Now I have to admit this is a bit targeted towards those people who are moving here for a job or maybe with the military but there are a few important details in here for tourists as well. I hope you find these tips helpful and if you have any of your own please feel free to add them in the comments below!
1. Don't assume you're not understood because you speak English.
The language most commonly used in Okinawa is Japanese, however, English is also known by a number of people. Sometimes those people are comfortable enough to strike up a conversation in English but others may be more timid and keep to themselves. Regardless it should be common practice to conduct yourself as though others understand what it is you're saying . . . . . because they just might.
2. Don't be afraid to shop around.
Okinawa has a lot of conveniently placed "deals" for military members and tourists alike. Merchants, dealers and other sales professionals know that you're going to eat up the first thing you see so prices tend to be inflated. Believe it or not this can be avoided by walking to a shop further down the street or even visiting a car dealership which is more out of the way rather than right outside a Base's main gate.
3. Don't limit your travel to your neighborhood.
Easily one of the biggest mistakes made by those who move to Okinawa (particularly military members who are here for a few short years) is the unwillingness to travel beyond their immediate area. Sure they might travel to Churaumi Aquarium or Okinawa World but all the spaces in between seem to be "too far" or "too out of the way". The unfortunate result is a lot of gems that are missed out on possibly until it is too late.
This isn't limited to tourist attractions or historical locations either. Some great salons, restaurants and other businesses are usually just beyond where some people are willing to go.
4. Don't stick to the guide book.
A good guide books is always a great place to start but if you find yourself only doing what is in the guide books you'll end up only seeing about 1% of what's here on Okinawa. . . . . . and some of it isn't even the best stuff! I say use the guide book as a stepping stone and don't be afraid to explore the surrounding area and see what you stumble upon. Even as I approach my 7 year mark I still have multiple laundry lists of things to see. . . . and I haven't been much of a couch potato either. In fact most of the wicked cool places on the island are marked with signs and easy to find if you're willing to go off the designated path to or from some of Okinawa's major tourist attractions like Okinawa World or Churaumi Aquarium.
5. Don't forget to keep an open mind.
There is no denying that Okinawa is an entirely different world then you are used to. The cultural and all around lifestyle differences can be hard for those visiting Okinawa (or living here) for the first time to adjust to. Although you may not find yourself completely understanding the culture or differences in lifestyle it is important to remember to keep an open mind. Those who keep an open mind, even if they do not see eye to eye with some of the cultural or lifestyle differences here on Okinawa, tend to have a better more positive experience then those who brush off or completely disregard Okinawa's culture.
6. Don't "play the gaijin card".
The term "playing the gaijin card" is usually in reference to someone who is choosing to dismiss culture and/or rules that they are aware of with the intent of getting away with it because they are a foreigner.
Although some people don't see the harm taking advantage of the understanding and tolerant nature of the businesses around Okinawa can often have negative results. Some businesses may change policies or in some cases may even go so far as not assisting foreign customers.