Like most people I had my own preconceived notions about what it would be like to live on the island. I’ve been surprised at the reality of Oahu life many times. I’ve been both pleasantly surprised and appalled.
This website is an urban perspective of island life, so I’ll start with this: I am really surprised at how urban it is here. Lol
I knew when I moved here that the island population was about one million people, but I still thought it would be more “islandy” 😊
Oahu has lots of big city characteristics… drivers in cars blasting their music, cop cars (lots of cop cars), skyscrapers, heavy traffic, ice cream trucks, theft and nightlife to name a few.
Here’s a few things that really surprised me —
Few Native Hawaiians & Many Asians
I knew my husband and I would be of the lowest minority of the population. Of the 1.4 million people living in the Hawaiian Islands, just under a million live on Oahu. The ethno-racial breakdown of the state of Hawaii is:
- Asian – 38%
- White – 25%
- Two or more races – 24%
- Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander – 10%
- Black/African American – 1.8%
- Some other race – .009
- American Indian or Alaskan Native – .002
As it relates to me, the 1.8% is reflective of Oahu also.
VoG is volcanic gases that blow over from the big island (Hawai’i). We are far enough from it that its not a terrible issue – until it is. You usually don’t see it but you feel it in your lungs or it irritates your eyes. For people with respiratory issues it is a good idea to monitor the VoG reports on daily local newscasts. It can be aggravating, but nothing like dealing with the smog of a city like Los Angeles.
Getting used-to not Going to Daylight Savings Time (DST) with Most of the Country.
Obviously not a big deal, but I’m always calculating the 6 hour time difference between here and Detroit and Atlanta. Then DST begins and I need to adjust to a 5 hour time difference because in Hawaii there is no Daylight Savings Time. Right about the time that five hours becomes second nature – oops, back to six. Ugh.
Call Hawaii Five-O – Theft is Rampant
Home and car break-ins, snatch and grabs, and petty theft of all kinds. I went to Detroit for a week and returned to a surprise from my hubby. A nice set of solar yard lights installed all around our property. I had mentioned weeks before that we should light up the area around the house. We arrived from the airport and i was so excited when we pulled up. Everything was lit up! A couple of weeks later, we came home and realized that 4 lights inside the side street fence were gone. A couple of weeks later they came back and took 3 more.
I also started a container garden in the backyard. Walking pass the front of my house you can see them from the street but they are “deep” into the yard. Someone actually came into the yard and stole a tomato! My big, beautiful green tomato. My feelings were hurt! It was the first thing I’ve grown and i was excited about making fried green tomatoes the next day.
When I met my neighbor, Joy months later she said, “oh yeah, people will take anything around here.” She told me that she ran off two ladies in our yard cutting tea leaves from a tree on the opposite side of our garage. (Tea leaves are used to make leis).
Another neighbor, Abraham (a few houses down on my street) told me that he had his bedroom window open and someone cut the screen reached in and stole his cell phone off of his nightstand.
Joy and Abraham are locals and grew up in and around our neighborhood. We have since installed a Dericam camera with a mobile monitoring app.
Finally, we also had our CAR stolen. In our first home on Oahu, we had a decent sized house (1200 sq ft) but limited parking. We had two parking spaces and three vehicles; our car, my husband’s company car, and our business truck. There was no street parking in our area, but plenty in the industrial area near hubby’s job. So, we would rotate parking our car and our business truck near his job. From the looks of it, we weren’t the only ones with the idea. One evening an officer came to our house (registration info) to inform us that our car was stolen and vandalized. I have had a car stolen in Detroit many years ago, so now its even 1 in Detroit and 1 in Hawaii.
Forget Hawaii Five-O. Call Magnum P.I. – Dramatic violence.
There are more shootings and stabbings than I expected. One or two are reported almost everyday. Even a kidnapping or two since I’ve lived here. While violent crime on Oahu is lower than the national average, these crimes are often quite dramatic. Here are a few:
- Man thrown over Ala Moana Mall parking structure wall to his death
- Yoga instructor intentionally drives of a cliff and kills her twin sister (after they fought)
- Husband and I took Facebook selfies at the park and the news report the next morning reported the recovery of a young woman who was killed and left near where we were.
