8 Things I Have Learned after Living in Hawaii

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I have spent three years studying and working in Hawaii. It has become cliché when I see the sparks in people’s eyes while they say with jealousy: “You are so lucky to live in Hawaii”. It is true that Hawaii is on most people’s list of dream vacation destinations. However, once you decide to start a new life here, the story is quite different.  I have seen several people finally make it through and stay in the paradise permanently. Meanwhile, I have encountered many people who move to Hawaii with high expectations but ended up leaving after a few years.  It is extremely difficult to say whether Hawaii is a place worth all the efforts to move in, but after three years of being in paradise, there are 8 things I have discovered about this state.

Hawaii is a mini United- Nations – that means there are no ethnic majorities, only minorities. White Americans account for less than 40% of the entire state population, and most of the people are Asians. That does not mean that Hawaii is a racist state. On the contrary, most Asians fit right in, make a lot of international and local friends and even get elected as state governor.

Oahu is not only an island; it is a community – After two and half years living in Oahu, something interesting happened. When I attended a party and struck up a conversation with a new person I met, we found that we had at least two to three mutual friends. Believe me, this happens 80% of the time when I attend any social events. Oahu is a small island, and everyone ends up gaining massive interpersonal connections.

The word’s prettiest beaches do exist in Hawaii, but you do not go there as much as you think – my friends are jealous of my moving to Hawaii because they assume that I go to the beach every day. They imagine that my days are filled with turquoise oceans, sweeping sand dunes and warm sunshine. The truth is that I still spend my day sitting at a desk in my office and finishing my daily assignments from 8am to 5pm just like you. We hit the beach sometimes, maybe two to three times a month, or once in two months. We prefer Lanikai Beach and North Shore over Waikiki, and sometimes we have barbecues or potluck dinners on the beach. The bottom line is when you live in Hawaii for quite a long time, you start taking beaches for granted.

It is rare to have your international friends to visit you every year – Hawaii is thousands of miles away from the rest of the states in the US or any other places in the world. It takes five hours or even longer to fly to Hawaii from its nearest state California. If you have any international friends studying in the US, try to ask them to come and visit you, and the answer you will hear from most of them is: “The airfare to Hawaii is almost equal to the one to fly back to my homeland”.

Hawaii has highly limited job opportunities – There are not so many job markets in Hawaii. If you are lucky enough to get hired, do not expect your job to be permanent, and even if you secured a long-term position by working hard, you are earning the lowest salary of the entire United States for living in the most expensive state.  Additionally, the job market in Hawaii is fiercely competitive, about 80% of the jobs require that candidates speak a fluent second language (especially Japanese, Korean or Chinese) to apply. Unless you own a business yourself, my advice is to master your second language skills before starting the job hunt in Hawaii.

It rains a lot on Oahu –It usually rains three times a day in Waikiki, and every time it lasts for just 5 minutes. The truth is, if you live in Kaneohe, Manoa, North Shore, or Kailua, you will discover that it rains way more than it does in Waikiki. Sometimes the sun and double rainbows appear after a few minutes of pouring. However, when winter comes, the windward side usually gets non-stop rain for about a week, and everything rusts or gets flooded after the long-term downpour.

Hawaii is a paradise on earth, but not a heaven – Like everywhere else in the world, traffic, crime, and prostitution still occur everywhere in Hawaii.  There are rude and nasty people on the island. The state government is still working on the homeless problem. Although the weather in Hawaii is believed to be perfect, people still get sick and feel chilly sometimes. People who have lived in Hawaii for over a year realize that Hawaii is just commonplace. No matter how much you are obsessed with Hawaii and how much sacrifice you made to be in Hawaii, you still need to deal with many issues and move on.

Some people end up leaving Hawaii after a few years, but then they still miss it  

I have many friends who have tried studying and working in Hawaii, but ended up leaving after a few years. However, most of them still tell me how much they miss Hawaii, no matter how frustrating their lives were when they resided here. I encountered some moments of hopelessness and frustration in Hawaii as well. My work visa and immigration did not work out so I had to leave with short notice. For those of you who make it or plan to move to Hawaii, be positive and do not give up on this place too easily. You will truly miss Hawaii for life after you leave, and you will feel jealous of those who still remain in Hawaii.

