Do you know what it means to “hang ten?” Are you a pro with a hula hoop who’s ready for the real thing? Then you’re all set to go Hawaiian! No matter where you are, you can soak up a little Hawaiian beach culture and bring some sunshine into your day. Hawaii is a laid-back place where people take their time, enjoying tropical fruits and bright flowers, surfing and the culture of aloha. In other words, it’s a great way to live.
Get started on your Hawaiian adventure by practicing a few Hawaiian words. “Aloha” is a useful one—it means both hello and goodbye, as well as peace and goodwill. Hawaii is said to be filled with the “aloha spirit,” which means that people are friendly and warm, even to strangers. Another handy Hawaiian word is “mahalo,” which means thank you. You can practice this one with your parents or your brothers and sisters.
A big piece of going Hawaiian is dressing the part. If you have one, be sure to put on your Hawaiian-print shirt, a loose-fitting shirt that has flowers and tropical plants printed on it. Girls sometimes wear a flower tucked behind one ear. If you put it behind your left ear, that means you’re married or engaged; if it’s behind your right ear, you’re still single.
Many people wear leis in Hawaii. A lei (pronounced “lay”) is a necklace made of flowers. You can make your own lei by stringing daisy heads on a long piece of thread or making tissue-paper flowers that you string into a necklace. It’s traditional in Hawaii to wear a lei for festive occasions like weddings, birthdays, and graduations. Maybe you’ll want to wear one for your next birthday!
Surfing is another important part of Hawaiian culture. With its sandy beaches and towering waves, Hawaii is more than just the birthplace of surfing—it’s also home to some of the greatest surfers of all time. If you’re all decked out in your Hawaiian shirt, sunglasses, and shorts, you’re ready to use some surfing lingo. Practice saying that you want to “catch a wave” or “hang loose,” a variation on “hang ten” which means to drape all ten toes over the edge of your surf board while you’re riding a wave. If you call someone a Big Kahuna, it means they’re the chief or big shot in Hawaiian.
Gift giving is another part of Hawaiian culture. If you go to someone’s house for a meal or a party, it’s normal to bring a token gift with you, often dessert. That’s why potlucks are so common in Hawaii—everyone’s accustomed to bringing something for the whole group to share. If you go to a Hawaiian potluck, your hosts may ask you to make a plate, which means to load up a plate of goodies to take home. Even if you don’t plan to eat the food later, it’s considered bad manners to not take a plate home with you. Among other things, this helps your hosts clean up after the party!
The hula is the traditional dance of Hawaii. If you can keep a hula hoop in the air, then you’re already used to the hip-swinging motion of the hula. The dance includes a number of steps with precise and graceful arm motions, all set to a hip-swinging rhythm. If you’re interested in learning to hula, look for classes in your hometown. Hula is becoming a popular activity and form of exercise, even on the mainland.
For a little extra fun, take the Hawaiian Fun Fact Quiz —or test your friends!
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