Are Prince Edward Islanders friendly?

A few days ago my father sent me a note asking whether Prince Edward Islanders are friendly or not. He’d been talking to someone in Ontario, and they’d mentioned to him that while people in Nova Scotia are genuinely friendly, people in Prince Edward Island are only friendly when tourist money is involved.

On first reading I dismissed his comment; I’ve been here 17 years and I’ve always thought of Islanders, if not overtly gregarious, as having a underlying bedrock of friendliness.

Then I ran it by some colleagues, all raised here, and without exception they agreed: Islanders, they told me, are not friendly.

Apparently this is a well-known fact.

And then yesterday came Rude Patients, a blog post from Charlottetown doctor Robert Coull. In his post Dr. Coull starts by relating some of his experiences before he arrived on Prince Edward Island:

I’ve been threatened with a knife, threatened with a gun, had tables thrown at me, been chased round a hospital by a patient trying to flatten me with a chair, been shouted at regularly, been punched, had a cigarette stubbed out on my arm, had a patient try to strangle me in the back of an ambulance, and I’ve been kicked in the privates.  I’ve seen running battles in the street between knife wielding gangs.   I’ve had to wrestle violent people to the ground, I’ve had a patient I was treating in the street attacked by a gang intent on beating him up and had to use violence to help drag them off.

And since he moved his practice to Charlottetown?

So you would think that being a GP (Family Physician) on the Gentle Island of Anne of Green Gables would be a delight.

You’d be wrong.

It’s come as quite a shock to find out that lovely PEI appears to be infested with a significant minority of people who are bitter, rude, and - to be quite frank - horrible.

They make snide comments, are undermining, negative, and behave in a highly passive aggressive way.  Although less dramatic than the hostile aggressive behaviour of their Scottish ancestors, their behaviour is far, far more damaging.  Not least, it is far less honest.

Is this true? Are Islanders really a hostile, standoffish, unfriendly lot?

What do you think.

Comments

IBC's picture
IBC on May 2, 2010 - 19:36

There is no hard and fast rule on Islanders, IMO. I do find that a higher percentage of Islanders are rude when compared to their ‘from-away’ counterparts. It isn’t a blatant rude either (not like a Toronto or NYC rude), but more like a disdain for people not already amalgamated into their social circle. Since moving here a few years ago nearly everyone within my social circle, both formal and informal acquaintances, are ‘from away’. Maybe it is me, but I find that I would rather associate with people who chose to be here in PEI rather than those who feel that, whether by choice or circumstance, they are ‘stuck’ on the Island.

As for Dr. Coull, who is also my doctor, — that guy is awesome! He’s definitely come out swinging on a problem issue. Good for him! He’s won that much more respect from me for doing so.

Mark's picture
Mark on May 3, 2010 - 18:34

To be fair, you are asking someone who is in the medical field if Islanders are friendly…. Quite frankly, I do not blame Islanders for being cranky and unfriendly with the state of the health care system on PEI. If you get out of the ER or a walk in clinic under 4 hours, you are doing great…. And your family doctor??? Don’t even TRY to get in to see him without a month prior appointment… That is if they do not cancel it on you.

I would suggest asking the people who have lost their homes to fire, flood, hard times, vandalism, if Islanders are friendly. I am sure they will say that the outpouring of support in times of need is truely what makes Islanders unique

Anon's picture
Anon on May 3, 2010 - 20:22

I don’t think Islanders are particularly any worse or better than anyone else, we just have our own set of neuroses, strengths and weaknesses. In many senses the Island is an extremely friendly place - if I needed roadside help I’d rather it be here than anywhere else. We’re community minded, willing to pitch in, and many other good things. But then we can also be also judgmental gossips anchored to the past by hierarchies like religion and patronage, totally capable of everything Dr. Coull describes.

I blame some of the more negative traits I have seen on patronage.

