As usual, my Facebook updates the latest and greatest from my friends around the world (lucky me!) One of these is Huffington Post’s newst article: “11 things that are weirdly missing in Hawaii and what they can teach you.
As an ethnic Chinese, I felt at home as soon as I set foot in Hawaii, first in Honolulu in 1982, and last in 2010 when I moved to Maui. The darker my tan, the more easily I blended into the local population. I even slowed down my hurried city speech, to keep pace with the laid-back friendliness of the locals.
Normally I wear dark Maui Jim sunglasses, wide-brimmed beach hats, colorful spaghetti-sundresses, and flip flops (or “slippahs” as they are called here). It’s easy to be mistaken for a tourist but that’s fine by me.
What I love about living on Maui is the uniformly understood practice of taking off your shoes before you enter a home. Even realtors do it when they show house. It’s automatic. Newcomers who don’t conform to this unwritten rule will be frowned upon and blacklisted. If you’re to ask, “Shall I take off my shoes?” Your host may be too polite to say yes. Just do it.
While snakes are nonexistent in the state and mosquitoes only infest in humid areas and at certain times of the day, typically sunset (but whisked away by the constant and strong trade winds), this doesn’t mean other critters don’t exist. One becomes fearless after discovering centipedes, scorpions, cockroaches, spiders, ants, and geckos in the home. I sometimes hesitate which vermin of the ecosystem to interrupt, if at all.
The Huffington Post article mentions megabanks — an inconvenience or an exercise in thinking outside the box?
If you need to withdraw cash from your stateside bank, you will be charged a fee at any ATM. Similarly, if you’re to withdraw cash from your Hawaii-based bank on the mainland, you will also be charged. The best way to avoid fees is to take out cash when you use your debit card to pay for groceries at supermarkets. You can do this also at retail outlets such as Walmart, K-Mart, Ross, 7-11, gasoline stations etc.
Mainlanders who come to Hawaii for the first time often remark that it feels like a foreign country. Indeed, there’s no other place on the mainland that looks and feels like Hawaii. Nearly all street names are in Hawaiian. It will be hard to remember, let alone pronounce, long names such as Kamehameha and Ka‘ahumanu. A short lesson in Hawaiian will help.
One more thing: don’t let the cost of living debates and articles scare you from coming to Hawaii. Despite having the highest electricity tariffs in the country, you can avoid heating and cooling costs by choosing the right location to live and work. Similarly, even though gasoline prices are a dollar more than stateside, you can minimize it by, again, choosing the right location to live and work. In other words, live close to where you need to be.
My monthly electric bill, since my landlord installed a new water heating tank with a timer is now $40, at most $75. It’s more if I cook, take hot baths, and use the outdoor washing machine more frequently. My monthly gasoline bill, since prices have fallen to $2.63 at Costco, is now $30, compared to $55 last year. The only traffic jams I know of are the road to Lahaina and Paia, but that doesn’t affect me.
If you’re lucky enough to have a patch of land to grow fruit or vegetables, do it. I dropped a few papaya seeds by accident, and guess what? I’m now harvesting juicy ripe papayas which I eat or trade for other fruit and vegetables. It’s a wonderful life!