It's been a little over a year since I relocated to Hawaii, and having had the opportunity to live day-to-day life not experienced by most visitors, I can now reflect on living here, especially on the Big Island, where the pace of life is significantly slower than elsewhere in the state.
Native Hawaiians are some of the nicest people you can ever get to know. They will literally give you the shirt off their back. They are endlessly patient and kind, even when they don't receive the same back in return.
The Big Island is an amazing fusion of Hawaiian, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Portuguese and Puerto Rican cultures and cuisines, reflecting the immigrants brought in to work the sugar cane fields before the sugar industry collapsed. The Japanese stayed on to become small farmers and are largely responsible for the explosion of Kona Coffee production. As a result, we have some really delicious "local cuisine" reflecting this fusion. There isn't a lot of Chinese influence on the Big Island, reflected in the pitiful lack of Chinese restaurants here. Most Chinese settled on O'ahu.
Most of all, Hawaii definitely feels like another country, with it's own distinct set of customs, manners, and philosophy. While you don't hear much Hawaiian spoken in every day life, Pigin is heard daily. I stay try for learn pigin. If can, can. If no can, no can.
Elders here are referred to as kupuna
, and addressed and greeted as "auntie" or "uncle". Being called "uncle" the very first time was somewhat unsettling.
Children are always referred to as keiki
The music scene is almost entirely Hawaiian-centric, with a Hawaiian equivalent to the Grammys called Nā Hoku Hanohano (translated as: The brilliant stars). Delving into Hawaiian music is probably one of the fastest ways to learn the language.
Driving here requires extreme patience. Hawaiian drivers never use their car horn. Ever. They are courteous almost to a fault, often backing up traffic to let a line of cars cut in, or cross. They tend to always back into parking spaces, a habit imported from Asia. Any turn requiring crossing over another lane of traffic is likely going to take a while, especially among the aunties and uncles, who will be reluctant to cross if there is another car in sight, no matter how far away.
Moving here at the height of Covid was frustrating because so many businesses had reduced hours and there were huge waits to schedule servicemen to do repairs or renovations. It took us 4 months to find someone to renovate our primary bath, then another 3 months to get on the schedule.
We have big box stores like Costco, Target, Lowes and Home Depot, but they don't always have items in stock. Amazon is your most reliable friend. Packages are delivered faster here, because almost everything is shipped by air (unless you're ordering a fridge or large furniture).
Until the supply chain fiasco, prices here were on average at or slightly below the Bay Area, which was a pleasant surprise. That advantage has recently evaporated. Hopefully temporarily.
Life is definitely nicer living around primarily happy people. The ones with the scowls are inevitably maladjusted transplants as well as tourists rushing from place to place, and always in a hurry.
My only regret moving to Hawaii is not having done it sooner.
Look, it's been swell, but the swelling's gone down.