8 Things I Have Learned after Living in Hawaii


I have spent three years living 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.

Living in Hawaii - 8 things I have learned

8 Things I have learned after living in Hawaii

Hawaii is a mini United- Nations

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.

Things I have learned after living in Hawaii

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 all the time when I attend any social events. Oahu is a small island, and everyone ends up gaining massive interpersonal connections.

Living in Hawaii

The word’s best 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’ve lived in Hawaii for quite a long time, you start taking beaches for granted.

Things I have learned after living in Hawaii

Lanikai Beach, Oahu – I went there less than 5 fives in three years

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, most 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.

Things I have learned after living in Hawaii

Most time I was doing this instead of going to the beach

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.

Things I have learned after living in Hawaii

Kaneohe, Oahu where I lived in for two years, and it has lots of downpour in the winter

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.

Things I have learned after living in Hawaii

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

I have many friends who have lived 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 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 long 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.

Things I have learned after living in Hawaii

Note: “8 Things I have Learned After Living in Hawaii” original published on December,2012, and last updated on August, 2016. Original content was retained. 

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Living in Hawaii things I have learned

Julie Cao

Julie is the creator of Always On The Way. She lived in Hawaii and now resides in London (Ontario, Canada). In 2017, she went on an overland trip from Bogota Colombia to Puerto Williams, the southernmost city in the world. She believes travel is not only about visiting tourist attractions but more about getting to know the culture, people, and the place.

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