It’s hard to think that the patronage system hasn’t had an adverse effect on the island psyche. A system that punishes and rewards people for things largely outside their control - sounds like the opposite of what society is supposed to do. Entitlement, tribalism, bitterness, revenge - patronage has been poisoning the well here for a long time. I don’t think being brought up to believe in the principle that your group of people is better or more deserving than others is a good thing. It’s a cheap way for politicians to make the powerless feel powerful, and it undermines any chance of having a true community.

boostventilator's picture
boostventilator on May 3, 2010 - 21:05

I lived in Charlottetown during the “off season” in 95/96 when I was attending UPEI. I was unable to infiltrate the community or get a job during this short period but I’m pretty sure it had to do with living off campus with my family. Any friends I did make were come-from-aways themselves (Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia), involved with the “radio” station or introduced to me through my family who were in for the long haul.

I think there were a lot of parallels with UCCB (now Cape Breton University) and both institutions were slagged locally as being more “High School on the Highway” versus international melting pots at the time. Feeding into the school from the area means you have lots of pre-existing social groups to tap into, but the only person I bumped into during registration was an ex-girlfriend. We were never destined to be best buds and she didn’t appear interested in introducing me to the welcome wagon. And spending your free time in a computer lab isn’t going to get you invited to anything, anytime soon. I guess I’m not a great case study, but I did feel people were a little more guarded than I had been used to. I would never say people weren’t nice or friendly to me, it just felt like they were waiting for me to prove something to them. Then again, I didn’t end up staying in Charlottetown, so perhaps Islanders were able to see something in my eyes before I did. Maybe I was the guarded one ;)

Ken's picture
Ken on May 4, 2010 - 00:42

Islanders are like birds, little flocks, lots of squawks.

Some are like seagulls, you wouldn’t want to hang out with unless you like wrestling over pieces of dead skunk carcass (the island economy is like a dead skunk carcass). Others are more cheerful, but shy. Many are migrational, making the social scene smaller in winter.

Some, like Peter, tweet!

oliver's picture
oliver on May 4, 2010 - 07:59

If it weren’t true, I suppose you’d have dared to express your own considered opinion. Weren’t you threatened because of a blog post once? I suppose it goes with being an island. New Guinea is supposed to be a brutal place too.

Corey's picture
Corey on May 5, 2010 - 10:01

Despite the pretentious attempts of Charlottetown and Summerside, PEI is very rural in its physical composition and in its outlook.

Society is built upon family relationships and socializing is focused around this concept. It is very difficult for those outside this society to break in. My parents moved to PEI in the 1960s with the air force so I have only 1 generation born on PEI. It was great going to school at CFB Summerside where all the other kids of service personnel were in the same boat. But they’re gone and I’m left here and have only a handful of Island friends. My parents have even fewer - their neighbours have never really accepted them. Oh they wave and carry on conversation, etc. but they can’t break through.

Same thing happens in other rural areas too. I’ve heard that Fredericton, Truro, the Annapolis Valley, Miramichi, etc. are all very clannish. It’s just the way it is. Not much we can do about it. But you have to accept the fact that this is very very entrenched and you will always be on the outside looking in, even if you live here.

oliver's picture
oliver on May 6, 2010 - 20:07

P’shah. Cultures change. Sometimes it’s just about raising awareness—as Peter is diplomatically and/or timidly doing here. I bet it’s a lot easier to be gay in PEI now than it once was, for example, or to be left handed, for that matter. Still, I’d hate to see PEI trade insularity for the anti-communitarian individualism that seems the ever-more prevailing urban and suburban way in the U.S..

shane bryanton's picture
shane bryanton on May 8, 2010 - 17:50

As an Islander living in Ottawa I can tell you Islanders are friendly. This does not mean they will take you into their inner circle and expose their souls to you in the first 5 minutes.

Islanders are friendly in that they look you in the eye and acknowledge you when passing on the sidewalk. Islanders will greet you with a smile and say Good mornin’ when you first arrive at work. Islanders will exchange jokes and pleasantries in the supermarket check-out.

In Ottawa most people avoid eye contact are somewhat taken aback if you speak to them. The normal facial expression is look of misery or boredom most of the time.
It’s not that Ottawans are bad or nasty people; it’s just that they’ve lost the small town / rural culture niceties that still thrives on the Island.

As for “come from aways” who whine about not being accepted; what kind of relationships do you want? The shallow, job / socio-economicaly based relationships built in a highly mobile urban culture or the complex and deep ones built up over generations in a more traditional family centric culture such as that found on PEI?