It has been eight months since I left Hawaii, but I still cannot leave this place behind. I have made many international friends, learned lots of valuable life lessons, and have many unforgettable memories of this beautiful island. Hawaii is my second home now. Wherever I will end up in the future, I will always have an Aloha state of mind with me.

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8 Things I Have Learned After Living in Paradise Hawaii

 

 

 

Julie Cao

Julie Cao is a travel blogger, travel writer, and global citizen currently living in Toronto Ontario.

19 thoughts on “8 Things I Have Learned after Living in Hawaii

  • December 15, 2012 at 9:57 pm
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    You nailed it. I lived in Kaneohe for a winter, didn’t expect for it to be so urbanized. Totally not the paradise you think of. However, the entire stretch of North Shore is pretty awesome.

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    • December 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm
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      I totally agree with you! I lived in Kaneohe for 2 years,feel that place is more like a suburban area, but I prefer Kaneohe over Honolulu since I can get away with hustle and bustle of the town center.

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  • September 20, 2016 at 9:20 pm
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    Great post – I have just recently moved to Fiji and your words about Hawaii being a paradise, but not a heaven, are so true! Everyone says we are so lucky to live here – yes we are but it’s not all sunshine and white sandy beaches every day. Living here is different to being on holiday here.

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    • September 21, 2016 at 2:50 pm
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      Thanks Juliette! Living on the tropical islands means we got to experience all sides of the paradise, both good and not-so-good part. I have never been to Fiji and always wanted to visit.

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  • September 27, 2016 at 11:28 am
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    This was a very interesting and enlightening read. I had no idea Hawaii was 50% Asian. I was always under the impression that it was about 80% native/indigenous.

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    • September 27, 2016 at 4:42 pm
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      I only met a few natives when I was there. Most of my friends are from Asian and the mainland US. It is a very diverse and multicultural state.

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  • September 27, 2016 at 12:05 pm
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    Wow! I’m one of the people that think Hawai is a dream come true. Got a little skap in the face there, didn’t see that coming when I started reading. But nicely written!

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    • September 27, 2016 at 4:44 pm
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      Thanks Hanna for your kind words. Live in Hawaii is definitely different than just vacationing there, as residents are exposed to all sides of the island – good, bad, great and the ugly, but it is still the best place I have ever lived.

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  • September 27, 2016 at 6:44 pm
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    Quite an interesting post for someone who has never even visited Hawaii, but would love to do so some day.

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  • September 28, 2016 at 6:45 am
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    This is such a great blog! I have indeed had daydreams about living in Hawaii, and it was cool to read about your experience and perspective. Thanks!

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    • September 28, 2016 at 4:48 pm
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      Mahalo Tita! Hope one day you will get to move there!

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  • October 1, 2016 at 2:50 am
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    I can totally relate to your blog post. I spent about five year’s in Hawaii when I was active duty. Sometime’s, I do miss this place because it was so peaceful. I think I went to the beach about four times.

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    • October 4, 2016 at 5:19 pm
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      Four times in five years? You beat me! haha

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  • October 2, 2016 at 9:11 pm
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    I love Hawaii, thanks for the insider story on living there. People who visit have a romantic notion of how it would be to live in paradise, but don’t think about what it would be like day to day living there.

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    • October 8, 2016 at 6:33 pm
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      Hi Julie, I love Hawaii too, and have a huge romantic obsession with Hawaii since I was a child. but there are huge differences between living and just visiting, and one cannot know the reality of living in paradise until they actually live there.

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  • November 2, 2016 at 1:52 pm
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    Really interesting to read. We have visited Hawaii for short one or two week vacations and would consider trying some longer stays for one to three months. It is great to get a perspective from someone who has actually lived there.

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  • November 3, 2016 at 1:16 am
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    Interesting! I have friends who live in Hawaii, and it’s true that we are not able to visit them. Even once. lol

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  • November 3, 2016 at 5:56 pm
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    I found your article very interesting. Hawaii is on my bucket list, and I admit I’ve often fantasized about living there. But of course, nothing on earth is perfect and every place has its problems. I still think you were lucky to have had the opportunity to live the dream, if only for a few years! 🙂

    Reply

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