Do you visit the United States when you visit Hawaii?
June 1, 2010 10:48 PM   Subscribe

Broadly speaking (internationally) is Hawaii synonymous with the United States of America?

To elaborate, I wonder if it is more commonly thought of in the context of other island states or nations, or as a constituent part of the United States.

In the lower 48, any state can be left by driving a few hours; a visitor can have a totally different experience in California than they would in Arizona. There must be in implicit awareness that one is in the United States. But Hawaii is isolated. Are world travelers more apt to think of it as something akin to Saint Pierre et Miquelon (part of France, but decidedly not France), or Alaska?
posted by unmake to Travel & Transportation around Hawaii (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I live in Hawaii. People from the mainland refer to where they come from as The States (like "back in the States, we...") Foreigners tend to realize that they are in the United States, its the Americans that seem confused. One thing that that does make me fell like a "other" is restrictive shipping from mainland companies.

As for we people living here, we do realize and are very aware that we are part of the United States.
posted by fifilaru at 11:00 PM on June 1, 2010

This seems chatfiltery. Personally (as a US citizen from the continental US) I think of it as the US. But that's just me. I've been to Hawai'i several times, and am particularly conscious of the history of America's involvement and how it's shaped the islands. Hawai'i deserves every right that accrues to it through statehood, and more.

I imagine that non-Americans (if that's what you mean by "world travelers") would perceive it as being the US because, well, it is, and that would be reinforced for them by the language, the currency, the immigration controls, legal system, etc... it's a different flavor of America from your generic mainland baseline, but then, so, as you suggest, is Alaska. Or New Mexico, for that matter.
posted by mumkin at 11:26 PM on June 1, 2010

The vast majority of Hawaii's foreign visitors are from Japan. Canada, China, and Korea are also strong. Japan obviously has a complex and well-defined view of Hawaii, given the huge population of Japanese-Americans in Hawaii and a certain skirmish. Don't know if that spills over to China and Korea. Many Koreans travel to US commonwealths/territories like Saipan and Guam and I think they realize the difference between those islands and Hawaii. Pretty sure Canada is aware.

I believe that the lengthy and difficult visa process for any travelers wishing to visit Hawaii would remind them that they're in America. Plus, for world travelers, wouldn't their knowledge of Hawaiian culture flow through US channels, like American movies and such?

Also: The GSP of Hawaii is $47 billion. The GDP of the island you linked to is $48 million. I don't they're really comparable, especially since the US GDP is only 7x France.
posted by acidic at 11:30 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

From outside of the US, the answer is a bit trickier. Aside from Americans, I imagine the second most common tourist is Japanese. It's very, very common for young Japanese people (JHS/HS/University) to say something like ' I have been to Korea, America, and Hawaii' with no connection that Hawaii is actually a part of America. In fact, some of my students have been shocked when I point it out to them.

Disclaimer: I love my students, but yeah, bottom of the barrel.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:33 PM on June 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Acidic and I obviously disagree on this point. Japan the country has a well defined relationship and history. I don't know that the average Japanese person knows that Hawaii is a part of the U.S., which is what I was trying to point out.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:36 PM on June 1, 2010

I don't think any of my friends would imagine that Hawaii was anything other than part of the USA. I mean, you go through USA immigration to enter it. It's pretty obvious.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:41 PM on June 1, 2010

Ghidorah, that's a good point, and now that I think about it, my Korean students make the same distinction. However I hesitate to use the geographic knowledge of young people as evidence, considering that American kids are some of the most geographically illiterate people in the world, yet most Americans who travel outside the country seem to have a pretty decent grasp of things.
posted by acidic at 11:49 PM on June 1, 2010

When I visit eastern Europe (and when people realize that I am originally from eastern Europe), I am often asked which state I live in, and which states I've traveled to. In the course of doing so, they'll often ask if I've been to Hawaii, which they all seem to understand is a state like Florida or California. It's states such as Delaware and Idaho and South Carolina that they're less sure of.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:50 PM on June 1, 2010

