Planning A Trip To Hawaii - Your Tourist Questions Answered
Being a resident of Hawaii now for about 14 years, my main form of employment has been as a waiter and food server in the restaurant business, as well as grocery stores and other customer related jobs. At first, I was kind of amazed at some of the REAL questions that tourists would ask me while making polite conversation, but I eventually got used to it, and answered them as diplomatically and as politely as I could, in spite of the cynical and sarcastic answers that would come to mind. Some of the questions below have been asked to me directly, and with the help of some of my local friends from within my network of online groups, I have managed to compose the following list of actual questions tourists have asked over the years so you are not completely in the dark before moving or visiting here. Enjoy:
Does it rain in Hawaii?
Um, yes, it does.
Do you still live in grass shacks?
Joke Answer: Sure we have grass shacks and some of us even have a two story grass shack with a stainless steel fire pit (a.k.a. stove) and a stainless steel cool water pond (a.k.a. refrigerator) and we conduct electricity via a metal pole to power everything up and when old storms come we just hope that nothing will fly away.
Some of us are fortunate enough to have a bamboo bicycle that someone has to go outside and start peddling to get powered up, kind of like the one on Gilligan’s Island.
Real Answer: No, we live in houses just like most people these days.
How do you get from island to island?
Joke Answer: On a good day we'll climb a coconut tree take all the fronds off and weave a big sail and use the hau tree to make some rope and then cut the coconut tree down and use them as big paddles; oh, and then we find the biggest koa tree we can hollow it out and make a canoe and this process takes about 5 minutes in total so an hour later we can jump in and cruise on over to a neighbor island.
Real Answer: Hawaiian Airlines
How do you use computers in Hawaii?
Joke Answer: We line hats with tin foil and attach a signal amplifier with rabbit ears to it and wear it on our heads, is there another way?
Real Answer: The same as everybody else with an internet service provider.
How do you communicate with each other on the islands?
Joke Answer: We run around half naked banging on coconut trees to see if anyone left us a message on the Coconut Telegraph.
Real answer: Email, telephone call, or through an internet social network.
So, since you’re from Hawaii, do you surf and smoke that “Maui Wowie”?
Joke Answer: Sure, that’s all we do everyday over here.
Real Answer: That’s not true; all people in Hawaii do not surf, and some don’t even know how to swim.
So, what do you use for currency here?
Joke Answer: Puka Shells
Real Answer: American Dollars
So does the water go ALL the way around the Island?
Joke Answer: Depends on the island.
Real Answer: Yes, the water goes ALL the way around the Island.
So, Hawaii is an island, a state, and a county - I don’t get it?
Joke Answer: Yep, that's right! You're in Hawaii, Hawaii, Hawaii.
Real Answer: Hawaii is a state comprised of 7 major islands, and each island is a county of its own with separate districts of their own. So, if you are in a town on the Big Island, say Kailua-Kona, for example, then officially, you are in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740. If you are in Diamond Head on Oahu, then you are in Diamond Head, Hawaii. Simple as that.
Is the ocean water salty?
Joke Answer: Well, let me toss you over the rail here and hold you by your feet while I dunk your head, and you tell me.
Real Answer: Yes, the Pacific Ocean water is salty.
Are the Yellow Fish real?
Joke Answer: Yes, the Yellow Fish are real. It's the Blue Fish that we have to change the batteries in once a week.
Real Answer: Yes, the yellow fish are real, and so are all the others.
From Big Island Tourist: Can you drive to Honolulu from here and how long does it take?
Joke Answer: Yes, I suppose you could, but it would take a long time and you might end up submerged throughout part of the journey.
Real Answer: No, you cannot drive to Honolulu from here. You would have to go by boat or plane.
When is the Underwater Train Tunnel to the other Islands going to be done?
Joke Answer: What news are you reading?
Real Answer: There’s no such thing or any kind of project like this in the works.
Question From Big Island Tourist: Where is the off Ramp to Maui?
Joke Answer: Go North past the Mauna Lani Hotel and Bungalows, turn left, and head straight for the Ocean.
Real Answer: There is no Off-Ramp to Maui. Again, you have to go by boat or plane.
Do you live here?
Joke Answer: Ummmm, no, I fly back and forth from California every day for work.
Real Answer: Yes, I live here.
How did you get here?
Joke Answer: I hitched a ride on a ship when I got tired of paddling my surfboard and it took about 6 weeks.
Real Answer: I took an 18 hour flight from Arizona, where I lived for five years before moving here in 1998, the day after my birthday, April 8th.
I want to go whale watching; which Island do the whales live on?
I’m not even going there.
Do you have hospitals in Hawaii?
Joke Answer: No, we go to the local witch doctor in the tiki village.
Real Answer: Yes, we have hospitals here, and the one on Oahu is Queen’s Medical Center, one of the best.
So I see you have an Interstate Highway here, but why doesn’t it connect to California or Alaska?
I’m not going there, either.
When I first moved here to the Big Island almost 14 years ago, I had a little trouble adapting to the local culture and language, because even though it is still the U.S., upon first arriving here for most (including myself), it truly did feel like another country. My very first job here was at the local Sizzler Steakhouse on Palani Road in Kailua Kona in 1998. You all know Sizzler, right? Well, anyway, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE that worked there had been worked there together for 10, 15, and I think 3 or 4 of them had been there for 25 years if I remember correctly. It was a very difficult kind of place to get hired at because there was basically NO turnover of employees; they were all like true Ohana since they had already worked together for so long, in spite of differences.
