By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations
A few weeks ago, one of us passed by a tour boat company. Outside, a young man was giving a briefing to an assembly of visitors before they departed on their excursion. The man started off with a big “AlOhaaaa.” Then he told the group “E komo mai!” and asked “Do you know what that means?” No one raised their hand so he obliged: “It means ‘good morning!’” Huh?
More recently, we heard an individual, who could count his residence here in days, chide another individual for wearing a flower behind his ear, apparently oblivious that wearing flowers behind one’ s ear is a Polynesian custom practiced by men and women alike.
These incidents occurred in professional settings and are reminders that it’s good PR to know and honor the place in which you conduct business so you can speak and act with knowledge and sensitivity. After all, you never know who might be listening or watching.
We all contribute to the culture of the places we live, whether we are born and raised or relocated there. But it’s up to all of us, in and outside of business, to learn about and carry ourselves in accordance with the root culture, values, and traditions of where we work, live, and play. This doesn’t mean we should all morph into new people or deny our original cultures. It just means we should be aware of where we are and adapt gracefully.
Though Hawai`i is a cultural melting pot, some of its ingredients are in chunks while others are well blended. Navigating your way through the stew can be a complex endeavor, especially if you’re a newcomer. As we are all well aware, tourism is Hawaii’s top industry. One of the big reasons visitors come here is because of our special sense of place, including the aloha spirit, our pace of life, and our ways of doing things, some ancient and some new. All facets of business and society flourish when there’s understanding and harmony. To that end, a great resource for Kaua`i businesses, especially those that have newcomer employees, are Hawai`i culture courses. These classes teach Hawaiian history, local customs, and that “e komo mai” means “welcome,” not “good morning.” Whether you’ve been here forever or for 129 days, take the time to learn about and gently perpetuate Kauai’s culture.