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Satire: How to talk to a Hawaiian, pt. 2

Learn how to properly interact with a Hawaiian — but try to get it this time


Satire: How to talk to a Hawaiian, pt. 2

Learn how to properly interact with a Hawaiian — but try to get it this time

If it wasn't already clear, I'm Native Hawaiian. And although it may not seem like it would, this part of my identity prompts a lot of interesting interactions.

As a result, almost two years ago I wrote a piece for the magazine called "How to talk to a Hawaiian." Of course, I got rave reviews (my grandma thought it was funny). HOWEVER, after said piece was published, it seemed none of you took me seriously.

So here I am, writing yet another article in the hopes that you finally get it this time — but with a twist.

Since the last article was published, I have been curating a list of everything wrong about awkward interactions I've had with people, and I'm presenting it to you, my dearest readers. Some may call this public shaming, but I call it behavior modeling.

Side note: If you feel as if you inspired any of these points, you probably did. Bust out a notepad and a pen, and pay attention.

Without further ado, here is the second iteration of my how-to guide — or rather, long list of don'ts — so you can stop irritating me be well-informed.

Picture this: I meet someone for the first time. We exchange names, followed by "Where are you from?" They say they're from some landlocked state that people never stop in on a road trip. Like Arkansas. I pretend to be amazed. I say, "I'm from Maui."


At this point, the conversation can go a number of ways. Prior to the deadly Aug. 8, 2023, wildfires that wiped out a large chunk of my island, I usually received the following reactions:

  • "Wait, where is that?"
  • "Oh cool!" followed by a series of invasive questions about how I grew up.
  • "My family and I vacation there every year!" I immediately don't like you because it means you have more money than self-awareness.
  • "I've always wanted to go there! You should take me." No.
  • *Moves on with the conversation like a normal person* (CORRECT ANSWER)

HOWEVER, now that my island has been invaded by parachuting news organizations and colonizers who want to use the wildfires as an opportunity to build their latest paradisiacal tourist trap, I've gotten a new kind of reaction.

I say, "I'm from Maui." A look of disdain flashes across their face as they muster a half-hearted "Is everything okay? I heard about the wildfire. That was just terrible."

What do you expect me to say? At this point, you're just forcing me to lie to you because it's easier than admitting that half of my family is displaced, a place meaningful to my upbringing is ashes, and I'm constantly worried about aid for victims, environmental issues and tourists exploiting my home.

Also, don't act like you care all of a sudden. I bet if I told you to point to Maui on a map, you'd point to Oʻahu.

If you are at any point reading the news and see a headline with "Maui" or "Hawaiʻi" in it, you don't need to send it to me. I promise.

You don't need to prove to me that you remember where I'm from. I remember where you're from, and you don't see me sending you articles of the latest bike theft in your hometown.

Also, it's really bold of you to assume that I don't already know what's going on. Hawaiian Airlines merging with Alaska Airlines? I saw the article before you sent it to me. The Lahainaluna High School football captains doing the coin toss at the Super Bowl? It's literally posted on my Instagram Story. The Maui wildfires? I WAS THERE.

Seeing an article with "Hawaiʻi" in the headline and sending it to me is like sending an Instagram Reel to someone who's chronically on TikTok — they saw that video two weeks ago, and it's old news to them already.

Sure, I'm flattered that you like to think about me, but cut it out. Start thinking about that group project you haven't contributed to or the dirty dishes that have been sitting in your sink for a week.

A question I get asked pretty often is what professional sports teams I root for. Now, I see the vision. I really do. There aren't any professional sports teams in Hawaiʻi, so it's interesting to learn about how we decide who we want to pour all our energy into before facing a disappointing defeat at the end of the season.

Sometimes it's a West Coast team because that's as far as we can travel before breaking our bank accounts. Sometimes it's a team that has someone from Hawaiʻi on it. I heard the Phillies are pretty cool because they have a guy called "the Flyin' Hawaiian." He must fly pretty well considering how far Philadelphia is from Hawaiʻi.

Now, I know we're all taught to never judge a book by its cover, but look at me. Do I look like I have a favorite professional sports team? I make magazines for a living and do homework 24/7. Seriously. The one professional baseball game I went to in my entire life was because it cost $5 for ASU students, and I ended up studying for my Principles and History of Journalism quiz the whole time. PRIORITIES, PEOPLE. Don't worry, though. No hits were made, which is why I started studying in the first place. Baseball, am I right?

