There is a segment of the Hawaii population with very strong anti-growth sentiments. You have probably heard their complaints; that our island is growing too fast, and there is just not enough space for any more malahinis. They are grabbing up all of the land and houses, clogging the roads with vehicles, using up the water and other precious natural resources.
This seems to apply to visitors as well as folks relocating to our islands - the issues are similar. "We have it, you want it, and there is just not enough of it to go around". Whether the commodity is houses or Hondas, papayas or parking spaces, we're running out! A growing contingent of Hawaii residents are ready to pull up the drawbridge - if only we had one. Even people who just learned how to say "kama'aina" are now considering themselves to be in that favored group... relatively speaking.
So in the interest of presenting that viewpoint, I have assembled this list of important negatives to consider before you decide to settle down here in the islands - even for a week. Perhaps after reading this you will change your mind and leave us in peace. For those of you who are challenged in the humor portion of the brain (there must be a special medical term for this), this is to be taken with a light heart and a big grain of Hawaiian salt!
1. Bugs - and other crawly things. We are constantly reminded that most of them are harmless, but I know I was shocked when I saw how big cockroaches can get, and why they are called B-52s: they can fly right up to your 10th story lanai! Cute green geckos leave little turds everywhere, and croack like frogs. Speaking of frogs, we now have a new plague of coqui frogs who create a truly deafening noise in certain neighborhoods. Not enough? We also have plenty of six-inch centipedes, and the occasional scorpion. Mosquitos are quite happy here, too, and only require a drop of water in order to raise a big family. You will want to call an exterminator before you move into your new Hawaii home.
2. Million Dollar Shacks - We've got 'em all over the place! Since land value is most of what you buy here, if you are in a good location, don't expect much of the house. Single-wall construction means you can feel the tradewinds through the cracks between boards, and the little critters listed in #1 above have no problem strolling in. If your floors are level, consider yourself in the minority. Most of these older homes are sitting on what we fondly call "tofu blocks", to complete the picture.
3. Aloha Attire - Get used to it. In Waikiki, you'll see whole families decked out in matching flower prints, featured in colors not seen in nature. Go downtown, and even the attorneys and business execs will be sporting shirts and dresses in designs made of electric blue hibiscus blossoms, golden pina coladas, and lime green surfboards -and that's just one shirt. Size is no object -these colorful clothes come proudly in XXXL sizes for both sexes. On a really big mu'umu'u it can be quite an eyeful. Aloha wear is practically mandatory on Friday, or expect a citation from the office staff. You can even outfit your dog if you wish.
4. Falsetto - and other quirks of Hawaiian music. It's practically a religion here. That sweet soprano voice wafting over the airwaves probably comes from a 300-plus pound local boy whose forearm is bigger than the teensy ukulele he strums. It's an acquired taste, and does grow on you over time, so be forewarned that you could catch the bug, so to speak, if you move here. It's just one of the genres of local music unique to Hawaii.
5. Melanoma - With all this sunshine and sand, and very few clothes mandated by climate or custom, it's a high risk. You'll want to slather yourself with SPF40, or cover yourself with item number 3 above to minimize your risks. Add "Dermatologist" to your list of annual doctor check-ups.
6. Hawaiian Time - It's a state of mind, not a time zone, also known as Fashionably Late. If you have ever spent time South of the Border, you get the picture. It means you should expect everyone else to be late, while you are supposed to be on time. Does not apply to job interviews, if you decide to move here in spite of reading this list.
7. Poi - It is not just for tourist luaus. Slimy, purple, and gooey, it is bland in flavor, except for a tang from fermentation. In case you wondered if anyone really eats it, there is often a shortage due to high demand and limited production. Sorry to have to tell you that you may be limited to two bags per purchase at some stores.
8. Building Department - one of the challenges associated with overcoming Item #2 above. Just try to build your own home, or renovate that fixer-upper. You'll need a building permit to so much as install a dimmer switch or put in a new bathroom faucet. Go to to the City Planning and Permitting offices to get one - and that's where the fun really begins. As a taxpaying member of the general public, you will have to rise before the sun, wait in a very long line, and do a lot of groveling. Or you could send your contractor down to do it for you - if you can find one. Everyone in the state who is capable of holding a hammer is already booked through 2010.
9. Pidgin - It's not a different language, but they speak it and you can't understand it. Not to be confused with the beautiful and exotic Hawaiian language, it has colorful phrasing and vocabulary, sort of Hawaii's version of Ebonics. If you don't know the difference between shibai and shishi you bes' keep yo' mout shut. The public schools aren't sure if they should supress it or encourage it, perhaps an example of Hawaii's public school quagmire.
10. Pit Bulls - One of the more popular breeds in the Islands - but just one example of the Bad Dogs you may encounter here. They are utilized by some owners as home security systems, especially when kept on chains just long enough to allow them to lunge at kupuna (venerable old ladies) on their evening strolls. An unfortunate example of disrespect for both animals and people, which is disguised as a "cultural practice", along with other disgraces such as cockfighting and live goldfish-gobbling.
11. No Trader Joe's - Hawaii just does not have some of the retail shops you want, so maybe you don't want to come just for what's missing here: No Trader Joe's, no Bath and Body Works, no Bed, Bath, and Beyond, no Olive Garden restaurants, no Target (but rumored to be coming soon, sort of like Christmas). You will do more catalog shopping if you move here, but wait until you try to ship merchandise here. Either they don't ship here at all, or it will cost so much you could fly over and pick it up in person cheaper and faster. And they will never be able to spell your Hawaiian street name (mandated by law, believe it or not), even if they are willing and able to send it. You can't win!
And last but not leased... 12. Leasehold Homes - no matter now long you live here, it will never make sense to pay someone else to rent the land under your house or condo. Only in Hawaii!
OK, now you know our dirty little island secrets. We're not really that perfect storybook paradise you imagined, so you might want to reconsider that plan to move over and add to the traffic jam. Perhaps a compromise is in order. We will allow you to come over as a tourist for a short visit - say two weeks maximum - as long as you spend a lot of money, don't make any trouble, and go home when your time is up. If you already live here, and have other reasons we should keep everyone out who moved here after a certain date, I'd love to add to my list. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reality Check: Hawaii's population growth rate is actually lagging behind the U.S. national average, so it's not as if everyone is really flocking here. Even the first humans to arrive here ruined it for the native flora and fauna if you want to look at it that way. They were not able to stop subsequent canoes from landing any more than we can stop the ships and planes from arriving today with visitors and new residents.
Some people may feel squeezed by any growth, yet I believe that every individual has the potential to contribute to the Hawaii economy and to our melting-pot culture. In spite of my Dirty Dozen listed above, Hawaii remains a very desirable place to live. It is bound to attract newcomers seeking the attractions we have in abundance. Those wanting something different are free to leave on those empty planes that just unloaded another batch of newcomers. It's never been possible to shut them out, nor can we make Hawaii a less expensive destination so that everyone can afford it. I, for one, feel very grateful to have called Hawaii my home since 1986.
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