Hawaiian Culture and Customs Tips and Secrets0

This website is to give a malihini¹ a lesson on Hawaiian culture, traditions, and customs consisting of the idiosyncrasies, myths and legends of the natives and in particular, the true Hawaiian. It is not intended to be complete but a summary of the tips, secrets, and events where some could be true, some are mystique and some could be a “figment of one’s imagination.”

Its purpose is to entertain and give a malihini¹ a feel for the Hawaiian islands and the people before he or she gets there and while they’re visiting. This page covers pests, language, folklore, flowers, songs, foods, celebrities, products, festivals, jokes, and old wives’ tales.

Annoying Creatures of the Hawaiian Islands

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Cock Roach

1) Cockroach: An annoying creature of the islands is the giant cockroach. It is about 3 inches long and malihinis¹ find these creatures to be disgusting. It is disgusting to the kamaainas¹ as well but they got accustomed to it.

As you look at them in their face and as they move their tentacles in a fashion resembling two sabers, they give you the creeps. They are tough creatures and it takes a direct hit to put one away. They are outdoor creatures but it comes into your homes and buzzes by in front of your face while you are sleeping. Their presence above your face would awaken anyone. Be sure to make your accommodations with an establishment with no roaches.

However, the roach could be a friend. When I worked for the Division of Sewers I had to enter sewer manholes to take measurements. We were told that if there were no roaches it was not a safe sign to enter the manhole. No roaches meant there could be a possibility of poisonous sewer gas. Many workmen have become victims of sewer gas.

My friend’s dad was a prominent judge in Honolulu and he went to Mexico. While drinking in one of their dimly lighted bars he grabs a handful of this ono¹ hor d’ oeuvres and put it in his coat pocket and much to his dismay when he awoke the next morning he found out it was cockroaches.

2) Gecko: The gecko-like cricket is considered a sacred creature and brings good luck. So before you decide you want to get rid of one and receive bad luck give it a second thought. There are several species living in the islands and you know there are around because they make a chirping sound. They are nocturnal creatures. My sister finds them disgusting and I was once reprimanded by my father for killing a cricket in the house.

hawaiian culture/mynah

3) Mynah Bird: We call them mynah bird but commonly they are referred to as just mynah. They are brownish and the heads are black and they have yellow beaks and legs. The mynah bird is common to Oahu.

They are gregarious creatures and are noisy. Be sure your hotel is not near where these creatures harbor. Malihinis¹ frequently complain to their hotel managers because of their chatter early in the morning when it still is sleeping time for tourists.

There are some people who have captured a mynah and have taught them to speak. They would respond and speak like a parrot. I was told if you cut their tongue off they could be trained to speak. I have witnessed these birds speak.

We often went hunting and have brought home doves and have eaten them but nobody ate mynah birds.

4) Mediterranean fruit fly: The Mediterranean fruit fly is a destructive creature. They destroy our fruit products, especially mangos. You are prohibited from taking any fruit products back home without clearance from customs.

5) African snail: The African Snail has been here in Hawaii since 1936 and they destroy our vegetable crops. The State has investigated bringing in predators; however, it has not been successful. They ruined my vegetable garden.

6) Mongoose: The mongoose was brought to Hawaii to control the rat population in the sugarcane fields. It backfired because they became a predator to my chickens.

hawaiian culture/centipede

7) Scorpions and Centipedes: It is normal to see these creatures about 3″ to 6″ in length; respectively, crawling in your home. The scorpions are brownish and the centipedes are blackish and reddish in color. These creatures can sting you and their venom could ruin your vacation.

When I spotted these creatures crawling in my house for fear that they could sting you while you are sleeping, without hesitation I would be sure I got them before they got me. The centipedes move fast and into a crevice so be sure you move faster and get that creature otherwise you would not have a peace of mind while you sleep at night.

My sister in her youth got stung by a centipede while she was sleeping and I could see it was painful.

8) Black Ants:This creature is a pest and is commonly found in your kitchen and yards and is spreading in the Islands. My sister finds them to be a nagging pest and eradicates them. Her home is immaculate that you can almost eat off the floor.

