Five Surprising Things about Hawaii

Hawaii was never high on my list of places to visit before I die. I’m just not a beach and warm-weather person, although the non-beach scenery was pretty cool. So, having never been there before and never spent any time researching the place, I was surprised by a few things:

The Homeless. I guess if there’s any place to be homeless, Hawaii is it… even if just for climate reasons. These folks are everywhere, from beaches to random park benches. Anywhere you go, you’ll see somebody camped out with all their belongings scattered around them. If you go outside… there they are. And if you turn the wrong corner at the wrong time, you might find yourself watching some homeless dude pissing on the side of a building. Don’t laugh, it happened (but not to me). Strangely enough, I only got asked for money once. And the homeless in Hawaii don’t smell nearly as bad as the ones in Atlanta.
Quote of the week (from a co-worker): “Where do the homeless people poo?”
To which I replied: “Why would they need a specific place? There’s beaches everywhere.”
…followed by an awkward silence.

Hawaiian shirts. You know those tacky leaf-and-flower print things? Yeah, those. I always thought those were a cliche or a stereotype, or something they sold to tourists to make them look silly. But no, people actually wear those in Hawaii. All the time. And I’m not talking about the tourists, either. At the office I visited, well over 75% of the men were wearing one of those on any given day. Most men wore one every day. Women didn’t wear them at all, from what I could tell. Usually I could tell tourists from natives because tourists opted for the loud colors (red or blue) while the natives went with more subdued earth tones like tan.

Asians. Specifically: Japanese. I guess Hawaii is a lot closer to Japan than the United States, and as a result there seemed to be more Japanese tourists and permanent residents there than any other kind. It’s not uncommon to see stores with menus and signage printed in both Japanese and English, and not out of the question have to deal with someone who doesn’t speak English at all (although this is more likely a tourist).

Air Conditioning. The lack of it. Offices had air conditioning, as did the hotel rooms, of course. Restaurants? Not so much. Most of the stores didn’t have it either. The hotel lobby was open-air as well, with birds flying through it whenever the hell they wanted. For the first few hours after I got off the plane I was sweating like a horse, and it didn’t stop until I was in my hotel room. And this was October; I can’t image what its like in the summer.

Sunrise. I swear, the sun must rise at 4:00am over there. You can forget to close the privacy curtains on your hotel room windows if you want, but when the burning rays of daylight start knocking on your eyelids well before the alarm goes off, don’t say I didn’t warn you. But there’s also the flip-side: It gets dark early there too, at least in October. I was expecting to have enough daylight to go sightseeing after work (and actually, you know, SEE the sights), but was disappointed when the sun set half an hour later.

All of this is based on just one man’s week-long stay on one island in October. Your mileage may vary.


  1. coops200ad, October 5, 2008:

    You lucky, lucky, lucky bastard. I swear if you weren’t working I’d be hating you right now.

    I hear it’s really expensive over there so we’ve never really penciled it in as a holiday destination.

    The lack of aircon is typical over here in the tropical part of Oz, especially in the Territory. Air flow’s what it’s all about which is fine if the air is moving. If not, expect to lose kilograms while standing still, sweating your ring out.

  2. epm, October 5, 2008:

    Thank you for reminding me why I spent about R$ 170,00 (if my memory serves me well) in the powerfull fan that I have here and why I am thinking seriously about buying one more.
    Air conditioning is:
    – Expensive.
    – Dry the air and may create respiratory problems ( I lived most of my life close to the sea in hot humid weather, I adapted).
    – Untill recently it used to be noisy and have serious “big hole in the wall” kind of problems. Now there are those split air conditioners that solved the problem but they are still getting cheap.

    And around here it is nor just homeless that piss at the side of buildings at night.

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