You are what you are.

When you live 2500 miles from the nearest land of any significant size, it’s a jet plane that will get you where you need to go. Here in Hawaii, the continental United States is referred to simply as “the mainland.” The assumption, when someone hears that word, is that the conversation is about California.

If someone says, “I’m taking the kids up to the mainland for a long weekend”, you can be pretty sure that Disneyland is going to be the focus of the time away.

“Haole” (pronouned HOW-lee) is the Hawaiian word that has come to mean a Caucasian person. The original meaning was foreigner, but since almost all foreigners were white people . . .

Many locals have sub-classifications of the term:

A coast haole is a white guy who has come here from the West Coast, almost certainly from California. The implication by referring to the individual as a “coast haole”, is that he’s probably not a permanent resident here. If that changes, well that means that person is just an ordinary haole.

The next category of haole is “east coast haole”. That’s a white person who has arrived here from someplace on the mainland that is so far away and so remote it’s understood that nobody here has heard of it. When I arrived here in 1962, I was an “east coast haole”.

There’s one more: If you’re a “local haole”, you’re a white person who was born here. No exceptions are made. I’ve lived here for almost 60 years, but I will never be a local haole.

I’ve always found this kind of stuff fascinating.


  1. Interesting to know the distinctions. I would love to live there but could never afford it.

    1. The secret is buying a house for $71,500 in the 1970s and selling it 25 years later for $650,000.

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