We don’t call it Fogtown for nothing

Summer? More like bummer

No one can deny that the weather in Newfoundland has been worst kind so far this summer. People have the heat on bust, they are wearing wool socks and boots, and most of them haven’t put their winter jackets away yet. The lack of sun has many of us questioning why we even live here, however many Newfoundlanders would not live anywhere else even though the weather sucks, the potholes are trying to eat our cars whole, and just about any destination you venture to on foot is literally uphill both ways.

It is not just those of us who were born and raised here that feel this way. Mind you, not all of those born in Newfoundland love it here—nor do all of those who visit—but most people love it here, and there are many reasons to love Newfoundland. Some of them even seem to make up for some of the downsides.

We have an interesting history

If there is one thing that Newfoundland has, it is history, and it dates back to over 1000 years. The first visitor to Newfoundland was Norse Viking Explorer Leif Erickson and his crew who settled at L’Anse aux Meadows on the island’s northern peninsula for brief period. The landing site has since been declared a National and Provincial Historic Site and is a major tourist attraction on the island.

Newfoundland was colonized by Britain in 1610 before receiving Dominion status at which time it began operating as its own sovereign nation—the same as Canada. The Dominion of Newfoundland created their own volunteer-based Battalion in World War I called the Newfoundland Regiment, which suffered great losses and casualties in the battle of Somme in France in 1916. Newfoundland was once again governed under British rule throughout much of the mid-20th century before joining Canadian Confederation in 1949.

Newfoundland was also home to several aboriginal groups long before Europeans ever settled here. The Beothuk and Mi’kmaq tribes lived on the island. The Beothuk, who were exclusive to Newfoundland, eventually became extinct after European settlement. Innu and Inuit groups inhabited the mainland of Labrador and large populations still do today.

St. John’s holds claim as the oldest city in North America, having been discovered in 1497. St. John’s also holds claim as the recipient of the first wireless message by Marconi in 1901. So basically you are welcome for cell phones.

She is easy on the eyes

As residents of this fine land, we might take her beauty granted sometimes but that is one thing the tourists and Newfoundlanders living away dies for!

We can pretty well drive fifteen minutes from wherever we are at any given time and end up at the ocean. The way our rugged terrain is chiseled and carved by the ocean and the cliffs and rocks make you feel as if you are really at the end of the earth. Even when the sun refuses to shine, the beauty of the landscape, the terrain, and the ocean that touches the sky is enough to make you feel humble. We have parks such as Gros Morne National Park and Terra Nova National Park, as well as hundreds of kilometers of mapped out hiking trails like The East Coast Trail and The Grand Concourse, which allow for hikers to experience the natural beauty on their own accord.

Aside from the natural beauty of this province, the man-made architecture is pretty captivating on its own. A byproduct of living in the oldest city in North America is that the history and culture is implanted everywhere in the city itself. Even though the majority of the downtown district was burned to the ground and rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1892, structures such as Cabot Tower (1898) on Signal Hill, and The Basilica of St. John the Baptist (1855) show evidence of the 19th century architecture that is often under-appreciated.

Driving through downtown is always a reminder of the history of development in St. John’s as a municipality. The tiny streets intertwine in connection randomly. The out-of-place oddly connecting streets and lack of grid-planning remind us that the roads were for horses initially and not cars and leave us with the ‘small town’ feeling.

The people are best kind

Over the years, Newfoundland has developed a reputation as having some of the friendliest people in the country, if not the world. Even the rawest skeets are nice enough to your face for the most part. Events such as 9/11, when 6600 passengers and crew from 42 different planes were grounded at Gander International Airport and were taken in and cared for by the people of Gander and surrounding areas only help strengthen this opinion of Newfoundlanders to outsiders.

Our population of the entire island is just over 500,000 people, which is only one twelfth of the 6 million people who live in Toronto, Ontario. Since the province and the city of St. John’s is so small, it is more likely for people to know one another on a personal level. Even our biggest city still operates like a small town when it comes to social connectivity.

I was speaking with the tattooist from Ottawa at the recent St. John’s Tattoo Convention who was so blown away by St. John’s and the people who inhabit the city. She said how almost every client she had would talk to five or six other guests at the convention as they were getting tattooed, and she could not get over the sense of community that she felt while visiting for the convention.

Not only are Newfoundlanders reputably friendly, there is also a vast population of talented people in this province. There is a very prominent music scene in St. John’s that ranges in styles and genres from punk and metal to hip-hop to bluegrass and traditional Irish music. The art scene is celebrated and appreciated in multitudes of media such as film and television, small production theater, literature, poetry, and visual arts. As well, the sense of community ferments in the circle with the support of much of the population.

We are also known to have a sense of humor in Newfoundland. Just ask Ryan Snodden who is the meteorologist of the local CBC news hour Here and Now, and Eddie Sheerr the meteorologist of NTV Evening News, both ‘arrested’ on July 22 for trafficking RDF (Rain, Drizzle, and Fog) in a prank pulled by The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary due to the lack of summer weather this year in Newfoundland.

We speak our own English

Newfoundland is technically monolingual and in fact is known to have the least amount of language variants other than English within Canada. Some areas speak French, Mi’kmaq, Inuktitut, but English is spoken most predominantly. That being said, Newfoundland has some of the most interesting variations and dialects of spoken English than anywhere else in the world.

Many Newfoundlanders have a thick accent that makes it hard for even other Newfoundlanders to understand. It is bad enough for mainlanders and Americans to try to make out the words through the accent, let alone when we start tossing in figures of speech that quite likely mean nothing—or something completely different—somewhere else.

Phrases like “giv’er bickies,” “raw skeet,” and “sure, I dies for you,” are just a few examples of sayings that just do not convey a message without the Newfoundland linguistic context behind it. It is almost like being able to speak in code. We are also known for our use of pet names. Another guest tattooist at the convention was a little surprised to have been called someone “Ducky,” “Trout,” and “Lover” all in one weekend.

If I had to guess, I would say that at least 95% of people I have met who live in Newfoundland but are not from Newfoundland absolutely love it here, even with the weather. That says something. Mind you, I’d love a good day on clothes as much of the next Newfoundlander but you know what? I will take it. I love this place. I went to Florida in May and I was so sad that I had to go home—to snow, I might add—but I must admit, deep down I just wanted to be back in the freezing North Atlantic and I cannot really explain why other than that it is my home.

In times like these when the weather is garbage and we are 100 per cent sure that mother nature decided to pull a double winter shift, I ponder the idea that if people already think Newfoundland is pretty awesome even though the weather sucks, imagine how overpopulated this little island would be if we had those regular season things that mainlanders keep talking about.