For many Islander the party started 200 years ago, if you just arrived you can’t expect to interrupt and but in on everyone’s conversation mercerright away!

Yes there are plenty of nasty arseholes on PEI… we’re not all nice but it’s easy to know who to avoid, they’ve been arseholes for generations!

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on May 9, 2010 - 22:02

Very well-said, Shane.

Sue's picture
Sue on May 13, 2010 - 01:02

I wouldn’t say unfriendly as such, although I can appreciate how someone could get that impression. I think it’s more to do with being suspicious. With so many people coming and going for short visits (tourists) and short stays (people who move here and then change their minds) then there is a healthy reservation about embracing new people. I will say that islanders are polite, and approachable, and that what people need to understand is that The island is a fantastic place, and it is a very place to fall in love with, but making a living here is very hard indeed.

I had an experience shopping in Morell in the off season, where I had to virtually give my DNA to buy a box of wine, and was viewed with immense distrust in the co-op and grossly overcharged for not being local, and not having a ‘number’. Now some people would class that as unfirendly, but to me it’s symbolic of one of the many things that makes me love living here.

People can talk about the red cliffs, Anne of Green Gables, lobster suppers, the magnificent beaches etc. But nobody dares to mention that part of the special magic of The Island is the fact that that Islanders are completely and utterly bonkers. And I love them for it. Don’t ever change!

Phil Macrackin's picture
Phil Macrackin on July 26, 2010 - 06:45

To answer your question many islanders in my opinion are standoffish as well as unfriendly. I have only lived here for just 5 months but am already wishing i was back in N.S. and my sole reason for wanting to leave has been the attitude of many people i have met here. I have found some people to be quite kind igniting a spark of hope that maybe I’m wrong about islanders, only to find out they are “CFA’s” (come from aways) Every time I hear that stupid acronym it only perpetuates the stereotype that all islanders are douche bags.

Islander By Choice's picture
Islander By Choice on September 27, 2010 - 11:18

Being from “away”, I agree with many of the comments made by others on this site. I have been discriminated against and so has my husband. It’s next to impossible to get established here and find a job; doesn’t matter how experienced you are or your educational background. I was told, point blank, when I applied for a job “during these hard economic times, Islanders come first; the jobs go to them”. I was so hurt by this comment, I was lost for words. It was rude and totally insensitive. I don’t want EI stamps, I just want to make a living, afterall, I am Canadian, 13 generation Canadian……and……my ancestors come from the Island, so, what’s the bloody problem!!!!

Diane's picture
Diane on August 11, 2011 - 02:21

Islanders on average are NOT friendly. Being from “Away” they keep their circles tight, and do not like change. I have lived in every province and can say without doubt they are not a friendly bunch. Maybe they don’t have alot to be friendly about, poor economics on the island, little to no work, what work there is, the salaries are the lowest is Canada and the highest taxed and let’s face it, it has rained almost everyday since April. Very glad to be moving.

John's picture
John on January 28, 2012 - 15:08

Yes Islander’s are of the most unfriendly people I have ever met. I don’t know if it is decided rudeness or simple ignorance but if you weren’t born and raised on the Island and expect to make new friends then good luck. Don’t get me wrong, they are pleasant in passing and even engaging when they are taking your money but the rare genuinely friendly Islander is a rare find. It could be because of the they have been Isolated for so long and it has degenerated the gene pool and resulted in some social retardation.
Here is an approach that I try (just replace the word dog with islander)

How to Become Friends With an Unfriendly Dog

It’s always unpleasant to deal with an unfriendly dog, especially one that happens to live next door. Learning how to become friends with an unfriendly dog isn’t all that difficult if you know what motivates dogs to be friendly in the first place.

Instructions

1.Step back and watch the dog from afar. Dogs are pack animals, and each one has a specific position in the group. Some are leaders of the pack, while others are followers. If there’s only one dog in the household, that dog can either become a follower of his owner, or he can dominate the household. This is where you run into problems. If the dog thinks of himself as the pack leader, he may find you threatening. So the key to making friends is to show your assertiveness and assume the role of the leader of the pack. Keep eye contact with the dog and hold your ground. Stay at a safe distance, but show him that you’re there to stay.

