Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Hawaiian Hello



I was greeted with a variety of expressions when I visited Kaua'i. Besides the famous Aloha, which claims many layers of meaning, from hello to love, I learned that Hawaiians pour a lot of thought into saying hello. It's all about the Aloha spirit, which literally translates to sharing breath and being present in the essence of life. From younger Hawaiians, I heard, Pehea 'oe? which means how are you or what's up?  I was also  honored with a traditional greeting of  gently pressing foreheads together, which threw me off guard initially. Now I understand that according to traditional Hawaiian beliefs, words and bones contain mana or energy and spiritual power. The frontal bone of the forehead represents the true self and pressing your forehead against some else's opens the true self to each other. Most memorably, I was instructed in the Hawaiian "Shaka" greeting by the imitable Dickie Chang, above.  Dickie is a popular TV show host and a member of the Kaua'i County Council. He's also an expert on all things Hawaiian , which includes the "Shaka". I vaguely recognized it as a surfer "Hang Ten" symbol but Dickie explained that the pinkie and thumb salute is the original Hawaiian signal for hanging loose and everything being alright. Shaking your pinkie and thumb and adding the phrase, "Shaka, brah!" means you are a totally cool Hawaiian, as President Obama demonstrates, below. Have you picked up any unusual greeting during your travels?


11 comments:

A Cuban In London said...

Love the 'true self' symbolism. Although, it would probaly floor me, to. :-)

Did you have problems with blogger yesterday? I couldn't get into my account until last night and the post I'd published on Wednesday had been sent back to my 'saved drafts' folder.

Great post.

Greetings from London.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

The greetings I tend to get are the sneers when customs decide to let me through!

Fly Girl said...

Cubano, yes I had trouble all day too. The Hawaiian culture is fascinating, true self and all.

Jean-Luc, LOL!

MinnieRunner said...

That's interesting to know :) I'll take note of that and see if someone would greet me that way.

When you come to the Philippines, we will greet you "Mabuhay" which means, "Long Live".

Fly Girl said...

Minnie, that's a wonderful greeting! I will surprise my Fillipino friends with that.

Bluegreen Kirk said...

I haven't learned any new or strange greetings but I must admit that some walking up out of no where pressing their forehead to mine would have freaked me out.

Fly Girl said...

Kirk, Ha! It wasn't exactly like that. My guide for the Waimea Canyon dropped me off and I thought he was hugging me but he pressed his forehead to mine and explained that was a traditional goodbye and hello. It still threw me but I appreciated the gesture. I'll never forget it, that's for sure.

Jamie said...

That's cool indeed! Got to watch out for Hawaiian hellos=)

Fly Girl said...

Jaime, Nothing like a warm Hawaiian hello! Thanks for dropping by.

Andrew Graeme Gould said...

Very interesting about that form of greeting. I can't think of any unusual ones, myself, but you have reminded me of the beckoning sign in Japan which is done as we do, but with the palm of the hand downside.

Fly Girl said...

Andrew, there are so many informal forms of greeting that I don't think we're always aware of them.