Hawaiians Suspend Traditional Greetings Over COVID-19

Waianae, Hawaii – Glen Kila has long greeted people in the traditional Hawaiian way.

The fronts touch and he sucks in the “ha”, the other person’s breath.

“Face to face, eye to eye,” he explained of the custom, called honi. “It is sharing the spirit of each one.”


He suspended that type of greeting, and began to adopt the reverence used in some Asian cultures, when a new term emerged: social distancing.

The 6-foot (2-meter) rule of thumb to flatten the curve for confirmed coronavirus cases is the antithesis to tradition in Hawaii, where cultural norms revolve around intimacy _ greetings with hugs, kisses, and I read, the garlands hanging from the neck_ and the families are very close, Kila said.

“It is really removing that aloha from our culture,” said Kile, a practitioner of the Hawaiian culture in Waianae, a coastal town on Oahu where one of the largest populations of native Hawaiians lives. “It is really sad, but we must abide by these safety rules.”

Like many people around the world, Hawaiian residents are temporarily suspending entrenched social customs and norms as isolation and social distancing orders force cancellation of everything from a kiss-on-the-cheek European greeting to community exchange. mate, a traditional drink in some South American cultures.

In 2006, as concerns raged about a deadly and virulent form of bird flu named H5N1, the island’s then-director of health, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, warned that Hawaii would have to change its ways during a pandemic.

“Here in Hawaii we are very affectionate people, we kiss when we say hello,” he said at the time, during a state summit on influenza. “What we know is that, in a pandemic, that social behavior will need to be put aside for a while … not kiss everyone.”

Fears of spreading the coronavirus recently forced a group of native protesters to dismantle a sit-in that blocked the construction of a huge telescope on the island of Hawaii.

“Historically, we were never able to bear the diseases that were introduced to our community,” said Noe Noe Wong-Wilson _considered a kupuna, or elder, and one of the leaders in the fight against the Thirty Meter Telescope_, referring to the diseases that decimated Hawaiians since the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1778. Cook’s crew and the Europeans who followed brought chickenpox, measles, and syphilis.

In most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. In some, especially older adults and people with pre-existing conditions, it can lead to more serious conditions, including pneumonia, and even death.