Hawaii’s unique culture sets it apart from the other 49 states that together make up the USA, not least its famous ‘Spirit of Aloha’. Visitors to the Hawaiian islands are warmly welcomed with this spirit – which refers to the attitude of friendly acceptance that embodies a deep respect for others and the natural environment. Our beginners’ guide will help you embrace the Aloha spirit during your time in Hawaii.
The giving of a flower lei is one of Hawai‘i’s best-known customs – an act of welcome that is synonymous with friendship and hospitality. Whilst modern lei are made of fresh flowers, the ancient Hawaiians made theirs from feathers and shells. (Note: pregnant women are given an open-ended lei that is left open in the shape of an upside-down U, as Hawaiian superstition avoids wrapping anything around a pregnant woman’s neck).
The hula is another Hawaiian cultural icon, preserving important stories and traditions. The ancient form of the hula is accompanied by dramatic chants and percussion. Modern hula is more colourful, with guitars or ukuleles providing the rhythm. If you’re invited to join in, relax and let yourself be drawn in by the infectious beat and the smiles of the dancers.
Music has long been an important part of Hawaiian culture. You can expect to hear a range of music that is as diverse as the islands’ mix of cultures – everything from rock ‘n’ roll to jazz and a Hawaiian form of reggae known as ‘Jawaiian’. Probably the most iconic sound in Hawaiian music is the ukulele, which was actually brought to Hawai‘i by Portuguese immigrants in the late 19th century, and has become a fundamental part of the musical landscape – not simply on stage but also at family picnics and on the beach.