What’s Surprising About Growing up in Hawaii?

People walk along the beach near Waikiki Bay in 2015 in Honolulu.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

This question originally appeared on Quora, the knowledge-sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

Answer by Nathan F. Yospe, software developer, Hawaii born and raised:

Most people already know Hawaii is expensive, and everyone knows how beautiful it is. The oceans, flowers, waterfalls, rainbows, mountain streams, tropical fruit, and rainforests should come as no surprise. What may surprise some is that Hawaii has its own culture. We’re American, but we’re kinda not. 


Being a white kid in some of the more isolated parts of most of the islands means getting beaten up by mobs and even having teachers and principals turning a blind eye to violence against you. The slur hāʻole is used casually for people of Caucasian ancestry and carries little animosity or negativity in most areas, but it can be translated as “soulless.” In bad neighborhoods, it is as deeply hateful and laden with threat as a certain other word applied by one race to another in the deep South.


A lot of us grew up speaking Pidgin as much as English. The Hawaiian language is (or at least was) taught to all public school students in elementary school, and full immersion programs exist all the way from kindergarten to graduate school.


Interracial marriages are the norm, and as a 22-year-old traveling outside of major urban areas of the mainland for the first time, I was shocked when I realized that the reason I had been feeling like I was in the twilight zone while walking through a park in a heavily ethnically mixed town was that every single couple in the park was ethnically matched.

Many of us move away. This shouldn’t be a shock. Hawaii is expensive, and career options are very, very limited. Nevertheless, every single time I tell someone I grew up in Hawaii, he or she seems surprised that I moved away. “Why would you leave?” is the No. 1 question. Because I like having a career, that’s why …

What are the most surprising things about growing up in Hawaii? originally appeared on Quora. More questions on Quora: