Ah, Hawaii. Everybody surfs. Beautiful girls in grass skirts smile as you pass by. Coconuts fall off trees and tumble into coolers where they sprout little paper umbrellas…
Paradise? You bet. There’s a reason locals say lucky you live Hawaii. However, most people experience Hawaii on vacation. Even a trip to Costco is exciting if you’re on vacation. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be discussing my favorite myth-understandings about Hawaii.
#1: If you put pineapple on it, it’s Hawaiian.
Nope. Pineapples originated in Brazil, not Polynesia. Pineapple on pizza? California, just like coconut bras, tiki bars, tiki torches, and fire-knife dancing. Grass skirts? Micronesia. Those super-fast hip shaking dance moves you see at hula shows? Tahiti. Ukuleles? Portugal. Flower leis? Technically from Spanish cowboys who took the original Hawaiian idea of green leaf garlands one step further and created showy love-tokens for their sweethearts and horses.
Sadly, much of what reminds people of Hawaii was invented by Hollywood and Trader Vic’s.
Hawaiian civic groups are understandably tired of I got lei’d in Hawaii shot glasses, tiki god ashtrays, and plastic placemats with nonsensical Your Hawaiian Name Here! translations. (One of my favorites: Katherine = Kakalina, which really means gasoline. Most don’t even make that much sense.) Fortunately, big grassroots campaigns are gaining momentum to set the record straight. Many hotels now have mandatory Hawaiian culture classes for their employees and hold free workshops for tourists—all in an effort to bring the real Hawaii back to the vacation experience.
Up next: #2 If you live in Hawaii, you’re Hawaiian.