THE NEWFOUNDLAND QUARTERLY :: ONLINE EXCLUSIVES
Online Exclusive for #437
There are common misconceptions or myths that exist in the world that people believe to be true for years and years. For example Edison did not invent the light bulb and most witches of Salem were not burned at the stake, but hung. And, indeed, within our own province there are things that the general population may believe to be true, but are actually fiction. So what do you think are some of the most commonly held myths about Newfoundland and Labrador? - Jay McGrath
"For me the biggest myth is the stereotypes surrounding baymen and townies and their perceptions of each other. This misconception has been ongoing for years. When I was younger my older brother moved to St. John's to go to school, and after a few months, when he stopped coming home every weekend, I started viewing him as being 'grand'. When it came my turn to move to town, it was the same kind of situation. I became a townie in the eyes of my home community. And townies are stuck up of course, didn't matter that I spent years in this small community, I was now one of them. And to townies I was still a bay girl. I was still a rough-and-tumble kinda person. To be honest, I don't see much difference in townies and baymen. For the most part we are all easy going, nice, genuine individuals and a jerk in St. John's is not that far removed from a jerk from around the bay. For me the only thing this myth of preppy townies and jack shirt baymen did was force me to lose part of my identity. As I mentioned before, to my home town I was a townie and to the townies I was a baygirl, so internally I didn't know who I was. I thought I was just the same old me except older, but everyone else had a [different] opinion. So there, the biggest myth is that there's this huge difference between the crowd from around the bay and the crowd in town, but the reality is: there isn't any difference at all." - 31, Teacher
"People like to look back and say that Premier Joey Smallwood did so much damage to the province. [That] he made bad business deals and cost us all this money. I think that's unfair and unrealistic. He was a good Premier. He brought us into Canada which gave us the baby bonus and health care and a sense of place in the world. He gave us hope in difficult times. Sure he made some unfortunate deals but he isn't as bad as some portray him to be." - 25, Memorial History Student
"I worked at a major provincial tourist attraction for three years and some visitors to our province have a lot of misconceptions about us and our way of life. There exist quite a few myths about who we are and how we act outside the province. A lot of folks were surprised that when they got here there wasn't any snow as they thought we had snow all year round. That was a common one. Another one was that they believed our main occupation was fishing. By main occupation I think they thought we finished high school and went straight into a boat. Some were very surprised to discover our labour market was so diverse. Another one that wasn't as common but came up a few times was visitors thought our language and dialect would be much different. They had heard about our strong accents, but I guess some us just talk like them. Just to give you a few examples of some other misconceptions, I had one woman ask me if we had indoor bathrooms in the nearby towns and another asked me if we had Nintendo up here yet. Despite being an avid gamer and an expert Xboxer I told her I was hoping to get a Nintendo for Christmas this year." - 26, Provincial Government Employee
"This may come as a surprise to some who read it, but just because I am from a very rural part of the province doesn't mean I wear a jack shirt and big green water proof insulated boots every day…only days when I have to go into the woods. I don't say 'go way b'y' all of the time, only when I hear something unbelievable. A quad is not my only means of transportation, I have a truck and most times my quad is in the back of my truck. Fishing is not my specialty, however there are an assortment of different kinds in my freezer. I do not set snares every year nor do I even know how to set a snare, but I could easily find out if I needed to. I have never fired a gun but I know the difference between one that will leave a mark and one that will leave you dead. I am from a rural community but I am not a 'bay man' at least not the bay man some people imagine us to be." - 27, Tradesman
"Me, I'm from St. John's and despite what you might have heard I do not wear sweater vests and skater shoes but I do know a couple of people who do. I don't say 'eh' after every sentence, only when I didn't hear something. Only mainlanders say 'eh' all of the time. I do not drive a Honda civic, although I hear they are great, reliable cars. I do not hang out at the mall every weekend, and really the only time I go there is when I go to the movies. I do not live with my parents but they are within a few minutes drive. I am from St. John's but I am not a 'townie' at least not the townie some people imagine us to be." - 31, Tradesman
"Despite the opinion of many, the library at Memorial is not built backwards, nor is it sinking because the engineers only accounted for the weight of the shelves and not the books on the shelves. That is a myth, and it is a common myth, not just for this university but on many campuses throughout the world." - 56, Librarian
"The biggest myth surrounding our province as a whole is the level of intelligence of our people. A commonly held belief is that we are a bunch of uneducated goofy Newfies. I don't know how many times I had to listen to that when I worked in Alberta. And I'm not trying to pin the blame on Alberta for creating this perception, that's just my experience. Because I was a Newfoundlander I must not be as intelligent as someone from another province. Even though I held a university degree, that was somehow tainted because of how cheap it is to get a degree at Memorial. As if the more money I paid for my degree the more value it had. But we are just as educated a people as any. Our university is regularly ranked in Maclean's magazine as one of the best in eastern Canada. Some of the programs, including engineering and business, are among the best in the world. We are not the goofy newfies we are sometimes made out to be. Sure we have a sense of humour, but we are an educated people who elect educated leaders. Every year we see doctors, engineers, nurses graduate from our schools to become leaders in their fields. We do not play second fiddle to anyone in Canada. That felt good to write." - 40, Engineer
"I don't know if you will get this perspective from anyone else and it may not be a popular response but I think our friendly, generous nature as a people is a bit of a myth. I've traveled all over the world and I don't think we are any friendlier or nicer than [other] people, in fact I think we are among the worst. Think about driving on the roads, how many people will give you a break? When you are walking down any street in the city, how many people say 'hi' or are overly helpful if you need to ask them directions? And do we really know what good customer service is? As I mentioned I've been to many countries around the world and our service industry is probably the worst I've seen. Common myth: I think we think too much of ourselves." - 58, Retired Business Owner
Back to Online Exclusives main page.
© Newfoundland Quarterly. The Newfoundland Quarterly is generously supported by Memorial University and the Canada Periodical Fund - Canadian Heritage.