I moved from Saskatchewan to St. John’s just over a year ago to get an education in journalism. When I first got here I was a bit afraid, to be honest. I had never been to a place this far away from home without knowing I’d be back to the familiarity of the prairies within a week. After some time, however, I came to love the differences between here and Saskatchewan.
At first, I had the hardest time understanding some accents here. Us Western Canadians are decidedly more slow speaking than people out East, for starters.
Then you get into the slang. At first when asked, “whaddya at, b’y?” I actually thought people were asking where I was, even when I was directly in front of them. I was confused when I’d walk into a business and someone behind a till would call me her “ducky” or “trout.”
The names, at first, seemed ridiculous to me. Over time, however, these little turns of phrase have become endearing. I’m still not entirely versed in Newfoundland English, but every new person I meet gets me a little closer.
My first taste of real Celtic music came from a trip to George Street over my first week on the island. I was down at Rob Roys when a band came up and started their set with, The Night Paddy Murphy Died. I was immediately taken by the fun atmosphere. The joy that comes over people when these lighthearted, folksy tunes are played is downright infectious. I’m still trying to memorize the words to Rattlin’ Bog a year later.
It may be easy to take for granted when you’ve grew up near it all your life, but to me the ocean is fascinating. The absolute size and power of the sea is marvelous to watch, and commands serious respect.
From the massive icebergs that roll into our shores, the majestic pods of whales breaching the frigid waters mid-summer, to the violent waves crashing upon the shore — the ocean is a marvel to a prairie boy like myself. With all the open space, it’s the place that reminds me the most of the prairies.
Newfoundland food is a mixed bag for me. Although I have yet to try all the unique cuisine available on the island, I have definitely found some favourites and some things I’m not exactly ready to ever try again.
The seafood here, for example, is astounding. Back in Saskatchewan, I would have never ate fish simply because it tastes “fishy.” Little did I know, fresh fish isn’t supposed to taste like that. Real fish is flaky and flavourful, and not at all “fishy.”
On the other hand, I don’t know if I’ll ever forget the mouth-drying taste of salt beef, though I try to. As much as I’ve tried to acquire a taste for it, I don’t know if I ever will. I’ll eat it with Jiggs dinner to avoid being rude, but that rare ingestion is about all I can handle.
The best quality of this island isn’t the food, geography or music — it’s the people. Never have I been anywhere as welcoming and friendly.
Sure, everywhere has its good and bad, but Newfoundlanders possess a neighbourly quality I’ve rarely seen elsewhere. People here are the “give you the shirt off their back” type. I’ve found that if you make friends with Newfoundlanders they’re willing to go out of their way to help you with just about anything you need. This, I find, is the biggest difference between Newfoundland and anywhere I’ve been on the mainland.
Nick Travis, a freelance writer, can be reached by emailing email@example.com