What’s the big deal with the numbers 808?

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If you’re from Hawaii, then it’s not difficult to explain why the numbers 808 are significant numbers. You’ll probably laugh, but there are many number combinations in Hawaii that mean soooo many things to people. For example, certain zip codes become almost sacred numbers to certain people too. Briefly explained, 808 is the area code for the Hawaiian islands. If your phone number starts with 808, then guarantee you’re from Hawaii or lived there.

So why is it such a big deal?

Most people are proud of the place they’re from, but locals from Hawaii know that having an 808 number goes beyond that. Especially if a local moves to the mainland, the 808 number serves as a reminder that the local is NOT from the mainland. I remember when I first moved to Utah and I exchanged numbers with someone else. When I called them, the number popped up on their screen and the words “Hilo, HI” showed up underneath it. There was an immediate sense of pride in being able to prove that I’m “really from Hawaii.” It seemed to validate my Hawaiian-ness. When someone else I know from Hawaii has been living on the mainland for so long that they changed carriers, or something happened with their phones, and they no longer have an 808 number, it almost feels like that sense of camaraderie is gone.

When I took my engagement photos, I instagram messaged a friend from 96786 (can you guess the town with that zipcode? :P), and we started texting to arrange a time and place. “You still reppin the 808!” she commented after one text from me. “And you are too!” I replied, because she had kept her 808 number as well. There was just a sense of camaraderie in being from the same place and keeping that number.

Locals recognize it

No matter where you are, or what you do, if you see the numbers 808, even in the most obscure spots (I saw it graffitied on a wall in Utah once), you know there’s a Hawaii local somewhere. When I was riding down from northern Utah to Payson with my fiance, I saw a bulletin board along the freeway. It had a cartoon picture of a fish and the words 808 to 801. Immediately I knew it had to be a local who moved from Hawaii to the mainland (to Utah specifically because 801 is Utah’s area code) and had created some kind of business. When I looked it up online, sure enough it was a poke shack.

Once, when I was doing missionary visits for my church, I noticed the last name of the people we planned to visit was Cook. Sounds like locals, I thought, and when I looked at their phone numbers, sure enough they started with 808. When I finally met them, they had moved a few years ago from Hawaii. And they kept their Hawaii number. To this day I keep my Hawaii number too.

Other numbers are equally as important

Those proud of their hometowns also exhibit pride with certain numbers. If I were in a room full of locals and I were to say 96762, those from Laie on the North Shore would immediately raise their hands, proud of their hometown. 96749 is the zip code of my hometown in Hilo, and even though it’s not even the name of the town, it’s still something to be proud of. When I lived in 96786 (Wahiawa), our neighbor was a heavyset Polynesian man. He tattooed 96786 on his arm, and his lifted, black Ford truck had the numbers 808 covering the whole back window, and it was surrounded by tribal imagery of plumerias, patterns, and waves.

In general, numbers are a big deal

I think that Hawaii locals find pride in little things, like something as simple as an area or zipcode. It might be because the islands are so small that there’s nothing else to entertain ourselves with, or it also might be because of the heritage engrained in our culture. I always talk about finding a sense of place, and in Hawaii, these numbers represent the sense of place for many people, including myself. Every time I give my number or fill out paperwork that requires my phone, writing 808 reminds me of where I’m from. It’s just a tiny reminder of home. So maybe it’s kind of silly that locals obsess over 808 and zipcodes, but it’s also just kind of fun too, cause in all honesty I do it too!

What are your thoughts?

Are numbers that important to you? Are Polynesians just kind of extra in the way we celebrate the little details? Comment below! 😀

2 thoughts on “What’s the big deal with the numbers 808?

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  1. I’ve found that locals all over the world share a bond, when you find out someone is from Hawaii you just feel happy! One experience we Nada was at Disneyland in CA. A young lady that worked there asked if we were from Hawaii (we were wearing our family reunion shirts), when we said we were her face lit up, and we became instantly aunty and uncle. She got teary eyed as she told us that she was working her way through college, she missed the islands, and it was so nice to meet people from back home. We gave her big hugs before we went on our way. Later at the night show we saw her again and she waved us to the VIP area. After the show we talked some more and more hugs. We wished her well, and I think our little time together helped to lift her spirits. That’s why when we travel at least one of us in the group is wearing a Hawaii design. 😁

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    1. Oh that is SO sweet! I love the experience you shared here! I totally agree because when I worked as a waitress in a restaurant in Utah, and some locals came in, it was like we were family. We talked stories and made connections. I felt so much better after I talked to them, and so uplifted. It really made my day! I agree that there is a shared bond between locals!! Thanks for sharing your mana’o! 💙

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