A view of Hawaii from the outside
Kamaaina may not realize it, but Hawaii is a strange place and it's been called the first exotic place.
It still is, although we don't confront this truth on a daily basis, but came to the foreground once Barack Obama became president, and all over Capitol Hill, people couldn't contain comments like the following from ABC News political analyst Cokie Roberts, who criticized the president for returning to Hawaii for a week of vacation.
She said: "I know his grandmother lives in Hawaii and I know Hawaii is a state, but it has the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place."
So it was interesting when Brigitte Burgess, an associate professor from the University of Southern Mississippi's Department of Marketing and Merchandising, brought 12 of her students on an eye-opening 10-day excursion to Hawaii to study our consumer and retail culture. The students pay their own way through fundraising efforts and their own savings, and Burgess said she wants to come back when another group of students is able to make the trip.
She said she usually heads to New York, or ventures to closer cities like Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago, but knew from past trips that Hawaii had something more amazing to offer, with our mix of rock-bound locals, international travelers and kamaaina companies with manufacturing facilities still in place, while much on the mainland has been lost to overseas production.
The students ended up hitting Waikiki boutiques, Ala Moana Center and the Waikele Premium Outlets, as well as touring the Jams World and Island Slipper facilities, and were impressed by what they saw.
On a side note, Jams World marks its 50th anniversary this year, and in preparation is hosting a Facebook search for Jams World Moments. Through Sept. 30, post photos from any decade of yourself or others wearing Jams World clothing in day-in-the-life scenarios, from enjoying the beach to Aloha Friday to a birthday celebration. Use the hashtag #JamsWorld50 or post the photo on Jams World's Facebook page. Contributors who draw the most likes and shares will win gift certificates.
One of Burgess' students, Epiphany (yes, that really is her name!), shared a glimpse of how we are perceived in the outside world, which I always find so interesting.
QUESTION: Why did you want to come on a study tour to Hawaii?
ANSWER: As a graduating senior, I could not leave USM without attending this particular study tour. It's purpose for knowledge of Hawaii fashion industry, culture learning and most of all relaxation.
Q: How do people in Hawaii dress differently than in Mississippi?
A: As we as a group visited many places, I notice individuals were very comfortable. It's just swimsuit cover-up type thing. On the professional side of things, I seen more business casual rather than business professional. In MS we wear sandals and beach attire only to the beach, we could never get away with just being free and in and out of places such as the Hawaiian stores.
Q: What was the best part of the study tour?
A: I think the best part of the study tour was visiting Jams World and Island Slippers. It really is nice to learn about certain products and to actual learn about its production and history. Of course the beach was peaceful and relaxing as well.
Q: Were you surprised to see so many luxury brands and stores? Why or why not?
A: Yes, as we walked the streets we noticed all those luxury stores. We asked why to some local business owners and residents. We learned that majority of the Asians tend to come and purchase those items because of less expensive. As an American, the tax rate would make a big difference to us.
(Note: Mississippi's sales tax rate of 7 percent. Counties and cities can charge an additional local sales tax for a maximum sales tax of 7.25 percent. The Hawaii sales tax rate is lower than 75 percent of states, at 4 percent, or a maximum of 4.712 in special tax jurisdictions.)
Q: What were some memorable site visits and why?
A: The historical palace, to learn the history of Hawaii. Hilo Hatties was very welcoming and it's more of a historical visiting center for tourist to be apart of the Hawaiian culture.
Q: How did you spend your free time?
A: Free time was spent mainly on the beach. I went snorkeling at hanuma bay. We took surf lesson as a group and we also ate out every night and local Hawaiian restaurants.
Q: What did you notice about the cultures in Hawaii?
A: That its really a life style from the mainland. Its very relaxing, wonderful foods to try and eat!
Q: How will the study tour help you professionally?
A: It help me as a graduate to have an open mind about opportunities within the island and that can be brought to the island from the mainland but still have a Hawaiian feel to it!
Q: Have you been on another study tour? Where? How did it compare to Hawaii?
A: Yes, last May I went to NYC. Totally day and night, Hawaii calm and relaxing at your own pace. NYC you have to prepare yourself for what's next, its a time schedule to me, and noise!
Q: Do you plan to return to Hawaii?
A: Yes, I would love to one day return to possible to live there.
Q: Were you surprised to see manufacturing on Oahu?
A: Yes, I thought we had to travel miles away but to actually see products being made here was unbelievable.
Q: How were store assortments and customers different than in Mississippi?
A: Very different atmosphere. It's a lot of different restaurants. We tend to have a lot of fast food places. As far as shopping stores, the variety is similar to the mainland stores although the prices are different. Some stores only carried certain styles that only Hawaii carried.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage appears in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter, Instragram and Rebel Mouse.