Hawaiians from the other Thread, c'mere!

Following on the other Thread about people living in Hawaii…
What’s it like living in Hawaii? Is it easy to find work? Is it worth living there?

We live in Prague now, and we are thinking of moving back to the States in 3 to 5 years. We don’t have to move back to Colorado (where I’m from)…We’ve been thinking about moving back to somewhere else, somewhere with a beach.

We live in apartments here, so we can easily do it there (no need for a big house), my wife has a Master’s degree in English language and Lit., and I work in investments, but I’m thinking about doing that small biz thing.

What are the schools like for kids? Is it a neat place to live, or are the hassles of day-to-day life the thing that makes people go mainland? What should I know about the different islands? Anything else?

Take care-

Let me preface by saying that I was born and raised here and except for four years of college and one year of living and working in Los Angeles, I have very little frame of reference.

It’s very nice. If not for the traffic, I’d say it was perfect.

Well…on second thought, that’s not quite true. Hawaii isn’t the place for culture exactly. We have a, IIRC, state run symphony, and musicals/operas now and then, but that’s pretty much it on that front (we also have smaller, “local” theater groups, but they tend towards local works, not the “classics”). It’s also not the best state for independent/foreign film, though it’s getting better. I’d say there’s a max of six screens showing such films unless it’s something big, of the CT,HD or possibly Memento level of visibility.

Work, in general, is on the difficult side, though you may not have it so bad. UH, last I heard, had a pretty mediocre English department, so your wife might be able to find work there. (OTOH, financing and management for UH has been rough the last few years.)

Small biz may be more successful here than elsewhere. I say that because Hawaii has a more efficient bus system than most places (from what I hear, anyway), and is also small. The two factors combine for significantly higher pedestrian traffic than places like LA. OTOH, Hawaii is an expensive place to do business (high rents), so you want to pick your location and your business very carefully.

The schools, IMHO, are very good. There’s talk of drug problems in the school districts in the poorer neighborhoods, but AFAIK, it’s not to the point where “normal” kids would feel threatened or scared. (If my high school experience is any indication, the drinkers/smokers/druggie kids don’t spend much time on campus anyway.) AudreyK and I were both public school kids all the way, and we both turned out okay by it, even by more or less objective standards such as standardized tests and (for me) mainland college performance. (Note: You hear a lot about poor SAT scores for HI kids. This is largely due to our having a sizeable number of immigrants from Southeast Asia and the island nations of the region, and the fact that we don’t tinker with our results as much as some other states do.)

Overall, I think the largest downside of living in Hawaii is the traffic. Then again, I lived for a year in LA, so I don’t think it’s that bad at all. :slight_smile:

Is it worth it? I think so. There are those that gripe about living in Hawaii, but I think the effect of living in a very sunny, very green state more than makes up for things.

The bad:
Housing is expensive. Gas is expensive. Schools are mediocre. (I’m talking about the public schools; I haven’t heard anything bad about the private schools here, so I assume they’re okay). Public schools and state university in particular are suffering because they need money.

Hawaii has a history of being a bad place to start up a business. I wish I could link to an article, but I read a piece many years ago that talked about the ways the state government and big businesses here make starting and running a small business hell.

It’s is only made worse by the horrible state of the economy. The job ads in the classifieds run only several columns wide; they used to run pages, even multiple sections. Lots of people are getting laid off, and lots more are taking multiple, menial jobs. Businesses die easily, particularly the old mom-and-pop type shops that have been around for 50+ years.

Quite a few of the younger people (twentysomethings) are leaving for the mainland because of the economy and dearth of jobs. A half-dozen of my closer friends all moved to the mainland, and others are planning to once they finish graduate schoool. I’m moving, as mentioned in that Hawaii Dopers thread. I’m doing it mostly to see other places and to try living on my own for a while, but there’s also the reason that Hawaii’s just not an easy place to live right now because of the economy. I have a bachelor’s in psychology. If I could find a decent job, I’d stay here and be perfectly content travelling once a year. But short of working three jobs at insanely tiny wages, I can’t do that here now.

The good:
Gosh, what can I say? I mean, it’s Hawaii. It’s beautiful, warm, and filled with a variety of cultures, foods, and sights. Most people are very nice, and I think most people from Hawaii feel a sense of family/community (ohana). It’s a tourist haven, so there’s good food and good shopping.

Commuting’s likely in your future, but traffic’s not as bad as LA or anyplace else on the mainland. I live 15 miles from the state university, and the drive takes about an hour during rush hour by car and about two hours by bus. The bus system’s far from perfect, but it’s supposedly good. Won awards in 2000 from some national transit association, or something. (I rode it daily for 8 years, and I’m a little skeptical about their judging standards. :))

BTW, I’m speaking mostly for Honolulu and the island of Oahu. I haven’t spent enough time on the other islands to speak for them. But I do know that the Big Island and Kauai are more rural, more laid back, less modern, and less crowded.

