal is encompassed in one plate.
Ahi tuna Poke by Openmalware.exe is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original.