Residents of major cities the world over share one thing in common. They are proud of their cities, and embrace the stereotypes the rest of the world has come to know them by. Parisians are notoriously aloof. Romans are unapologetically passionate. Londoners are almost professionally sarcastic. New Yorkers are always in a hurry. Los Angelenos are pathologically self-absorbed. San Franciscans are affected bohemians. Everyone in Tokyo has a Hello Kitty or anime fetish and can’t hold their liquor. Or so the stereotypes would have us believe, anyway.
Honolulu is also a major city, albeit not a continental one. Perhaps that’s why there is no stereotype that accurately describes Honoluluans. In fact, the only thing that Honoluluans have in common is a handful of zip codes and an understanding of the Aloha Spirit. Some of us are surf freaks. Others, health nuts. Still others embrace nightlife and the club scene, while some opt for a modern ascetic life devoted to academia.
Honolulu is a major city, make no mistake. With a sophisticated arts and culture community, world-class dining, and tourist meccas like the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial and Waikiki on Oahu, Waimea Canyon on Kauai, Mauna Kea and the Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island, and Kaanapali Beach and Haleakala on Maui, Hawaii attracts millions of visitors each year (more than eight million in 2013), just like its other “world city” counterparts.
So why is it that there is no stereotype for a typical Honoluluan? I find that the reason for this is the inherent diversity of its people. There are just too many cultures here for any one quirk to be attributable to all, or even to most.
What we Honoluluans do share, however, we share with everyone else in the state. It’s that Aloha Spirit. If anyone could hold an accurate stereotype about Honoluluans, it would be residents of the neighbor islands, who almost always categorize Honolulu as the Big City. They eschew the traffic jams and ever expanding urban skyline. But to outsiders from beyond Hawaii’s shores, that distinction is almost quaint. Hell, we don’t even have a train system yet (cough, cough).
Even someone who lives in the heart of Downtown Honolulu knows what it’s like to sit down for a back yard potluck barbeque and kanikapila (musical jam session). Even the most avid Honolulu urbanite knows the simple joy of spending a quiet sunset on the beach, or sound of songbirds and the wind through the trees on a long hike through the forest.
The beautiful part of all of this is that what makes Honolulu unique as a major city is shared by the rest of the state. It’s a state of mind that knows that at the end of the day, we still live in Hawaii and can feel at home in the most remote parts of the state. It’s a willingness to make visitors feel welcomed, and not in-the-way as urbanites of the world’s other cosmopolitan metropolises have been known to do. It’s a statewide attitude. It’s not a quirk. It’s a way of life, the Aloha Spirit, and it’s shared by all who call Hawaii home.