2. Tempt the dog with treats. Food is usually a great way to make friends with an unfriendly dog. A bag of biscuits may be all you need to strike up a lifelong friendship. If that doesn’t work, consider a game of fetch.

3. Let him sniff you. If the dog isn’t growling or acting aggressively, extend the back of your hand to the dog for a sniff. This is a non-threatening gesture that lets the dog get used to you on his terms.

4. Allow him to call the shots. If the dog licks your hand when you let her smell you, proceed to pet her gently. If at any time she appears agitated, end the play session and try again some other time.

John's picture
John on January 28, 2012 - 16:37

All joking aside CFAs represent another island job lost to an outsider. The Island economy is bad, Islander’s are cliquish and we represent the reason their friend or relative had to go away to look for work. In their narrow minded view of the world they resent us for that. Also Many CFAs are brought in in senior management positions so it alo looks to them like we are somehow controlling them. My advice is to just be pleasant to Islanders and enjoy the company of other CFAs and welcome any Islander that makes an effort to become your friend.

Louine's picture
Louine on April 27, 2012 - 01:57

We just came here for the first time, having just vacationed in Nfld and Nova Scotia, first impression of people was cold, not really rude, just not very interested in being friendly or considerate, as if we were just a bit lower classed. Anyway this comment is only after a short while of being here. After today I decided to google to see if it was just me, or are people kind of cranky here on the island. I think some of them should get off the island and go to Nfld to see some down to earth happy people.

miss canada's picture
miss canada on June 4, 2012 - 04:50

what a shame!

Maritime Gal's picture
Maritime Gal on July 18, 2012 - 02:28

Yes! They are unfriendly! I have lived here for almost eight years and am only one generation removed from the island as my parents were from here. In my opinion, Islanders veiw those from away as being untrustworthy (have heard this many times from my Islander husband), and that in general we just don’t know how to live. Different things matter to people here, and they are very , very hard to figure out. Also, the collective sense of humor here just sucks - they are not funny people. I swear to God, the funniest thing to them is laughing at other’s expense. No irony here folks! I agree with previous comments that this is indeed a good place if you are stuck in the ditch, because paserbys will help you. But then again it could be feuled by just plain old fashioned nosiness, or someone wanting to see if it’s a DUI!! With that said, they are truly not compassionate. I have seen people in my community go through hard things, for instance a have very , very sick child needing chemo, and the community will not reach out in any meaningful way if said family is not of the right status. It’s very cruel. Rumors run rampant, and not harmless ones, but vicious, life destroying one containing little to no truth, and the jealousy is beyond! If someone is doing well, esspecially a “GFA”, others will be resentful to the point of being hostile. I really don’t like talking like this, because when I came here it was with a very full and open heart. I had no idea what was waiting for me! lol In my NS hometown, I can swear I NEVER had trouble connecting with other people, and left behind a very diverse and wonderful group of friends whom I miss very much. I have never been anything but warm to my island neighbors, and while some haven’t been openly rude (and some have), it’s just like I don’t really matter. Case in point, when I lost a parent last year, ALL of the Sympathy cards I recieved were from my hometown, except for 2! I ran into a neighbour at the gas station a week after her funeral and he asked me “What’s new”, and I told him my Mom had just died. His response? A very nonchalant “Oh, Well, she was sick anyway, wasn’t she?” It was just gross. I have always supported people here by sending cards, calls, bringing food, or attending wakes and funerals when someone has died, and I was sincerely sorry for the families! They are just cold, cold. Anyone I ever spoke to from away who has been transplanted here regrets it, only staying for the very cheap real estate. If you a planning to move here, save yourself the trouble and stay put.

Walter Fobes's picture
Walter Fobes on July 23, 2012 - 22:30

I have lived in many places, but more than two fifths of my life in PEI. I remember buying a portion of fish and chips in Wales, when a chap standing outside the store,eating his purchase off the newspaper in which it was wrapped, engaged me in conversation. After inquiring about my accent he said, “good and bad everywhere!” That’s about sums it up. What I learned most in PEI was the importance of having roots.