Does Hawaii have an independence movement?
posted by A189Nut at 11:52 PM on June 1, 2010

(It does indeed, A189Nut..)
posted by mumkin at 12:05 AM on June 2, 2010

At least in the U.S. I don't think anyone thinks of Hawaii the way they might Guam, Saipan, American Samoa or even Puerto Rico. Hawaii has a lot of Japanese Americans, but there are regions in the continental U.S. with lots of people from some country or other.
posted by delmoi at 12:06 AM on June 2, 2010

Hawaii's independence movement is probably less serious then Texas', but no one would say it's not a state :P
posted by delmoi at 12:06 AM on June 2, 2010

Most people seem to know that Hawaii is part of America. But to many of the natives it is still occupied land. I don't know how strong the independence movement is in Hawaii. It will probably never happen, but I know that the belief is prevalent, as soon as you get out of the rental car/hotel/golf course set.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:10 AM on June 2, 2010

I definitely don't take young people's word for things like this, but I've talked to university students who've been, on their own, to Hawaii (and Guam), and have gone through immigration, and who just didn't notice. Every time I tell stories about my students to Japanese friends, they wince. When they do that, in my best 'tell them what they've won, Don Pardo' voice, I always smile and say 'THE FUTURE OF JAPAN!'
posted by Ghidorah at 12:32 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just to chime in to reinforce Japanese view Hawaii as America. Traveling to America is something to show off. Heck, I know several Japanese who have said "I've been to America" and meant they've been to Guam, which... heck I don't even know if I'm visiting the US when I go to Guam.

Having talked to more than my share of world travelers (non Americans) I've never heard of anyone thinking otherwise about Hawaii. It's not uncommon to be on people's itineraries when traveling the US.
posted by Ookseer at 12:38 AM on June 2, 2010

It's very, very common for young Japanese people (JHS/HS/University) to say something like ' I have been to Korea, America, and Hawaii' with no connection that Hawaii is actually a part of America.

This has been my experience as well. I also had a student write a lovely essay about his dream for the future - he wanted to visit all of the wonderful cities in my country: Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, and Vancouver. But, that's a different geographical issue.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:44 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm sure that most people "know" that Hawai'i is America, but are still aware that it is a bit apart.

And sure we milk it on the road! "I'm from Hawai'i" sounds so much more exotic and fun than "I'm from the USA."
posted by kanewai at 1:58 AM on June 2, 2010

I'm English and while, if I thought about it, I would probably have been able to tell you that Hawaii was part of the US, it does sort of fall into that hazy geographical realm of 'sort of near Cuba, Barbados, generally sunny small islands'* grouping.

So, yeah, I would think of it more as a separate island rather than a state in the US.

*yes I am aware I have APPALLING geography.
posted by citands at 3:51 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've never considered it anything but a state. Although I've always found it odd that it is one.
posted by fso at 4:30 AM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth, in Japan (yeah, I know, turns out that "abroad" on MetaFilter basically means "Japan"), at SoftBank Mobile stores, where they have a list of countries you can use their international roaming plan in, Hawaii and America are two separate listings.
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:45 AM on June 2, 2010

I'm Canadian and I'm fully aware that Hawaii is part of the United States, but while I might say "I'm going down to the States for the weekend", if I was going to Hawaii, I'd specifically say Hawaii. Not because I don't think of it is a state, but more because it's a much nicer and further away state than any of the others. Going to Hawaii has a whole different feel from a quick trip across the border.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:13 AM on June 2, 2010

Australian in UK: It seems quite drilled into us that technically Hawaii is a State of USA from watching too much USA TV (Simpsons etc).

However when I think of "Hawaii" I think
1. of unfortunate island colony that has been exploited by the USA for colonialistic fervour
2. its meant to have really big waves.
3. I have no desire to ever travel there on purpose. (I had a stopover there once and didnt' leave the airport)
posted by mary8nne at 6:23 AM on June 2, 2010

I've been to Hawaii many times and I'll agree with residents above that the only people that seem to make this mistake are other Americans that often say "back in the states" instead of "back in the mainland". It's annoying once you pick up on it, because you can hear it many dozen times per day (people shopping always wonder if something big they buy "can be brought back to the states" aloud).
posted by mathowie at 7:54 AM on June 2, 2010

of unfortunate island colony that has been exploited...for colonialistic fervour

Wow, sounds like Australia.

Hawaii is an interesting and beautiful and unique American state. Never thought or think of it as anything else.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:07 AM on June 2, 2010

As a Canadian, yes Hawaii is inseparable from the United States. It might as well be 5 miles from San Fransisco.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:18 AM on June 2, 2010

This is complex. I'm Canadian. When talking about travel experience, I say that I've been to China and Hong Kong. I'm well aware of the situation; I choose to refer to them as two separate entities. If I ever went to Hawaii, perhaps I'd say the same thing, but I doubt it. To me, it would depend on the cultural differences I observed while there. If it was radically different, I'd differentiate between them. If not, I wouldn't.

I do have some experience in Korea to share. I had a colleague in Korea who had grown up in Hawaii. When the topic came up, all of my other Korean coworkers referred to her as being Korean American and having grown up in the US, not Hawaii. So there's another datapoint for you.
posted by smorange at 10:48 AM on June 2, 2010

I am American. I have always thought of Hawaii as included in America, and conceptually equal to any other state. I think that this reflects the general (but not universal) opinion of Hawaii. It was plenty obvious to me when I visited Hawaii that I was in the states. I didn't use a passport, and I didn't have to exchange my money for foreign currency (although in fairness I generally don't need to do that in Canada either, which IS a foreign country).

However, I will also mention some counter-indicative anecdotes:

When I went to Hawaii for a meeting, a Japanese friend of mine living in Michigan asked me (in Japanese) "is this your first meeting in another country?". I pointed out that Hawaii was not, in fact, another country and she seemed surprised for a moment before replying "Oh yeah, I guess not".

As mathowie and others have said, I did hear people saying things like "back in the states" when I was in Hawaii, and was somewhat surprised and annoyed by the remark.

Two things that may make Hawaii seem more like a foreign country to a visitor from the contiguous 48 states are:
(1) The uniqueness of the Hawaiian language. I had never heard the word "mahalo" before going to Hawaii. Once I'd arrived I heard it constantly. Street names, and other signage containing Hawaiian words may feel somewhat "foreign" to someone who is used to absolutely everything in English, and maybe Spanish.
(2). Having to fill out a declaration form on the plane before landing. I was quite surprised at having to do this, as it's something I normally associate with crossing national borders. This made the trip feel a little more "international".

As I said, I have always thought of Hawaii the same as any other US state, but I do feel that people who tend to forget that might be given a bit more leeway because of the 2 things I mentioned above.
posted by Vorteks at 11:07 AM on June 2, 2010

Just for a datapoint, in the 1980s my brother's parole officer wasn't sure about letting him visit the 50th state with the rest of us -- he didn't know if Hawai'i was even part of the USA. You know, geographically- and historically-challenged Americans -- some of whom even occupy positions of authority.
posted by Rash at 11:40 AM on June 2, 2010

Hawaii and America are two separate listings

Geographically, that's accurate IMO. America = North+Central+South, but Hawai'i's in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
posted by Rash at 11:42 AM on June 2, 2010

I'm Canadian, I would also say "I went to Hawaii" rather than "I went to the states" but I think that's because the US is big and inevitably someone is going to ask you "where in the states?" I would also say "I went to California" or "I went to Texas" etc.
posted by juv3nal at 11:57 AM on June 2, 2010

Hawaii and America are two separate listings.

Alaska is listed separately as well. It's because Alaska and Hawaii have different roaming coverage and providers than the rest of the US does.
posted by armage at 5:53 PM on June 2, 2010

Thanks to all who've responded!
posted by unmake at 1:14 AM on June 5, 2010

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