General Hawaiian Customs

NicoleMaui Photography

General Hawaiian Customs

The customary way to welcome or congratulate someone is to present him or her with a lei, a garland of flowers (or other decorative items) strung together and worn around the neck. One puts the lei over the recipient’s head and if the relationship is close, gives the recipient a honihoni or a kiss. Lei are especially appropriate for high school and college graduations, birthdays etc. Children often appreciate candy or money lei. It is considered bad luck to throw a lei away. When the lei is no longer wearable, some people cut the string and cast the individual flowers into the ocean. Others may hang the withering lei somewhere inside or outside the house. A lei is love, and one doesn’t throw away love.

Older people may be called “auntie” or “uncle” by friends, neighbors, and even complete strangers. No blood relationship is implied. While “aunties” and “uncles” are often old family friends, it can also be appropriate to address an elderly stranger as “auntie” or “uncle.” This is considered respectful but friendly. The use of formal titles such as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” feels cold and unfriendly to many island residents.

veryone is expected to remove his/her footwear before entering a home or other place of residence.

In most settings (with the exception of sporting events and concerts), it is considered rude to speak loudly or act as if one were entitled to special treatment. Politeness and reserve are considered to show good breeding.

It is considered rude to stare or make excessive eye contact in public places.

For men in business or professional roles, an aloha shirt and slacks are the norm. Suits and ties are rarely worn.

When visiting a home, it is considered good manners to bring a small gift (for example, a dessert) for one’s host.

The offering of food is related to the gift-giving culture. The pidgin phrases “Make Plate” or “Take Plate” are common in gatherings of friends or family that follow a pot-luck type format. It is considered good manners to “make plate”, literally making a plate of food from the available spread to take home, or “take plate”, literally taking a plate the host of the party (or the aunties running the kitchen) has made of the available spread for easy left-overs. It is gracious to take the plate, or make a small plate, even if you don’t intend to eat it. In part, this tradition is related to clean-up, being a good guest by not leaving the mass of left-overs at the party-throwers house and making them alone responsible for clean up. In more recent times, this has also evolved into donating your left-overs to the homeless population, especially if you’re having a get-together at a public park or similar location, as it is likely there is a homeless population living nearby as well.


Maui Wedding Photographer- Hawaiian Customs