People in Hawaii
Since first native Polynesian arrived between the fourth and fifth century, Hawaii’s population has grown to about 1.4 million.
There is a diverse mix of ethnicities, ranging from White Americans, Asians, natives, African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos to American Indians and Alaksan natives. In fact, Hawaii has the highest percentage of Asian and Multiracial Americans and the lowest percentage of White Americans, compared to any other state.
Languages in Hawaii
In Hawaii, the official languages are Hawaiian and English. However, the latter is more commonly used all over the Islands, with only a small fraction of the total population speaking the Hawaiian language. Hawaiian belongs to the Austronesian language family, bearing similarities to other Polynesian languages like Tahitian and Māori. Other minority languages spoken include Spanish, Tagalog, German, Portuguese, Italian, Chinese and Japanese.
Many natives also speak Hawai’i Creole English (HCE) or “Pidgin” as a second language. HCE deviates structurally from standard English and its vocabulary contains words borrowed from Hawaiian, Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese, Tagalog and Ilocano, thanks to the spike in immigration in the 19th century.
Design & Architecture
Hawaiian architecture paints a vivid picture of Hawaii’s evolution into the multicultural society it is today, with the influx of various influencers from beyond its borders at different points in time.
The earliest form of Hawaiian architecture, originated from the grass shacks of ancient Hawai’i, which indicated social status, skill, profession and wealth based on building material. Now, New English and European influences are prevalent in buildings like the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace and Kawaiha’o Church, which were built using coral reef blocks from regions like Ala Moana and Kaka’ako, in addition to other building materials readily available on native soil. Other European architectural styles also reflected in landmarks and monuments include Gothic (e.g. Royal Mausoleum, Aloha Tower), Renaissance (e.g. ‘Iolani Palace) and Romanesque (e.g. the buildings of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum).
Many downtown Honolulu office buildings feature an American form of Bauhaus architecture – most notably, the Hawai’I State Capitol, which combines the clean open structure of the Bauhaus style with Hawaiian treatments, such as koa wood doors and the capitol dome inspired by the Hawaiian Islands’ volcanic origins. Also bearing such native motifs are the First Hawaiian Tower and First Hawaiian Center, which are recent inroads into creating a skyscraper skyline.
Residential homes in the outskirts, as well as buildings like the Ala Moana Centre and Hawaiian Village Hotel reflect a contemporary adaptation of Hawaiian plantation architecture, perhaps the most famous style exported globally.
Cultural & Legal Restrictions
Hawaii’s most distinctive feature the characteristic, almost-familial warmth of its locals that complements the island’s balmy climate. The resultant cheerful, laid-back “hang loose” atmosphere also extends to attire. Shorts are acceptable around the Islands but you are advised not to go bare-chested or barefoot unless at the beach. Skinny-dipping is strictly illegal as well.
It is also recommended that you do not assume that all residents consider themselves “Hawaiian”; the term is usually reserved for descendants of the native aboriginal people of Hawaii. To be safe, Hawaii residents could simply be referred to as “islanders” or “locals” instead.
The religions practised in Hawaii are as diverse as its multitude of races. Most locals are Christians; other religions include Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Daoism, amongst others. Ancient Hawaiian religions are also practised in many heiaus (temples) all over the Islands. An example is Ho’oponopono, an ancient healing philosophy of forgiveness and reconciliation with prayer.
Due to Native Hawaiians and the large Asian population, cultural differences exist between Hawaiian and general American etiquette. For instance, you must remove your footwear prior to entering an islander’s home, just like in many parts of Asia. People display a strong connection to nature, often attributing spiritual qualities to the land – as observed in the urban legend that removing volcanic rock from Mauna Loa or Kilauea will anger the goddess Pele and cause misfortune to befall the offender. In any case, taking rocks, plants or other natural “souvenirs” from national parks and reserves is illegal.
With the largest population of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults in the country, Hawaii is the 15th state to legalise same-sex marriages.