Most people I know love it here and wouldn’t have wanted to grow up elsewhere. Those who hate it here complain that it’s too small and doesn’t have enough of what the mainland offers. It’s true, but some folks find they like that about Hawaii. YMMV.

Other than that, well, you’ll have to see the place for yourself. I forget which Doper it was (Athena?), but they were also contemplating moving here. The consensus was that they try living here for 6 months and then re-evaluate. I’m not sure if you can experiment like that, but I recommend you do that if you can.

As for me, I’ve never left here for longer than one month. I’m looking forward to moving, but I always liked living here and was happy to be from here. (People on the mainland seem more receptive to you and excitedly ask you questions and stuff. :)) I hope to come back often to visit and/or come back for good one day. Hawaii has its minuses, but the pluses make it more than worth it.

KKB and I differ in our opinions of schools. Coupla reasons: We went to different elementary and middle schools in different neighborhoods; I think his schools were better. IMO, they were in nicer urban, less poor neighborhoods, with larger native-English speaking population. Not that I lived in an Asian ghetto, or anything.

Also, I think he was a better student that I was and got more out of his schooling than I did. I wasn’t a complete slacker, nor did I hate school, but until high school, I was a decidedly average student.

Well, they covered it much better than I could.

All I can say is, I’ve toyed with the idea of moving to the mainland, but when it came down to it, I prefer the lifestyle and culture here. Mind you, when I say here, I mean Oahu (where Waikiki and Diamond Head and all that good stuff are that you see on TV), not Maui or the Big Island. No offense to the outer islanders, but that is waaaay too laid-back for me.

I was public school, all the way. I went into the Honors program at UH and promptly got kicked out. However it was probably due to the fact that I was never in any classes :smiley: , rather than due to the quality of the education I got in HS.

Lately, though, the stories I hear from my dad (the retired substitute), I think I am going to try and send my son to a private school. Way expensive though.

I also had a large post but lost it, sigh.

Anyway my views on public schools is WAY different then the above. I think our schools are poor, one of the worst in the nation. Of course I did go to Kaimuki, one of the poorest in the state. But we are way behind on maintenance and basic upkeep. The moral of our teachers is very low due to a humongous strike last year (that also included the University Professors) and last I heard they were still bickering about the outcome. It was amazing, last year our states entire public education system shut down, from kindergarten to people in the PhD program, nobody was learning. Our teachers are some of the most underpaid in the nation and we have a problem with losing them to higher paying positions in California. Interesting enough our Police Department has the same problem. Many of the older schools have no air conditioning and some classrooms can get very hot, so they give them a fan. My school had no doors or toiletpaper in the boys bathroom. For some reason they insist on mowing the lawn during school time, and remember the windows are open since it can be hot.

Now our private schools are some of the best in the world. In fact several famous people have gone to them. The guy who started AOL went to Iolani. While many public schools practice social promotion the private schools definately seem to push you more to try harder. Although since I graduated in 1992 it’s been awhile since I was in school. If you look at the state data you’ll find that Hawaii has the highest percentage of private school students in the nation, all though this is an old source but I’m certain we’re still top 5. And they’re not all religious.

But here’s a great thing about Hawaii. It’s safe. It’s really safe. Our violent crime rates 247 for Hawaii to 566 National (per 100k), murder 2.0 to 6.3. We’re lower in all categories except for property crimes, theft and larceny. I have never felt afraid to live here. Not even while living on the Big Island inthe middle of Fern Forest, one of Hawaii’s prime pot (marijuana) growing area. There is the occasional splashy crime but by and large we are a very safe state. But living on the mainland there were many times when I was afraid.

People will say it is expensive and it is, you pay more for gas and food. But you also don;t have to worry about heating and cooling your house or maintain a winter wardrobe.

Oahu is the business isle. More people live on this island then the others combined, and then some. Oahu is very crouded, but you can still get away. Kauai is a very rural place. Maui is kind of a yuppy playground. That where Charles Lindberg died, George Harrison owned a place there and Oprah just bought a place there too. Or at least that’s how I see it. Hawaii (the Big Island) is where I was born and it’s also very rural, but it has a University. There’s absolutely no reason to go to Lanai unless you want to work for the tourist company that basically owns the island. Molokai is the most rural of all. When I went there they had 1 stoplight. Unemployment is much higher on all outer islands then Oahu. Opportunities are much lower and prices are higher.

And Hawaii is best with the best surfing (Oahu) and windsurfing (Maui) spots in the world. Great place to take them up and become world class at them. Lots of good hikes with spectacular views.

One and “Rock Fever,” many mainlanders eventually come to feel trapped on the island cause they can’t drive 8 hours and be in Canada. Not sure what to do about that, I’ve never felt it. If I wanted to go to Canada I’d just fly there.

