What is Aloha, Anyway?

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Even those who have never visited Hawaii have probably heard the word “aloha” before. It is commonly known as a Hawaiian greeting (both hello and goodbye) and is also used as the word for love. But it goes much deeper than that and is actually a quite powerful concept. So what does it actually mean?

Aloha can be viewed as a way of life and a state of mind, a sort of philosophy that defines the Hawaiian people and their culture. See, when you say aloha to someone, it is not something you merely say, as with other words and greetings. It is expressed sincerely from the heart, with a genuine intention to spread love and good vibes. So whether you’re walking into a store or saying farewell to a friend, a warm aloha accompanied with a smile is much more special than a typical greeting. It does more than give you the warm fuzzies and brighten your day. It sends you good, positive energy.

Another thing you may hear about is the “aloha spirit” that can be found in Hawaii. This embodies having love and respect for all others, and living in harmony. Out of all the places I have been in the world, this is the first place where I’ve ever seen people treating others with real respect and kindness. It was noticeable and unmistakable to me right away when I first arrived in the rainbow state. In general, people are much happier than anywhere else I’ve ever been, thus they’re naturally more friendly and kind. I have had strangers pay for things for me, go out of their way to help me, and start conversing with me as if they’ve known me my whole life. Sometimes, the lady behind me in line will just start talking as if we’re the best of friends. Little kids who don’t know me call me their “auntie” and strangers call me “sister” or “cousin” and the thing is, they really do treat me as if I’m their ohana (family). It’s so refreshing.

It makes total sense why people are so much happier here. After all, this is paradise. Fabulous weather and pristine beaches are enough to keep most people pretty content. However, there’s so much more to it than that. The most important value for native Hawaiians is to honor the aina (land) and appreciate all it has to offer and sustain us. No matter what Hawaiians endured throughout history, they managed to preserve their culture, which is deeply ingrained with values of compassion and peace. Thus I believe the sense of gratitude they maintain is the biggest reason why they, as a people, are more pleasant than others.

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Here, they operate at an infamously slower pace, where people stop to enjoy the smaller things in life and will help others whenever they can. Hawaiian people may now have their share of problems across these islands, including the ridiculous cost of living that causes many to work several jobs to make ends meet. However, none of this seems to break their spirit. They still seem to enjoy life and appreciate what matters most in life – family and love. That is exactly why their concept of aloha not only survived over the years, but thrived.

Does this mean everyone spreads aloha and lives with this spirit? Absolutely not. There are a fair share of assholes here, just like there are everywhere else. There is plenty of crime committed here, people can be rude and cold, and don’t even get me started on the way people drive. However, in comparison with other places, it’s very minimal. On the mainland, it feels like every man is for himself. And although there may be 1 million people crammed on this tiny island of Oahu, there is more of a close-knit community vibe. And if you venture to other islands, you will surely experience even more aloha than on busy Oahu.

Aloha is something that draws countless visitors wishing to experience this and perhaps take some home with them. However, I will say that it is a totally different experience to visit Hawaii and learn about aloha, than it is to live here and have it actually become a part of your lifestyle. As much as I have tried to explain it, honestly it is still something that truly cannot be translated or accurately described. Whether you’re from here or are a transplant like me, almost everyone here just gets it. It’s a certain vibe that you just can’t fake or duplicate. When I go back to the mainland, by the time I arrive at the airport I notice the lack of aloha and it makes me miss Hawaii right away. So it’s no wonder why aloha has now become so famous around the world with everyone wanting a piece of it. Spreading aloha is something that has simply made the world a better place.

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