julia Kuhn, MS, CCC-SLP

Advice for Mainlanders Working Healthcare Jobs in Hawaii

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Taking a travel or permanent assignment in Hawaii probably sounds like an amazing job opportunity. You may be picturing yourself on the beach or hiking through the luscious mountains! The fact of the matter is that working in Hawaii is WORK. And, being nearly 3,000 miles from the west coast of the US makes Hawaii a very different place to work compared to the mainland. After living and working in Hawaii for two years, these are my best tips for being successful while working in Hawaii.

Related: Hawaii Travel Healthcare Assignment: Is It For Me?

Know the Language

Hawaii is a melting pot of cultures and languages from all over the world. English is the official language of Hawaii. However, the native Hawaiian language and the Hawaiian English Creole language, Pidgin, are infused into everyday life and culture. The early immigrants and migrant workers of Hawaii created Pidgin Creole so that all of the different cultures could communicate with each other.

Words of Pidgin and Hawaiian are very much infused into the everyday speech and activities of Hawaii. Here are some helpful words to know as a healthcare professional:

Aloha: Hello/Goodbye
Mahalo: Thank you
Howzit: How are you? What’s up?
Kokua: Cooperate, help, be of assistance
Haole: Foreigner, probably what you will be called as a mainlander
Pau: Finished, done, no more
Plenty: Many, a lot
Shi shi: #1
Doo doo: #2
Shi shi bottle: Urinal
Shi shi tube: Catheter
Okole: Bottom, butt (e.g. move your okole back in the chair)
Da Kine: This could mean just about anything (person, place, thing activity). Kind of like “it” “he” “she” “there” all rolled into one.
Brah/Sis: Friendly term to refer to another person of around the same age, get somebody’s attention
Aunty/Uncle: Friendly term to refer to somebody who is older than you
Ohana: Family
Ono: Delicious, tasty
Broke da mouth: Very tasty
Talk Story: Small talk, chit chat
Mauka: Towards the mountains
Makai: Towards the sea

Don’t Try to Change Things

This is the truth with any travel assignment that you take, but especially true in Hawaii. Different hospitals and systems have different ways of doing things. Just because a place does something differently than the way that you are used to doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Hospitals in Hawaii run a little slower than typical mainland hospitals. You may not have the access to doctors, specialists, or procedures in the timely manner that you are accustomed to. Things may be different. Don’t try to change things. Instead, embrace the change and learn.

Don’t Be Overly Assertive

While speaking to nurses and therapists, one of the biggest turnoffs of mainlanders is how assertive they are. Locals of Hawaii are typically less assertive than mainlanders. The aloha spirit embraces treating others kindly and as you would want to be treated.

The islands are small and there is a narrow degree of separation between everybody there. Being rude or overly assertive to a stranger could travel through circles and affect another relationship or job opportunity that you may have.Telling a doctor or fellow coworker how to do something or being overly pushy could have a negative effect on your overall work experience.

Your co-workers will take notice of your attitude and professional capabilities. Once you have established some respect in the unit, this may be a better time to be assertive when making certain recommendations or ideas, versus in the beginning of a contract.

Understand Directions

If you ask somebody for directions in the hospital or the street, don’t be surprised if they give you directions by mauka (towards the mountains) or maikai (towards the water).

People in Hawaii commonly give directions by the mountains or water, as well as other landmarks (e.g. towards the Diamond Head side). They also give directions by north, south, east, west. Being familiar with where you are in relation to water, landmarks and mountains can help you to better navigate the island.

Respect the Culture

Hawaii is a melting pot of cultures from around the world. There’s the native Hawaiian population, as well as Filipino, Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese, and many more. It is important to respect the local culture and it’s unique history. Equally important is respecting the land, which makes these islands such a special place.

Try the Food

Since community is such a big part of Hawaiian culture, it should not be a surprise that potlucks are common at breakrooms! Earn the respect of your co-workers by trying local Hawaiian dishes such as musubi, manapua, poi, malasadas, or pork hash.

Score bonus points with co-workers by bringing food to add to the breakroom table!

Be Kind!

The kindness and warmth of the people of Hawaii make it a special place to live and work. Community and family are important pillars of the culture in Hawaii. Being friendly, humble and kind are important to succeeding on the job.

On the streets, you will not see people honking their horns, flipping the bird, or yelling at other cars. Instead, you see drivers slowing down to let others merge and waiting for other drivers to make a turn. The same applies at work. Be kind and patient!

Hawaii can be a new and exciting place for a job! Go out of your way to help another nurse or therapist. This is a great way to make a good impression and succeed on the job!

For more tips on Hawaii check out:

What to Pack for Your Hawaii Travel Assignment
How To Find Short Term Housing
How To Find Transportation

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