rob's picture
rob on August 13, 2012 - 21:33

Just came back from our first family trip to PEI and I was SHOCKED by the rudeness and curtness — especially from people in the tourism sector. Omeone here on this string said Torontonians are rude; I must say, after having seen my kids turned down at a highway washroom, having been insulted by my hotel manager and having had my question to a period-dresed actor outside province house dismissed sarcastically, I am glad to be away. Nova Scotia won my heart. PEI reminded me that Anne of Green Gables starts with an enthusiastic girl’s arrival in a poky little town filled with nasty people. Can I have some of my tax money back now?

jc's picture
jc on January 23, 2013 - 14:46

For a short time i dated a man from PEI who lived in Vancouver. (The relationship was doomed anyway because I quickly learned that he had a serious drinking problem). While we were together I noticed that he had an atitude of superiority while putting down people who enjoyed genuine success in life. My career was taking off and I was the target on occassion but being young I thought maybe I was being somehow a litle self indulgent which really went against my Newfoundland values and Nova Scotia upbringing. I vowed to keep my pride in check. Then one day this portly little nurse friend of his who was from the Island but lived in Halifax came to visit us. She was a self important little ball of venom and when the two of them were together it was ugly. I quickly became the third wheel in that trio (happily I may add because the last thing I would want is to dive into that pathetic dumpster with them) and therefore I was done.

I was glad to be out of it but troubled by what I had witnessed. How could two people be so rude and unfriendly. fast forward 15 years or so and I am moving from Ottawa to the gentle Island with great anticipation, bought a condo, really looking forward to re-connecting with my maritime heritage. What I found was the dynamic I had witnessed between these two Islanders years earlier is not the exception, but the rule on this tragically small minded Island. Needless to say my Island residency was terminated in short order. I am now happily back in Halifax with truly friendly people, keeping an eye out for nasty Island nurses and planning to never step foot on the unfriendly Island again.

I'm CFA's picture
I'm CFA on January 23, 2013 - 17:04

“Attention all you poor, isolated, inbred Islanders! I’m here! I’ve arrived from somewhere much better off. Now stop everything and love me, and let me tell you what you’re missing.”
The CFA mantra for generations.

shane's picture
shane on March 12, 2013 - 20:25

Ha! Hit it on the head exactly.

Self Righteous Islander's picture
Self Righteous ... on April 1, 2013 - 00:58

The damn CFAs coming and taking our jobs. We don’t have a crying need for doctors and other trained professionals. If we get sick, a bit of the ol’ potato brew will cure what ails ya eh. Why Bill from Tignish made me some last week. We’re perfectly happy waiting months to see a city doctor.
So all of you CFAs just stay right away now, you hear. If we see you on our island we’ll be sure to act rude until you go back to your fancy 21st century provinces with your crazy modern thinking and friendly attitude. And while we’re on the subject let’s get rid of all of the visible minorities too. Now everybody get all liquored up real good and then drive home because that’s the island way.

susanna's picture
susanna on October 15, 2013 - 18:49

I can tell you that when we moved here, we stuck our necks out for people. We wined them and dined them, but found they are just after what they can get and learn and then they dump you like hotcakes. They never reciprocate. We “damn CFAs” don’t take “Islander’s” jobs. They don’t want jobs. They would much rather go on EI for 1/2 the year. They are hostile, lazy and have no business sense. We came here because the place is beautiful and the people seemed so friendly. We wanted out of the rat race! Now that we have been here for three years, we do want out eventually! We originally wanted to retire here, but the “Self Righteous Islander” has just the narrow, mean attitude that makes us want to leave. I wish we had not put our money into real estate here. These people do not want to better themselves. They don’t welcome change. They are stagnant, ignorant people. PEI is beautiful. They are ugly. Their personalities make them ugly. By the way to all of the (“born and raised”) Islanders….you are CFA too. Your families are not from here. Do your homework. The Indians were here. You came over to take their land!

Dr. Butt's picture
Dr. Butt on March 24, 2014 - 02:55

Susanna I hate to tell you this but “Self Righteous Islander” is clearly being sarcastic and making fun of the narrow minded. It’s clearly meant as satire. Also “Indian” hasn’t been acceptable for a long time, try using First Nations or Native even.

Vet's picture
Vet on August 23, 2014 - 11:53

I was just in PEI. Went there thinking they were some of the nicest people out there. I leave in complete agreement with the the notion that they are too often only nice when money is involved. Nova Scotia on the other hand was great.

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