Relocating to Hawaii can be an exciting experience, whether you have a family moving with you or are simply going alone. You may look forward to the warm weather or sandy beaches, and you may be thinking about trying your hand at surfing or spear fishing.
While Hawaii has a picturesque beauty of its own, it also has a unique culture. You may encounter foods you’ve never heard of, such as poke or musubi, and you may also hear unusual words or terms. While foods can be explored independently, you may find yourself linguistically lost when speaking with locals. Most everyone speaks English on the islands, but they may throw in the occasional Hawaiian or Pidgin term.
Below, we’ll discuss several terms you may want to be familiar with before you move to Hawaii.
1. Aloha (ah-LOH-hah)
Thanks to the popular film Miss Congeniality, many people understand that aloha is “hello” and “goodbye.” However, aloha can also represent love or affection. For instance, you could have the spirit of aloha, or you could cook with aloha.
2. Mahalo (mah-HA-loh)
Mahalo essentially translates to “thank you.” You may see this word on trash cans or on various signs to thank you for disposing of your garbage or for your business. You can easily say “thank you” instead, but it’s nice to say “mahalo.”
3. Haole (HOW-leh)
This word generally means “foreigner,” but these days, it’s more often used to refer to white people. It can be used offensively, but isn’t always meant to be insulting.
4. Kane and Wahine (KAH-neh and wah-HEE-neh)
Kane refers to men or boys, and wahine refers to women or girls. You might see these words on public restroom signs.
5. Keiki (KAY-kee)
This word means “child.” You may hear locals affectionately call their own or other children “keiki.”
6. Hale (HAH-leh)
Hale translates to “home” or “house.” It can often refer to housing in general, including apartments or dorms.
7. Pau (POW)
When you put the ketchup bottle down, you may hear a local ask, “Are you pau with the ketchup?” Pau essentially means “finished” or “done.”
8. Howzit (HOW-zit)
In Hawaii, “howzit” is a common Pidgin greeting that translates to “hello” or “how are you?” If someone greets you with “howzit,” you can simply respond with the same term for a friendly greeting.
9. Da Kine (dah-KINE)
Also from the Pidgin terminology, “da kine” roughly means “whatchamacallit.” People may use it to replace a word or name that’s been forgotten. For instance, one might say, “They went to da kine beach on the North Shore.”
10. Lolo (loh-loh)
When someone calls you “lolo,” they’re generally saying you’re “dumb” or “stupid.” Locals may use it in a teasing manner or to describe someone else.
11. ‘Ono (OH-noh)
‘Ono generally means “delicious.” It can often be paired with the Pidgin word “grinds,” which translates to “food.” So, if you eat something particularly tasty, you might say it’s ‘ono grinds.
12. ‘Ohana (oh-HAH-nah)
Many have heard this term in the Disney film Lilo & Stitch. Ohana generally means family, and it can also be used for people who are very close to you and your family. For example, someone who is like a brother but isn’t technically related might be a part of your ‘ohana.
Any move can be hectic and stressful. Living in a new place can sometimes seem intimidating, especially when the local culture is very different from what you’re used to. Knowing a few local terms can help you get around and feel more comfortable in your new home. However, if you’re unfamiliar with a term, it’s okay to ask what it means.
If you need help relocating to your new home, or hale, contact a local moving company on the islands, such as Island Movers. They can help you get settled in, and they can also help you with some of the more unfamiliar terminology.