But when I get asked this question, I like to have fun by just picking a random team. Now, I'm not a complete idiot when it comes to sports. I know which teams are from which cities and which teams have the cutest mascots. I also live with two sports journalism majors and a die-hard 49ers fan.

Often, if I know what city someone is from, I'll just say I like their team — unless they're complete losers. My roommate thinks my favorite NFL team is the San Francisco 49ers. Other times, I'll say my favorite NBA team is the Orlando Magic because of Stuff the Magic Dragon. If we're talking about baseball, I like to say my favorite team is the Savannah Bananas. I know they're not in the MLB, but at least they're interesting. Plus, we have the same name.

So, if you're looking for a serious answer, I really don't have a favorite team — unless it's the University of Hawaiʻi men's volleyball team. That way, I stay winning.

We've all been in those classes where the only thing that matters is writing a discussion post and replying to two classmates every week.

I know these classes can seem pointless and annoying, but unlike you, I actually like to put thought into my discussion boards.

Recently, I took a class that required me to analyze someone's rhetorical leadership and write about it in a discussion post almost every week. I made it my goal to choose Native Hawaiian leaders so I can refresh my knowledge on my culture. Also, as someone who grew up in Hawaiʻi, it’s just a lot easier this way. I will have unique answers and won't have to say I look up to Smokey Bear or Yoko Ono like my classmates do.

So, a lot of my discussion posts revolved around my Hawaiian culture and perspective as a Native Hawaiian. And for some reason, a lot of my peers liked to take them as opportunities to get their mandatory word counts out of the way and get back to, I don't know, strategizing their next message to their situationship.

Here's a real reply I have gotten to one of my discussion posts:

"Hi Savannah! It's cool that you're from Hawa’ii. I have a friend from high school who goes to the University of Hawa’ii in Waikiki. Also, when I visited, it was so beautiful there. I think you chose a great topic. It'll help you understand another culture's experience more."

Okay so a few notes:

  • You put the ʻokina (ʻ) in the wrong spot, and you used an apostrophe instead, but at least you tried.
  • There's no University of Hawaiʻi in Waikiki.
  • I already know it's beautiful there.
  • "Another culture's experience"? Girl, this is my culture, and I've been experiencing it.

I'm not saying that no one is allowed to reply to my discussion posts or that it has to be some sort of awe-inspiring reply. I'm just saying you look a little silly, and I find your attempt at talking about Hawaiʻi comical. That's all.

One day I was walking with an acquaintance, and we were talking about speaking other languages. We talked about Spanish because we were both taking Spanish classes at the time, and then they asked me if I spoke any other languages. Naturally, I said I can speak decent Hawaiian.

Immediate confusion flooded through their mind and onto their face. "Wait, Hawaiian?" they said. "Is that not just English?"

Now, I don't know how many of you thought the same thing as this poor, innocent friend I am putting on blast, but immediately, no. Hawaiian is not English.

Maybe you just learned that. You know who you are. And I'm not mad — I'm happy that you're learning and that I was able to teach you something new today. I'm just disappointed. Like, REALLY?

What. Did you think Polynesians sailed through the Pacific in ships singing sea shanties? Did you think we say "aloha" for shits and giggles? Did you think "ʻOhana means family" was made up by Walt Disney? Why do you think they're telling you what it means?!

No, pal, there's a whole language. And we're lucky there even is a language because haole almost wiped it out when they came over and banned the practice of Hawaiian language and culture in our own schools.

So, word of advice from me: Get educated. You know, the reason they invented the internet was for researchers to share information and educate people. But instead, you waste your screen time watching "Grey's Anatomy."

A Pau — that's like "The End" by the way

That wasn't so bad, was it? I hope you learned some things! Seriously. Don't make me write a part three, I swear.

And to my fellow Hawaiians out there, I wish you the best of luck dealing with these people because I know you do.

Edited by Camila Pedrosa and Madeline Nguyen.

This story is part of The Development Issue, which was released on April 3, 2024. See the entire publication here.

Reach the reporter at and follow @savdagupion on X. 

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Savannah DagupionMagazine Reporter

Savannah Rose Dagupion is a reporter for State Press Magazine. She moved to Arizona from Hawaiʻi to study Journalism and Mass Communication at the Cronkite School. 

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