Every summer, my dad and I take a trip to a state neither of us have previously visited. Since I’m graduating this semester, we decided that the trip should be somewhere extra special and cool. Hawaii is the obvious choice.
When we plan these trips, I obsessively research the state and/or city. I want to know everything about it, from the state bird to what the locals do for fun (FYI Hawaii’s state bird is the Nene). So this semester I’ve been reading up on “The Aloha State” when taking a break (procrastinating) from studying. Here’s some cool stuff I learned:
- Hawaii is the only U.S. state with a non-white racial majority. Asian Americans are roughly thirty percent of the population, followed by whites at twenty-four percent and people of two or more races at twenty-three percent. Many Asian ethnic groups have influenced the culture, food and traditions of the islands, especially the Japanese, Filipino, Korean and Chinese.
- The Kanaka Maoli are the indigenous people of Hawaii. They comprise about ten percent of the population, and are the descendants of the original Polynesian settlers. Hawaii and the Kanaka Maoli have a long and fascinating history that began long before it became a state. Some of the Kanaka Maoli culture has been repressed or lost due to colonization, but in recent decades the culture has seen a revival. The most notable aspect of this revival has been the teaching of ancient Hawaiian history and the Hawaiian language in schools.
- Hawaiian residents don’t do much traveling between the islands. Before researching Hawaii, I was under the impression that inter island traveling was inevitable and popular. It turns out the only way to visit friends on the next island over is by plane, with flights ranging from half an hour to fifty minutes. It’s quite common for residents to spend their entire lives on one island. Having said this, I probably won’t get to visit more than one island on our trip. I’m a little disappointed, since that means I have to choose between learning to surf on Waikiki beach, or watching lava spurt out of the most active volcano on Earth.
- People wear Hawaiian shirts. No, really. Mainlanders might think of these shirts as a tacky, touristy choice of clothing, but they are a part of everyday life in Hawaii. Hawaiian shirts (or Aloha shirts, as residents call them) are the result of the combination of fabrics and styles from cultural clothing worn by Hawaiian immigrants. They are so popular that workplaces implement Aloha Fridays, were businessmen and women can were Aloha clothing. This casual and comfortable approach to clothing doesn’t stop at shirts; flips flops (or slippers) are considered acceptable footwear almost anywhere, including upscale restaurants.
When people visit Hawaii, they go for the beaches and palm trees. I mean, that’s why I’m going, too. However, there are so many interesting aspects of Hawaiian life and culture that are worth exploring. This summer, I plan to do just that.