Oh, one more thing. This is one of the most Democratic states in the nation. I’d wager no state could go through the past 10 years as we have and not kick the sitting party out of office. And yet we haven’t. I think our last Republican gov. was … 1964? I wasn’t born then so I may be wrong.

Minor nitpick: Osiris, I believe you’re referring to Steve Case, who I think went to Punahou.

The quality of the public schools here can vary greatly. I went to Moanalua, and I thought I got a reasonably good education - I wasn’t extremely motivated, so a private school might have done me some good. However, my public school education was enough to get me through four years of Caltech.

For my own kids, finances will probably dictate that they attend public schools - at least through 6th grade. I hear the school in our district, Waialae Elementary, is pretty good.

As far as quality of life here in Hawaii, I can only speak for my personal experience living on Oahu. High cost of living and long commute times would be the biggest drawbacks to living here. If you are into ocean sports, you should enjoy it here. And most people are pretty friendly. And it’s pretty safe (if you avoid a few areas).

All in all, I’m glad I can afford to live here, and I want my kids to grow up here.

In regards to schools, let me add two notes:

  1. There are the “good schools” and the “bad schools” (where bad=poor=possible lack of classroom materials, narrower range of classes, possibly more discipline problems), and everybody knows, more or less, which schools are which.

  2. Hawaii has, in my experience, a fairly liberal geographic exemption (GE) policy. Personally, I was supposed to go to Kaimuki (same as Osiris), but got a GE to go to McKinley on some flimsy excuse (ostensibly to take advantage of McKinley’s special, one of a kind business program; I took one business class - typing). Others I’ve known have gotten GEs based on location of parents’ place of employment, addresses of relatives (they ostensibly live with Grandma, who is in X school district), and other reasons.

Of course GEs mean that you often do have to go farther (I didn’t since I’m very close to/on the border of McKinley and Kaimuki school districts) to drop your kid off at school.

And just to give you one example of the disparity between schools, Kaimuki had, IIRC, 3 AP courses available during the mid-90s (while I was in HS), with one of them being a TV class (I forget what they call it, but the actual instruction is done via a television broadcast, and a proctor/TA administers tests and, presumably, collects/corrects homework if there is any). McKinley HS, by comparison, had at either six or seven, of which I think I took five.

OTOH, I believe Kaimuki has a kick ass drama program, and facilities to match.

Yup, When I took AP Calculus our teacher was on Maui. We watched him on TV and he’d randomly call his various schools to ask them questions. Let me tell you that this was an incredible situation. Put 8 boys in a class by themselves, nobody to watch over them. Amazingly enough we paid attention. We had to fax our homework in, fax our tests over and then fax them back. Thankfully for AP Physics we had a flesh and blood teacher.

That when also when I first met the internet. All High Schools in the state were connected and we could go and chat. Since it was in the library right next to the calculus class I used to go a flirt on-line as far back as 1991, I was “the Pecos Kid.”

Kewl, thanks!

This is just an idea. But, who knows?

Is business picking up there with Asia? I know that the Internet is taking care of a bunch of stuff, but I was wondering if the locale is prime for future business. Seems like the US is tieing stronger knots, so…


Well we are trying to position ourselves as the link between Asia and mainland America. We just spent a lot of money to ‘brand’ Hawaii and they came up with a motto, something about aloha and the bottom line. Personally I’m skeptical and think it may be another “Thumbs Up” campaign. Back in 1995 when things were at the lowest in the state they tried to encourage us to buy more by running TV ads of local well knowns telling us “Thumbs up!”

So while there used to be a lot of lip service to diversifying the economy here maybe now they’re putting some real effort to do it. But still the bulk of effort is still in the tourism industry. We’re working on bringing more Koreans and Chinese to Hawaii. We’ve also got some effort to bring Spanish speakers here.

Our downtown is fairly nice. With a million people on the island if you can get them to spend money on your services you can do very well. Cheap Tickets started as a local company and now serves … well I think they went national and moved out of state. Being on the west coast made more sense to them. But they still started here. Our banks our decent size. Although one is suffereing from some terrible management in the 90s and is going through a painful restructuring effort. Ala Moana shopping center is still the most profitable mall (by area) in the world (last I heard).

So it all depends. Probably there’s less leeway here but if you have a good sound business plan you should be fine.

Are you talking about the “Buy Hawaii” campaign? I frickin’ hate that thing.

For those of you not familiar with it, it’s basically a commercial (or series of?) that says “the economy in Hawaii is really bad right now, people are poor and businesses are suffering, so despite the fact that you can get much better prices online, please buy local.”

Sorry, guys, but I’m one of those poor folks. I support the local economy as much as possible, but I’m shopping where I get the most bang for my buck, sorry.

It was in 1995. It’s probably the same campaign, I never could get past the fact that our state paid so much so people could come on TV and tell us “Thumbs Up” to pay any attention to anything they said.