Facts about Honolulu

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly about Life in Honolulu

This section covers some facts about Honolulu - the questions that people not familiar with Honolulu life may be interested to know.

Ethnicities in Honolulu

One of the interesting facts about Honolulu that you may not know is that there is no single racial or ethnic majority; Hawaii has the largest community of Asians and mixed-ethnicity individuals in the US. This really isn’t surprising, given its strategic location between North America and Asia. And you’ll also find Eurasians, Latinos and Pacific Islanders. Hawaii, particularly Honolulu, is as well mixed as a (insert your favorite here) salad!

This also means that there are tons of ethnic restaurants, and a Chinatown and grocery stores that are stocked with your comfort foods. One of the many facts about Honolulu that I appreciate very much is the variety of authentic cuisines available, because Hawaii truly is ethnically diverse.

I’ll risk embarrassment here and share a gross mistake I made, so you won’t have to. Just because someone was born and raised in Hawaii, it doesn’t make him a Hawaiian. I know it’s easy to assume so (I did!) but in fact most are not. They’re known simply as “locals”, and some would identify themselves by their ethnicity (or “nationality”). But if they don’t, and you really must know, there’s no better way to find out than to ask. Most won’t take offense, but obviously you should be prepared if they do!

Languages spoken in Honolulu

The “unofficial” language of Hawaii is Hawaiian Pidgin (pronounced like "pigeon"). It is a Creole language that was developed back in the 19th century when immigrants from all over the world (China, Japan, Philippines and Portugal to name a few) settled in Hawaii to make a life in Honolulu. Obviously there wasn’t any common language between them and the residents, but they managed to communicate using their own native tongues (I imagine with a lot of gesticulating and the use of live animals for props).

The lexicon of pidgin is derived mainly from English, but also has loanwords from Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and Portuguese, which means that once in a while you’ll come across words such as ahi for tuna fish and bocha for take a bath, to name a couple.

You’ll notice that almost everyone speaks pidgin, to varying degrees (with or without the “local” accent). However, some people consider pidgin-speaking as a sign of lower socioeconomic status and poor education.

English and Hawaiian are the official languages of Hawaii, but Japanese is also widely spoken here, and it’s most evident in Waikiki, at hotels, retail stores and restaurants. Another one of the facts about Honolulu is that anyone who is effectively bilingual, particularly in Japanese and in recent years, Mandarin Chinese, has an advantage when it comes to finding work in Honolulu.

Cost of living in Honolulu

Obviously, the cost of living anywhere depends on your lifestyle, but there are definitely ways to live an affordable life in Honolulu.

Excluding school fees and the cost of books and supplies, the biggest chunk of your expenses will go to rent and food. Other expenses to budget for are transportation and entertainment.

Rent in town area is generally higher than in the suburbs, but it’s a trade-off for convenience and time saved from commuting. Rent rates depend on the location of property, amenities provided (secured entry, parking, on-site laundry vs. in-unit washer/dryer) and if utilities (electricity, cable TV) are included.

I can tell you from personal experience, the pros and cons of living on your own (renting a furnished room in a hostel or renting an apartment) or sharing the apartment with a friend.

One of the facts about Honolulu is that groceries aren't cheap because most of our supplies are shipped in. But there’s Wal-Mart and Target for dry goods, and farmers’ markets for fresh produce, and Chinatown where you can get basically anything for cheaper.

Crime rate in Honolulu

In my opinion, Honolulu is a pretty safe place to live in. But once in a while we’ll hear reports of sexual assault, and break-ins and property thefts. Thankfully, we don’t really get too much of violent crimes. With that being said, you should always be aware of your surroundings, regardless where you live.

One of the facts about Honolulu that most people don't know, is that we do have homeless residents living in parks, beaches and shelters. Generally they don't harm anybody, but it's still best to practice common sense.

On the subject of safety in Honolulu, you should be aware of these crimes: prostitution, drug trafficking and gambling. These problems are subtle, kind of like a secret that everybody knows.

You may notice girls/women dressed in skimpy outfits and clear sky-high Lucite heels roaming Waikiki and approaching tourists or military personnel with their services. And some strip clubs, hostess bars and massage parlors offer “extra services”. Do know that even as a customer, you risk being convicted of prostitution, which may result in jail time.

Drug trafficking and gambling activities are, for obvious reasons, very underground, so therefore not visible. You will, however, be seeing really graphic Hawaii Meth Project® “Not Even Once” ads on TV targeted at teenagers, and they portray the ravages of Meth use.

I believe that much of what you experience in any place is directly connected to the way you choose to live your life on a daily basis. In my years of living in Honolulu, I’ve yet to have drugs offered to me, or witnessed someone use it, or had any contact whatsoever with gambling houses or gambling addicts, and I certainly hope to not change it!

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