I moved from Ontario to Atlantic Canada to work several months ago. Atlantic Canadians have a good reputation in the rest of Canada as being laid-back, sincere, hospitable and having a good sense of humour. They also have the reputation of being more religious than the rest of the country, being a little more insular (much like people from Maine) and being extremely cliqueish.
I find, to my regret, Maritimers to be confusing and somewhat backward.
Within ten seconds of starting a conversation, a Maritimer will ask you where you are from, meaning, of course, “What part of the maritimes are you from?”. If you answer “Ontario”, you can actually see their brain cease to function in the same way you can see the brain of a bigot stop working in that pause before “he” tells you “Oh, but some of my best friends are…” One might think that they are just a little awe-struck by someone from the more cultured parts of Canada actually paying a visit to their overrated hunk of greenery. But in fact, this nugget of information just lightly stuns them and gives you enough time to whack them with a rolled-up newspaper. I daresay if I said “Alaska” they would explode from the excitement.
The Maritimes gives new meaning to “two degrees of freedom”. Everyone knows everyones business here, and as well they should. People who have the misfortune to have moved here at the age of three and have lived in Plaster Plate for only forty years are commonly referred to as being “from Away”. Indeed, the main newspaper here refers to all events that occur outside the cozy confines of this small province to be “from Away”; uses this as the title of the section, as though it took more than six hours to drive to Montreal. Most people have lived in the same spot all their lives. The big craze in my town is samosas. In Ontario, the Indian population is large and respected, and cheap samosas are available at every corner. In the maritimes, people are in awe of such a cosmopolitan food and line up for forty-five minutes at the market to sample such a rare delicacy.
Atlantic Canadians are laid back about work. The hospital secretary takes three hour lunches and has a much more relaxed attitude to work than would be acceptable further west. Although a few people here work extremely hard, most don’t and have little interest in anything that would place work ahead of family. Such an attitude makes sense but can be taken too far. This attitude does make the region poorer than other more ambitious areas of Canada. Although Canadians subsidize these provinces immensely, the people fail to make the connection between doing less and having less and unfairly resent provinces which genuinely work harder for what they have.
Atlantic Canadians have a wonderful sense of humour. But not about politics; bureaucracies here are more corrupt and much less efficient than in other provinces. Most of the jobs in my town are civil service; surprisingly often, the candidate had the job created for them and got it through connections rather than merit. And religion is not a matter one can laugh at here. One cannot belittle maritime traditions, such as eating bizarre cinnamon-chocolates shaped and named after chicken bones; or getting screwed by the wealthy industrialists who own everything worth owning out here; or wonder why when travelling down the main friggin’ two-lane street you need to change lanes every three seconds since the lane for people not turning changes from the left to the right side of the road for no reason whatsoever. Never bring up the fact that so many families share the same few last names and have an eerie similarity about the way they all look. Never bring up Greene Island where everybody seems to have that surname.
Coming from Ontario, it is a relief to be among people as laid-back and sincere as Maritimers are. But the fact is that Canadians on the whole are fairly friendly and hospitable. Maritimers would be genuinely shocked if you failed to confirm their prejudices that this applies more to them than other Canadians. In fact, the reverse is true and the hospitality of Atlantic Canadians is limited to those who share their religion and background. The Maritimes is a tough place to move, and if this does not change than the problems faced by Atlantic Canadians are unlikely to improve.