As we made our way to Newfoundland through the other Atlantic Canadian provinces, we were told repeatedly how nice the people of Newfoundland are. It started with the border guard in New Brunswick telling us that if we got into any trouble up on the island, “you’ll probably have five people stop to help you and each one will invite you over for supper.”
And as we traveled through Nova Scotia, one extremely nice woman (who was humming along to a Christian song in her lavender soap shop), told me quite confidently that Newfies would make all the nice people we had met in Nova Scotia “look like axe murderers.” Well then.
So, in addition to the beautiful trails, unique wildlife and cool weather we were looking forward to, now Newfoundland had another wonder to experience: The friendliest people in the world (or at least North America).
My Love, Your Love, All Love
On top of their unique and wonderfully distinct Newfie accent, the people living on this special island also have a way of talking that makes you feel instantly accepted and, well… loved.
“How can I help you, my love?” “Good morning, my dear.” “Goodbye my lovie.” Or my personal favorite, “Thanks, my honey.” These terms of endearment are all common on “The Rock,” as they call it. As well as some other phrases that are distinct to this area. But they are fast talkers, so you’ve got to listen closely!
Since I grew up in the South, the sweet talk isn’t all that strange to me. But the noticeable difference is the demeanor. In Florida, it isn’t unusual for someone to use words like “sweetie” or “darling” while they are being blatantly rude or demeaning. “What do you want, sweetie?” “Bless your heart, darling.”
But the Newfies have this amazing sincerity – like they actually want to help you, they are genuinely wishing you a good day or may even miss chatting with you when you leave. I’ve never felt more welcomed anywhere, even in the places I’ve called home.
In grocery stores, gas stations and walking down the street, you’ll see locals stop to hug someone they know and chat for half-an-hour or so. Even if it is a neighbor they see daily, they greet each other with open arms and giant smiles.
Helpful Local Tips
We got our fair share of hugs, plus countless sweet smiles – since those are a lot easier to give out. And we also received lots of tips and suggestions about the best places to go. And when there is no map to point to, these lovely folks will draw you one!
A particularly lively fellow couldn’t wait to give us his suggestions. So, he ripped off a piece of a cardboard box to do a quick sketch of the island, to show us where to go. What a perfect souvenir.
And you bet we searched out these hand-picked places. The best boondocking spot near Twillingate? The perfect place to see an iceberg? Multiple must-try hikes and must-eat food all over the island? All local suggestions. And they never steered us wrong.
Songs with Friends
But, there was one night that will always stand out for us when we think of why we love Newfoundland and its beautiful people. We were staying with another RVing couple, who we connected with through the Boondockers Welcome program. And, after treating us to a great dinner and conversation, this wonderful pair invited us to celebrate the husband’s 60th birthday the next night.
At first, we felt out of place because they were inviting their friends over as well and we didn’t want to impose. But they insisted and we realized it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
That group of people were the kindest, most interesting, fun group we’ve been around in a long time. They all welcomed us like old friends, told us all their best stories and taught us that Newfies indeed knew how to have a great time.
We were up until the early hours singing and drinking around the campfire at the water-front home of our new friends/hosts. The long-time residents sang traditional Newfoundland ballads and well-known classics as the fire crackled. They even serenaded us with all the songs they had ever heard about Texas – since that’s technically where our home base is. It was the sweetest gesture of acceptance into their group we could have imagined.
Why We Travel
At one point, I looked around and saw these young souls, bright and joyous – sharing their deep love for their home land and realized, all at once, that this was the reason for everything. This was why we were drawn to a life on the road… to feel this connection, to realize we were all so much the same, to remember love is the all-important thing and how wonderful it is to open our hearts to strangers.
It didn’t matter that we were from different generations or countries, we had the same appreciation for life – especially this beautiful version of it that can only be found in Newfoundland.
I’ll cherish that night, those people and the beautiful songs they shared for as long as I live. And I’ll be reminded of them at every campfire and with every cool sea breeze.
History & Story Tellers
Although, our intimate experience with the locals was the highlight of our trip, we had the pleasure of getting to experience much more of Newfoundland’s culture and history during our month on the island.
Places like L’Anse aux Meadows, the murals in the small town of Botwood, and the many National Historic Sites, do a great job of sharing history with visitors.
But, the best way to learn about it is through the songs and stories passed down through generations. I’d be willing to bet that everyone in this province can either carry a tune or play an instrument. Even if it is just an ugly stick (Google it, you won’t be disappointed). They even have a tradition called “mummering” where they go house-to-house at Christmas time with bags over their heads to anonymously spread cheer through singing and jokes.
And, although the stories are interesting, it is the passion in which they sing their songs and tell their stories that made me fall so in love with them. It often includes hands flailing, words going a mile-a-minute, and lots of feet stomping.
Watch a fun video of Buddy learning to do the “Newfie Stomp” at a Kitchen Party:
A Taste of Local Entertainment
If you listen closely, the stories within the songs will make you laugh, cry or (most likely) dance! At least that was the case when we stopped in for the Gros Morne Theatre Festival’s Neddy Norris Night in the small town of Cow Head.
The four-some of musicians explained each song or recitation before they began, giving us a better understanding of the history and people behind the words. Many songs told of fishermen off at sea or working in the lumber mill. And it was fun to recognize many of the town names that we had passed through during our trip.
Buddy and I were never big into history. Of course, we know it is important and have a basic knowledge. But, reading books filled with dates and names always bored me in school. However, learning about the past through music and the passionate people that make sure these historic tunes continue through generations, makes me want to know everything I can.
Did you know? In 1949 Newfoundland (and its mainland counterpart, Labrador) had to choose whether to be part of Canada, Britain or become its own country? Although Canada was obviously the decision, it still seems to have kept a very unique identity that makes it feel like an entirely different country – one of the things we love most. The Irish, British, Viking and aboriginal influences are all very evident. But none more so than their relationship with the ocean.
Making it Official
From the moment we set foot on the island, we felt like we had found a place we truly belonged. We loved the people, the culture and the land. It was one of the few places we would consider settling down if our will to travel ever subsides. We even researched what it would take to become dual-citizens. Yes, it was that impactful.
So, it only made sense to proclaim our love for Newfoundland in public and make our acceptance by its lovely people official. On a beautiful Tuesday night in August, before having to take the ferry back to the mainland, we became honorary Newfies.
The ceremony took place at the Anchor Pub in Rocky Harbour during an unforgettable Kitchen Party. After lots of dancing, drinking, singing and playing unique instruments, we were called up on stage.
Watch our hilarious Screech In:
Of course, this process (called getting “Screeched In”) is filled with hilarity – because Newfies love a good laugh. We had to recite a silly speech, take a shot of Screech Rum, kiss a cod fish, sing a song, dance a jig and recite some more jumbled nonsense we couldn’t understand. We laughed non-stop until we were handed our certificate making it official. Then we giggled all the way back to our RV where we dreamed of never leaving.
Leaving Our Island Home
When we went to the store for the last time before hopping on our ferry back, the woman at the counter handed us our receipt and said, “Here you go, my love.” I smiled sadly as I walked away, knowing it may be way too long until I hear those sweet words out of a Newfie’s mouth again.
I always feel a bit like I am leaving behind a close friend when we have to move on from a place we’ve fallen in love with. But this time, we’ve let an entire community into our hearts and it feels like we are leaving our family behind. Oh, but how wonderful that is. If only everyone in the world made others feel so welcome and at home. It is certainly something we will be striving for.
Special thanks to the Gros Morne Theatre Festival for hosting us for their awesome show. As always, all opinions are our own.