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Local-Style Etiquette

Here are ten conventions and courtesies of life in Hawaii that usually only the locals know:
1. Never, never, never wear black shoes with black socks and shorts and bare white legs (Yuck!).

2. When offered, always at least taste poi and eat it with your fingers (two fingers is local style); otherwise you run the risk of insulting your host. In case you’re wondering, poi is made from taro root (not unlike a potato) that has been cooked, pounded to a paste, and fermented – yumm!

3. Which way is which when you’re on an island? Locals will give you directions using these terms: “Mauka” is in the direction toward the mountains; “Makai” is in the direction toward the sea.

4. Always, always, always, take your shoes off before entering the home of a local resident. No exceptions.

5. If you wish to ask locals to join you after finishing their workday, invite them to join you for Pau Hana. “Pau” means finished, all done. “Hana” means work. When the workday is done, the locals say that it’s “Pau Hana” time — time to play.

6. Whatever you do, don’t kill the geckos, the small grayish-tan lizards that you might see running up walls or clinging to ceilings and windows. They are absolutely harmless and perform a very valuable service. They feed, usually at night, on insects and other household pests, so while you sleep they are clearing your room of any unwanted insects.

7. When visiting locals in their home, at a beach party, or other social function, always bring food. It is better to bring something homemade, but even if you bring food or drink from a convenience store, you must bring something! And never, ever ask about the local food you see served at such functions, “Is that dog?”

8. Never, ever say “back in the states.” You can say “on the mainland.”

9. When given a flower lei, always accept it graciously and wear it immediately. Do not take it off (in the presence of the giver), even though you might be concerned that it will mess up your hair or perhaps the fragrance is too strong.

10. Don’t even think about trying to speak “pidgin” (the language of the locals). You will look and sound foolish and local people will be insulted. You should speak the good old-fashioned English you know, the way you know it. Of course, it’s OK for you to use Hawaiian words, like Aloha and Mahalo and such. Just don’t try to mimic pidgin talk.

These 10 practices should help you live in the “Hawaiian style.”

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