- Man stabbed and beaten with a baseball bat in front of the Louis Vuitton store on Luxury Row in Waikiki
- Man got on video jumping out of car in a parking structure and punching a lady in the face – he jumps back in car and leaves
- Machete attack in attempted robbery at McDonald’s across the street from Aloha Stadium
Homelessness on Steroids
You may have heard about Hawaii’s homeless issue. There’s some uniqueness to the Oahu homeless problem. There are the unemployed and the underemployed like any other city, but other factors are making the homeless rate soar on the island. This includes:
- A dramatic surge of international investors buying properties to hold as investments, leaving them empty.
- A sharp increase of buyers obtaining properties for vacation rentals
- An influx of people intentionally moving to the island to live without traditional shelter
- A Methamphetamine addiction epidemic resulting in loss of jobs and homes
- Neighborhood gentrification
Addressing homelessness has become a top talking point among the politicos. I’ve witnessed some massive “sweeps” that remove hundreds of indigent citizens. I just keep wondering where they were moved.
Motown Music Everywhere
To my delight, the sounds of Motown music can be heard everywhere. In clothing stores, in clubs, restaurants and on the radio. Not just Motown the record company, but Detroit artists in general. If you visit you will almost certainly hear Aaliyah, Eminem, Jack White and Big Sean – a lot.
Island music isn’t the main thing you hear here. Much more hip hop, pop, soul, and reggae is heard than Hawaiian island music. I suppose it’s a more traditional music and contemporary music is more popular.
In honor of my uncle, Miller London (a pre-eminent industry influencer) I encourage you to soothe your soul with some great Motown music. Uncle Miller is portrayed in the Broadway hit-
There are Pretty Good Options to Buy Black Hair Care Products Locally
Okay, so they are not the same type of “beauty supply” store options that you would find in Detroit, Chicago or Atlanta which offer a grand amount of options for natural (Black natural 😊) hair care. However, I was thrilled to find a few places that offer a few things that I use.
Unfortunately my absolute favorite thing for the last 10 years is not available on da ‘aina. I discovered it in Harlem and it’s called Nature’s Blessings. It is a non-chemical, no animal testing and no artificial ingredient pomade. I use it primarily for my hair, but it can be used all over the body. Of the 17 natural ingredients, “good intention” is the one that made me try it. No worries though! I now order it from Amazon in a 3 jar bundle for about $5.00 each. My husband loves it too!
Other Surprising Revelations
+ You have to show I.D. to buy nail polish remover. Apparently, it is used in meth production (see above – Homelessness)
+ There are Popeye’s chicken, Little Caesar’s Pizza and Foodland Grocery Stores here.
+ Black people don’t greet you and sometimes are obviously trying to avoid you
+ A gallon of milk may cost you $10.00 and Mainland eggs are half the price of island eggs.
+ Lemons cost $1.00 each at the grocery store. Thank goodness for my – Yours Lemon Powder
+ You can go into a store and see Charmin tissue “on sale” for $40.00
+ Wild and free chickens and roosters roam through neighborhoods and up busy streets.
+ That I would get used to seeing lizards and geckos – even in my house.
+ Hawaii has 132 islands! I thought hawaii was 6 or 7 “major” isles and a few more sprinkled about the Pacific Ocean. Well, actually there are 8 main islands (Oahu, Hawaii (Big Island), Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau and Kahoolawe) and 124 other islands.
+ That I would live here as the state got bigger. As a result of Kiluea’s eruption Hawaii expanded the island by 700 acres.
+ That Hawaiians name their babies with super long names and spend a great deal of money on first birthdays. Like wedding money. Really.
These things aren’t judgments – just observations. Did any of these SURPRISE YOU too? Leave me a comment below, I’d love hear from you. Mahalo!
Vinetta- The Koco Lokal