As a famous vacation spot (among other things), Hawaii attracts throngs of tourists each year. Much to the economic and cultural delight of its citizens, with a total of 14.7 billion dollars spent by a record 8.3 million tourists in 2014 alone, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
And Hawaiians are renowned for being welcoming, friendly and hospitable hosts.
However, there are, naturally, things that foreigners do that irk them, whether intentionally or unwittingly. They are many and varied, but let’s look at just 6 errors made by foreigners about Hawaii.
1. Pronouncing the name
You’d think that at least that would be fairly easy, right? You go somewhere on vacation and it takes 30 seconds (max!) to Google how the place is pronounced. Or, worst case scenario, you ask the receptionist of your hotel when you arrive. Or you just randomly stop people on the street and press them to tell you! Ok, the last one might not be that optimal, but you get the point… Well, a lot of people don’t. And just pronounce Hah- wah – ee as it would sound in English (especially citizens of USA). In fact, it has a glottal stop between the last two i’s, hence their presence. Some Hawaiian linguists say that it should be written Hawai’i to mark the glottal stop, while others say (based on historical records) that it should not. Anyway, as regards pronunciation, a phonetic approximation (in English) would be Hah – VIE – ee, with the VIE being pronounced as you would if you were to ask someone to vie to pronounce the name correctly.
2. The view that Hawaii is not in the USA
Hard to tell if this one’s made one purpose as a form of condescension, or not. It would be weird if it were on purpose, just to irritate people since, hey, YOU are going to THEIR homeland to enjoy the sights, the culture, the landscape etc. Still, Hawaiians often hear the idea that Hawaii is not part of the United States and they get treated like a foreign country! Weird since Hawaii has been the 50th state of the federation since 1959…
3. Asians, right?
No. Just because you saw the media reels with mostly people with pointy eyes, it doesn’t mean that Hawaii’s population is predominantly Asian (or native Hawaiian!). In fact Hawaii is home for a balanced mix of populations, including white (around 24%), native Hawaiian (~10%), black (~1%) etc., with Asians occupying about 38% of the population. So next time you get the urge to bow to the natives like you saw in Asian movies, think twice and perhaps, look at the person in front of you.
4. How do you say “I only speak English, no Hawaiian”?
You don’t. Because you don’t have to. Not because there is no Hawaiian language. There is, and the locals will probably be massively impressed if you learned it and talked with them in it. Those that ARE Hawaiian and speak it, that is (as was discussed in the entry above). But in general, rejoice in the good news that everybody speaks English. Which ties in with the whole “part of the USA” thing mentioned earlier.
5. Food + Pineapple = Hawaiian Food
Just… no. Sure, you ate “Hawaiian” Pizza and deduced with a logical leap fit for Sherlock Holmes that … the pineapple must be the key (queue in suspenseful music). But really, like any culture with a modicum of history, the Hawaiians have many more types of food with or without pineapple. They certainly don’t all feature it as a center-piece. And vice versa, adding pineapple to something does not magically, instantly make it Hawaiian. Sorry for the disappointment. You can stop making your Hawaiian Strudel now.
Another entry that’s hard to determine whether its intentional and meant to portray the Hawaiians as inferior, just happens out of ignorance or even more innocently shows a profound naivete in some people. The idyllic notion that Hawaiians live in grass huts (possibly, again risen due to the soothing commercials designed by foreigners to make foreigners go to Hawaii or due to some poor “documentaries” or whatever the cause), is false. Hawaiians are just as technologically advanced, with all the amenities and comforts of the modern era, as… all the other states of the USA. Of which they’re part of. In case it wasn’t mentioned…