9)Termites: This creature comes out on warm nights and flies concentrating around the light bulb, dropping their wings and crawling around the house.

Hawaiian Language

English and Hawaiian became the official language of the State. Few people spoke it and it gradually became extinct and eventually was displaced by the English language. Perhaps, it could be attributed to the teachers coming to Hawaii.

Teachers from elsewhere that came to teach in Hawaii tried their best to convert their students to speak English. A type of local English spoken in Hawaii is called “pidgin English.”

Pidgin English is not the Hawaiian language. It is a language that is formed from a mixture of several languages on account of the more than half a dozen different nationalities working in the sugar cane fields. Pidgin English was their way of communicating with each other.

Our teachers would not accept pidgin English. We told our teachers why should we change when Southerners had their style. Our teachers told us that the Southerners spoke a dialect and the southern accent is accepted and they were not ready to accept pidgin as a dialect. However, according to references on the Internet it is now accepted as a dialect.

Examples of Pidgin English

3.bla bla=brother
4.bumbai=some other time
8.ma ke dai dead= you are dead

There were individuals that also spoke, “Pig Latin” where the first letter of the word was placed at the end of the word and the letter “a” was inserted for the first letter. It started in the Islands when the comic strip “The Captain and the Kids.” introduced the language. This dialect is no longer spoken in the Islands.

Folklore of the Hawaiian Islands

There are mythical legends, stories, and jokes that have been passed on from generation to generation and I would like to share some of them with you. They may or may not be myths. A malihini¹ going to Hawaii visits the beaches, participate in the activities and see the attractions. But understanding the mythology and folklore of the natives are not well known.

Please do not be confrontational when discussing Hawaiian folklore with a bonafide pure Hawaiian. They are proud of their heritage. Which means do not put sugar in your poi¹ when dining with a pure Hawaiian. Please respect their culture because they will get upset.

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Pali Look Out

1) On the Old Road to the Pali, they have a look out at the top named Nuuanu Pali.¹ There exists a legend that Mme. Pele and her ex had differences.

Pele the Goddess of Fire was alleged to occupy the leeward side and her ex occupied the windward side. To take revenge Madame Pele demonstrated her powers by disabling the vehicles traveling with pork in their car. The only way the vehicle would be enabled is when they got rid of the pork. I have personally tested this legend and was told it will not work with hamburgers. It has to be pork. Her ex was the God of the Pigs.

2) Mme. Pele was revengeful. If you should pick a Lehua blossom, Pele would get angry

hawaiian culture/Lehua Blossom
Lehua Blossom

and bring on miserable weather.

3) Pele moved from island to island and finally settled on Kilauea on the Big island. Isn’t it ironical that Kilauea is still erupting.

4)There is a legend that says you should never take rocks from a volcano home. You will be cursed by Madame Pele. On numerous occasions, the Ranger’s office has received rocks returned to them because of bad fortune falling on disobedient visitors.

Please do not take the rocks in the first place because they need to go back to its original location and if it doesn’t you’re “up the creek without a paddle.” You do not know where the ranger will place your rock.

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5) When the first bore through the Koolau Range was made for the Wilson Tunnel, pure Hawaiian’s refused to work on this project for fear it would collapse. The proper precautions had not been taken and the contractor had upset Mme. Pele.

My neighbor was a pure Hawaiian who needed work and he told me he would not work on this project for fear of collapsing. Within a week after my conversation with him the tunnel collapsed and workers were injured.

6) When the Pali Tunnel was built a genuine Hawaiian ceremony was held with a luau and a priest in attendance. The second tunnel project was a success. It was done properly which satisfied Mme. Pele.

7) You should never bring bananas on a fishing trip. It is bad luck. If you should elect to go on a deep-sea fishing trip the captain will ask if anyone has bananas in their possession before he anchors aweigh.

I have gone on fishing trips with a native Hawaiian and he immediately left when one member in the group brought out a banana. I have taken this folklore to another level.b Besides fishing trips I never brought bananas or any kind of fruits with me to Las Vegas, Reno, a golfing outing, sporting event, or any event where there is an element of chance involved.

