The Difference Between Living in Honolulu and Living in Chicago

Moving from Honolulu to Chicago brings with it some inevitable culture shock. Both places are beautiful and unique, but that's about where the similarities end. I'm often asked which I like better – this question is hard to answer because all of the best things about each place are what makes them so different from each other. 

1. Weather

Let's get this obvious one out of the way – I'm sitting here in Chicago in the middle of a polar vortex where I can't safely leave my apartment, while my fellow Hawaii friends are shivering in their 68 degree 'winter.'

But beyond that one's hot and one's cold (cue Katy Perry), there's a difference in the way each place makes you feel. Hawaii is filled with seemingly endless, magical summer nights where you can run down the beach at 2 am in your shorts, but yet it leaves you feeling a bit empty around the holidays when there's supposed to be snow on the ground and a chill in the air. I also completely forgot how absolutely enchanting autumn can be, and Chicago and its surrounding suburbs have so many huge beautiful trees that change colors in the fall and make you feel as though you're walking right through an old storybook. 

2. Folks 'round here

In Hawaii we have a concept that everyone sort of inherently follows: aloha spirit. Aloha spirit means treat everyone like family, go out of your way to be kind, and don't sweat the small stuff. It's embodied in the culture to be very kind to strangers, and being a stranger to the island myself I felt very warm and comforted by the way the locals accepted me. Driving is suuuuper frustrating though – people will cut you off, drive 20 mph under or wait at a green light for 30 seconds and the expectation is that you just relax about it and throw a shaka out the window in forgiveness of the offense.

In Chicago, people are kind – but not so outwardly so. The city atmosphere seems to be everyone for themselves, keep to yourself, and don't worry about other people's business. This is fine too – it forces a level of independence as you realize that it's up to you and only you to take care of yourself. And, when you do get to know people and find those who truly are kind and considerate, it feels like an extra special connection. 

3. Culture

There's a running joke that most mainlanders don't even realize Hawaii is a state – the amount of times I've been asked "do you have to have a passport to go there?" is a bit concerning. In reality though, Hawaii was an independent nation long before it was a state, and its made up of indigenous people and other Pacific island and Asian cultures that are not so prominent in the rest of the U.S. The public school system truly failed me – in all the history classes I was forced to take growing up not once did I learn about the history of the invasion of Hawaii, Queen Liliuokalani or the beautiful mixing cultures of Hawaii, the Philippines, Samoa, Micronesia and many others. It's truly the most diverse place I've ever been to and it led me to have friends in my network from all over the world. 

Chicago has its own rich culture ≠ the history of the World Fair, its many museums, theaters, and music events, and of course, the hard and fast rule to never put ketchup on your hot dog. It's a truly "American" city filled with pride and history, and its sheer size means that there are many smaller communities within it such that anyone can find a place where they belong. Both are wonderful, but the island life vs the Great Lakes life honestly couldn't be more different. 

There are many more things that make Honolulu and Chicago different, many more reasons why I love them both, and still plenty of places to explore before I pick a city to live in for the long term. For now, I just feel extremely lucky for having experienced life in both of these wonderful cities.