It was my first week here and I needed a job, so over the course of one weekend, I put in about 20 or 25 job applications at various restaurants and bars and food service places because that was my experience.
Pele Blessed me. The day after I put in the application at Sizzler, they called me and said that they just had a cashier quit and wanted me to come in for an interview. So I went in, they hired me, and I went to work.
After my first week on the job, I came home and told my wife at the time, "Honey, I think I'm gonna have to quit this job."
Worried something was really wrong, because I've never come home and said that about a new job before. So I explained to her how I could not understand hardly anyone I worked with.
You know how it is your first day on a new job being a complete and perfect stranger in a strange town, right? Try to feel out the employees and get the hang of how they work together and click together, you know what I mean? Well, that's what I was trying to do, and the language was definitely English and I would catch most of the meaning, but I've got to say, I had never heard anything like it, Da Pidgin Kine Talk.
They would say stuff like, "Ho, Bra, go inside Da Walk-In, Look Mauka Side shelf, and bring me da kine." So, not wanting to look stupid, I would go into the walk-in cooler thinking there would be tags or labels indicating what they wanted. There was none. So I would come back out to the front and ask the guys, “Um, What’s da kine Mauka shelf?", and they would all just burst out laughing.
And then all the basic stuff that I didn't really get at first.
"Shootz", "Broke Da Mouth", "Bruddah, Cuz, How you stay?" "Where you stay?" "Ono Grindz" "Grind'um, cuz" "All Bus' Up" "Not even, cuz", stuff like that. The guys would talk about the pretty girls that would come in and I knew they were saying something about their bodies or looks, but those were also words I never heard before, "Wahine" for one I learned right away was woman, but I picked up quickly on the rest, some I won’t repeat or translate, since it was kind of “dirty guy talk”, only Hawaiian Pidgin style.
My wife suggested I find out where the Library was and see if they had a book on the language that might help. So I did, and was amazed at what I found at first. I had never in my life seen so many books on Hawaii and Hawaiian all together in one place before.
I found this great little book on Pidgin Basics. I think it was even called The Malihine Newcomers' Guide, something like that. It had all the basics above mentioned plus a few others that I didn't know with what they meant in English.
And me being the ONLY white guy (which locals typically refer to as “Haole", and can be either derogatory or friendly, depending on the context in which it is used) that was also the NEW Malihine (Newcomer) guy, I realized after reading the book that they were just having fun with me the whole first week I was there to see how I would handle it or take it, but I’m an easy going kind of guy and just tried to fit in and “go with the flow".
The second week started and I went to work, and we went about our daily business and it wasn't long before one of them asked me to grab da kine again from da back. So I asked them right away, "What kine you like? What kine? Mauka shelf kine or Makai shelf kine? Whatchu like? Need to know fo' shoa?"
Everybody that worked there stopped what they were doing for about 10 seconds, just frozen into place, and then they all just burst out laughing all at once. When they finally stopped laughing, they asked me where I picked up so quickly on that, and I told them I had done some reading over the weekend because I wanted to understand the language better if I was to live and work here and be a part of Hawaii, which I learned was also not only a language, but had a much deeper meaning on a cultural level. They respected that, and ever since that day, I was totally and completely accepted as part of "Da Sizzlah's Ohana", and they still today consider me their "Kama'aina Haole Bruddah", when occasionally I will run into one of them.
“Shootz”: This is a term typically used when you are satisfied with an answer or response to a question, like if someone says, “I’ll be there first thing in the morning.” “Shootz.”
“Broke Da Mouth”: When food is so good, it broke the mouth.
“Bruddah, Cuz, How you stay?”: Hello, my friend, how are you and how have you been?
“Where you stay?” This means either where do you work nowadays or where do you live nowadays?
“Ono Grindz”: Another term for really good food.
“Grind’um, Cuz”: Take this food and eat it.
“All Bus’ Up”: Basically, as an example, if someone gets really beat up in a fight, he is all busted up, a car wreck can be “all bus’ up”, or if you’re really hungover from a long night of drinking, you could be “all bus’ up.” This refers to anything that is all busted up, severely damaged or broken somehow.
“Not even, cuz”: Basically means “no way” or “not going there.” Like if someone says, “Have you seen that new movie yet?” “Nope, not even, cuz.”
There are many, many more and the resources are endless if you care to research the Hawaiian Pidgin Language, and is recommended you do so before visiting or moving here just to get a basic understanding of what you may be facing with the local dialect, and the locals will respect you a lot more knowing that you’ve taken the time to learn and adapt to the Hawaiian culture instead of trying to let the Hawaiian culture adapt to you; it just doesn’t work that way. The Pidgin Article on Wikipedia is a great place to start. Come here, relax, enjoy the laid back lifestyle on a daily basis, and forget about the “rush here, rush there, gotta do this now, gotta get there now fast-paced city lifestyle” because you’re on Hawaiian Time with all the rest of us, and there’s “No Worries, Cuz.” Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it, and A Hui Hou (Until we meet or see each other again). Until then, if you're looking for authentic Hawaiian clothing, Hawaiian Heirloom Gold Rings and Jewelry, and Tropical Home Decor, check out my Booth and let me know if you would like or are looking for something special. Just click the banner below to visit my store: