a to z: h is for hawaiian hug

Hug O’ War illustration by Shel Silverstein

Here in Hawaii, we use the Hawaiian handshake – a hug. Hugs in Hawaii are for greetings, expressions of love, and sacred representations of trust. We hug friends. We hug strangers. We hug people we haven’t seen in a while and we hug people we see all the time. We hug girls and boys, Aunties and Uncles, nieces and nephews, teachers and co-workers. We connect and communicate on a level that a handshake and words cannot.

For some, the full-body local hug has evolved into a cheek-to-cheek kiss involving an audible smooch with hands strategically contacting each others’ shoulder, arm, or elbow. However, I still prefer to give and receive real ol’ fashion hugs. It feels much more natural to me than the half-lean-in-half-cheek-touch-body-contorted-lip-smacking-*smooch*.

Hawaiian hugging involves respectfully and lovingly opening yourself up to another person. You’re close enough to feel body heat and exchange breath, yet not too close that it’s uncomfortable. The embrace lasts for just enough time to connect and disconnect, but not too brief or overstayed. It happens simultaneously yet doesn’t need planning or discussion or even any thought, for that matter. Nonverbally, hugs convey so much.

In Hawaii, friendships start with hugs.

  • A to Z Challenge: H
  • Daily Prompt: Why Can’t We Be Friends? – Do you find it easy to make new friends? Tell us how you’ve mastered the art of befriending a new person.


17 thoughts on “a to z: h is for hawaiian hug

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  4. I’m a hugger too, which is odd for an introvert. I’m not sure where I picked up the habit. maybe it’s a California thing. I dunno. I just hug people. Except for strangers. Yeah, strangers don’t get hugs… handshakes or fistbumps for strangers. ^_^


    • You read my mind! I meant to include a line in my post re: the discrepancy between being an introvert and the expectations when living in a culture of huggers. Also along those lines is my tendency to touch when talking. Oh, and strangers that “earn” hugs are usually friends of friends…I definitely don’t go around hugging any ol’ stranger out there! 😉


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    • I think the whole “introvert” type doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t like people… it just means we deal with ourselves and our thoughts in more internalized ways. And because of it, we may not enjoy the “intrusion” physical contact between ourselves and others creates. Social hugging, for me, is way different from love hugging (like hugging family members/kids/your loved ones)… I conform to the Hawaiian social graces, but thoroughly enjoy the latter!


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    • In Hawaii, the Aloha spirit means everyone is family. Very few are actually strangers as this person knows that person and, if you chat long enough with someone, you’ll find some degree of connection. The Hawaiian/social hug is not one of intimacy but one that exemplifies the Aloha spirit. However, for some, any type of physical contact is considered intimate. In that case, I can understand where hugging strangers may feel like a line is being crossed. Thanks for sharing!


  7. Ick, I loathe air kissing. I find it so pretentious, like, “Daaaarling, how I’ve miiiissed you!” sort of thing. Nothing in my mind beats, as you say, a good bear-squeeze of a hug. I have a weird tendency of picking up my friends when I hug them, particularly if I haven’t seen them in ages – although it really only works if they’re smaller than me, haha 🙂

    The Hawaiian Hug sounds perfect! I’ll have to start adopting that as my new hugging method!


    • Hahaha! I could totally picture (and hear) your “Daaaarling…” comment. Hug ups (I just made that up) are a lot more intimate and saved for close friends and, to me, express a level of silliness and closeness that is different from the way I’d hug my Grandmas. And, being on the petite side, I’M usually the picker-uppee vs. the picker-upper!


  8. Cheek-kissing is a strange thing. My father-in-law is from upstate New York and he appears to immensely dislike hugs, so he gives you a big sloppy kiss on the cheek. My upbringing is that hugs are polite when with those you are relatively close to, so it seems odd to me!


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