8) A pregnant woman should never wear a closed flower lei. The premise is that your baby will die from strangulation. Expectant mothers should ask for an open lei. Lei makers in Hawaii are mostly women and they are astute not to give a pregnant woman a closed flower lei.

hawaiian culture/Iao Needle
Iao Needle

9) When you visit Iao Needle on the island of Maui it is a god that was turned to stone. The legend behind this attraction is the wish of the distraught father who turned his daughter’s lover to stone for visitors to gaze upon. He did not want the couple to see each other so he turned his daughter’s fiance into stone so everyone including the fiancee could see him when they look at the Needle.

10) There is a legend that at one time small little people called Menehunes live on the island of Kauai in caves. They were the leprechauns of Hawaii. On the island of Kauai, there is evidence that they built fishponds, ditches, and temples of meticulous characteristics and of enormous size overnight which makes it hard to believe that it was built by the Menehunes.

11) The humuhumunukunukuapuaa is the official Hawaiian fish which is smaller than the length of its name and is mentioned in the lyrics of My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua Hawaii.

12) The custom of giving leis was initiated to the islands by the early Polynesians who came from Tahiti. Leis were constructed from shells, nuts, and seeds but more conventionally from flowers. A flower lei from friends is not unusual for a malihini visiting the islands. There are leis for graduations as well as weddings. If you are not accustomed to the custom of giving leis be sure to check with your travel advisor. There are traditions on the type of lei to give for any occasion. For example, you have to be careful of the type of lei that you give to a pregnant woman.

A Myth But Not a Myth (The True Story)

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Obama’s shaka salutation

The salutation showing the pinky and thumb fingers originated behind our backyard. Living next to our backyard directly across from us were the Matthews family. The parents were George Senior and Kapeka Matthews,

Their children were George Junior “Ella”, Daniel “Tom Tom” who also went by the name of “Kumakau”, Robert “Boot Boot”, Thelma “Ope”, Blossom and Lanai. George Senior was a merchant marine and when he returned home after an assignment we would say “Hi Mr.Matthews” and he would raise his hand and wave back. At the moment I can not recall which hand he used to wave back.

Editorial: It is the right hand. On December 22, 2014, I was able to contact one of his daughters. If anyone wishes to authenticate this story please contact me and I received permission from Lanai to release any direct contact information to her or her sister.

Sad to say George Senior lost his three fingers as a young man but he told my mother that it was poetic justice. Whenever he got into a scuffle on the ship or in a bar while on his assignment he had the advantage over his opponent. His fist, when closed, was like he had ” brass knuckles” on.

His fist was like natural “brass knuckles” and made his punch much more lethal. Nevertheless, whenever he would wave only two fingers would show. It became humorous and we all used his two-finger salutation within our group.

When we graduated high school “Tom Tom” went to Waikiki to work. He was an excellent swimmer and surfer and he gave surfing lessons as an occupation. He brought the legendary hand signal to Waikiki and it went viral and the rest is history. Within our group we also use the word “shaka” which meant “sharp” and “Tom Tom” introduced this

shaka symdol
Tom-Tom’s Signature

word together with the legendary hand signal at Waikiki. This two finger hand salutation and the word “shaka” is credited to my friend TomTom.” Daniel “Tom Tom” Matthews; please rejoice for your contribution to Hawaiian history. There are several variations to the origination of the salutation and the word “shaka” on the Internet [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaka_sign] and none tell the true story. This is the true story.


Popular Flowers of the Hawaiian Islands

1.Ginger Blossom
2.Lehua blossom
5.Vanda orchid

Visit this link for more

Popular Songs of Hawaii

1.Kaimana Hila https://youtu.be/_JJ-M5CMuBM

2.Pearly Shells- https://youtu.be/c78wTBht3NU

3.Aloha Oehttps://youtu.be/za783YSBOF0

4.12 days of Christmas- https://youtu.be/-GoMmIEKgks

5.Lovely Hula Hands-https://youtu.be/CyfIwSbOMUg

6.Hasegawa General Store- https://youtu.be/mZs-LkWw7Rw

7.Manuela Boy- https://youtu.be/EDaHZvmdERw

8.My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua Hawaii- https://youtu.be/MWlvYpJ5pRo

9.Hawaii Ponoihttps://youtu.be/-LS8kJ2LIXQ

You may be humming, whistling or singing these songs more sooner than later

Authentic Foods and Budget Eating Places

1. Kalua Pig-is a Hawaiian meat dish and you should go to Helena’s if you want an authentic kalua pig and not the imitation version. It is cleaned, salted and placed in a emu¹ and cooked. The cooking is similar to smoking your food and it is ono

2. Lomi Salmon-is a Hawaiian fish dish and you should go to Helena’s. Fresh salmon is mixed with sliced tomatoes, green onions, and salt. This is your chance to eat raw salmon.

3. Poi-is a Hawaiian dish and you should go to Helena’s. Poi is extruded from the taro root and is pasty. Some like it fresh and some like it sour just like some like sour dough bread or milk.

4. Lau Lau-is a Hawaiian combination dish and you should go to Helena’s. It is a combination of fish, meat and pork wrapped in a taro leaf. Non-Hawaiians use spinach.

5. Kulolo-is a Hawaiian coconut dessert and you should go to go to Helena’s

6. Haupia-is a Hawaiian coconut Jello like pudding and you should go to Helena’s

7.Malasadas-is a Hawaiian donut that you can get at Lenords bakery located in Honolulu

8.Dim Sun-is a Chinese appetizer dish that you can get at Char Hung Sut. This restaurant is small and located in downtown Honolulu.

9. Fish-if you’re looking for the fresh catch of the day go to Tamashiro Market and take your purchase to a Chinese restaurant and ask them to cook it for you in accordance with their menu.

10. Spam Musubi-Hawaii is the highest consumption of spam and you should go to Ono Hawaiian Foods.

11.Sweet Maui Onion Potato Chips-discover the taste of potato chips flavored with sweet Maui onion.

12.Sweet Maui Onion-be sure you get to taste the sweet onion and go and pick one at the Kula Onion Farm.

Singer and Golfing Celebrities of  Hawai

1.Don Ho– singer of Tiny Bubbles

2.Alfred Apaka-singer of The Hawaiian Wedding Song

3. Kui Lee-singer and song writer of I’ll Remember You

4.Arthur Lyman-musician of Yellow Bird

5. Teddy Tanaka-singer of Here is Happiness

6.Ted “Chico” Makalena-professional golfer and the first Hawaiian to win the Hawaiian Open

Popular Products of the Hawaiian Islands

1.Dole Pineapple-a sweet pineapple

2.Macadamia Nut-a milky nut when roasted is ono¹

3.Kona Coffee-growned on the Big Island

4.Okolehao-moonshine of the Islands.

Festivals of the Hawaiian Islands

The following list was obtained from https://www.gohawaii.com/statewide/guidebook/hawaii-arts-and-culture/festivals

1) May Day which is Oahu’s Lei Day Celebration in May 1 at the beautiful Kapiolani Park, including lei making competitions and live music.

2) King Kamehameha Floral Parade in June, featuring brightly decorated floats and traditional pau riders (female riders in ornate dresses and lei) on horseback, representing the Hawaiian royal court.

3)Aloha Week in September, Hawaii’s largest festival and the only statewide celebration in the nation, a premier showcase of Hawaiian music, dance and history.
Waikiki Beach Hula Show-

4)The Hawaii Food & Wine Festival in September on Oahu and Maui is a four-day gourmet getaway including romantic luncheons and beach-side barbeques.

5)Kapalua Wine & Food Festival in June on Maui is Hawaii’s longest-running and most prestigious food and wine event and hosts world-class winemakers, master sommeliers and chefs for thousands of wine and food lovers.

Kona Coffee Bean

Kona Coffee Bean

6)The Big Island’s Annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival in November has something for everyone with nearly 50 events over 10 days.

7) Visit Hawaii’s  hiking trails for a low budget outing. Hawaii has some of the most exciting and breath taking scenes which will be memorable. Visit this link to make your selection. http://www.explorationhawaii.com/category/hikes/

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