It doesn’t seem like a real place. Even the day to day business of waking up and taking a look outside is like facing a life-sized motivation poster. It’s just mountains, waterfalls, trees, chickens, and the most goddamned beautiful beach you’ve ever seen.
Now, I can imagine how folks who’ve either grown up or lived on Kauai for years aren’t still snapping pictures of the roadside while heading to the grocery store.
But it’s a trip for tourists. There’s a kind of collective awe that connects visitors across the island, as we stand around with our mouths open, eyes darting, asking ourselves over and over: can you believe this shit?
So when does the weaning process end? If you packed up your life and moved to Hawaii, how long does it take not to be a tourist haole anymore? I don’t have the answer to that, but I do know some tell-tale signs you’re probably a haole, visiting for your first time.
Wearing A Lei
No self-respecting Hawaiian wakes up in the morning, showers, brushes their teeth, and puts on a lei before heading out the door (unless said islander works at a Luau). The takeaway here is this: if you’re still sporting your flowery necklace after driving away from the airport, welcome to Hawaii.
Renting A Surfboard
Renting a surfboard is not what real surfers do, and it sure as hell is not what people from Hawaii do. But there are exceptions… like when it is unreasonably expensive to fly your board over, since the forecast says it will be flat during your stay – and then it somehow isn’t.
If eskimos can have dozens of words to describe snow, there should be at least one word that describes the sort of unbridled, raw embarrassment a traveling surfer feels when renting a board – in f$#*ing Hawaii, of all places. While speaking to the kid at the counter, there is no jargon you could use, no cool baggies that showcase your actual ability to surf, no club membership card you could flash, that will prove you’re not another shaka-pulling, fannypack-wearing, kook from the mainland who might need rescuing if the waves are bigger than two feet. It’s just as well you aren’t offered a life jacket on the way out.
Three Words: Puka Shell Necklace
Nothing screams ‘haole’ louder than wearing your party favor from a Luau around town the next day. Puka shell necklaces are the matching accessory to that lei you can’t seem to take off.
You Are Looking Around Nonstop In The Car
Your head swivels left to right in the car, gawking at the mountains, the beach, the chickens. Everything, really. Even a drive through the suburbs is like visiting a pristine botanical garden. It stands to reason that every haole visiting for the first, second, and even time, will spend the majority of their time spent in any car swiveling their heads left and right.
You Are Taking Pictures Of The Chickens
Apparently, some time ago, there was a hurricane that tore through a residential chicken coop. Those that weren’t taken out by the harrowing weather saught refuge in the hills. It’s said that on the wild, hens and roosters breed at a monstrous rate. Proof of this is everywhere; there is a free-range poultry population that outnumbers humans by 10 to 1*. They’re everywhere – on the beach, in your driveway, on the highway (often unseen by head-swivelling haoles who ride them over), in supermarket parking lots, and smoking cloves with rebels in the high school bathrooms. And nearby every truly free free-range chicken on Kauai (with the exception of those lying flattened on the highway), you’ll find a tourist whipping out their iPhone to snap a few pictures.
*This number is totally unfounded. In fact, it’s simply a guess.
Haoles want an authentic Hawaiian tan. They want to take it home, and wear it around like a prized coat they found at a celebrity thrift store, and have it last through the coldest weeks of winter. They want it badly. So badly, they don’t realize that the process of bronzing ones skin takes place over years, through controlled exposure to the sun – not by frying under the horizon’s grill for six hours at a time. And that’s when things weird.
When sunscreen is half-assed, and applied with slack fingers and not spread properly, you end up with a Jackson Pollock spray tan; the mark of a true haole.
Using A Selfie Stick In The Grocery Store
The selfie-stick is an unusual add-on to the world of social media. On one hand, it’s cool to see people getting fresh angles of themselves in some interesting spots (rock climbers, surfers, etc.). But when you’re snapping selfies at Foodland, while shopping for leis and puka shells, you’re showing too much enthusiasm.