Where We Get Our Friends

In the book Almost French, Australian expat Sarah Turnbull describes the challenges of living as a new Parisian. She encounters particular difficulties in trying to understand the cool attitude of people she meets at dinner parties. She gets an opportunity to question a hard-won Parisian friend about this after he’s warmed to her:

“Why where you so unfriendly at first?”
Arnaud contemplates my question, which doesn’t seem to have offended or even surprised him. “The problem is the French aren’t very comfortable meeting new people,” he says. “For us, friendships form over years, at school or university. And after that, we’re not interested, we’re no longer curious. We think we’ve got enough friends already.”

I wonder how much the same could be said of Prince Edward Islanders, or, indeed, of people living in any place with a tradition of insularity.


Ken Williams's picture
Ken Williams on June 23, 2005 - 21:13 Permalink

Paris, or ‘Isle de France’, is not insular geographically like PEI; it’s one of the most visited cities in the world. I bet the entire population of PEI is about the number of daily visitors to Paris. My point is a Parisian is probably overwhelmed by new people — unlike say me in Tyne Valley.

Parisians develop a callous attitude because they are frequently befriended by a flood of foreigners. They have an oversupply of opportunities to meet new people and a habit of rejecting their friendship.

Islanders are so used to the same faces, a new person stands out. They have a shortage of opportunities to meet new people and are not in the habit of accepting their friendship.

Where are the friendliest people in the world? Somewhere in between like Brussels or Moncton?

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on June 23, 2005 - 21:22 Permalink

To a lesser but still significant extend, Islanders are “frequently befriended by a flood of foreigners.” Every summer.

Ken Williams's picture
Ken Williams on June 24, 2005 - 00:44 Permalink

I s’pose.

Robert Paterson's picture
Robert Paterson on June 24, 2005 - 11:15 Permalink

My experience suggests that Peter is onto something. It is the same in rural England where families have known each other for generations. Their “daance card is full”.

I have moved to so many places and have got quite good at Making friends. I have had to but I have found a pattern — I can only sustain a group of friends that is quite small. I have my childhood friends and a group from University that are permanenet and seeem to need very little effort, But my current circle, after my family who demand a huge investment, is always quite modest. 5-7 inner circle and then maybe 15 in the next ring and then lots of friendly faces.

This pattern reminds me of the “Magic Numbers” 7, 15 35 and 150 that are the building blocks of all societies. So mayeb Islanders are not unfriendly — they have the 7 and 15 slots filled and have only room for friendly faces

John Boylan's picture
John Boylan on June 24, 2005 - 13:10 Permalink

I don’t know what it is about PEI, but there seems to be something here that makes people want to hunker down with kith and kin. I’ve found the sterotypical Come From Away to be just as insular and selective in their friendships as the sterotypical traditional Islander.

As a person born on the Island of CFA parents, I found that a lot of my closest friends growing up were people of a similar background. I guess in part it speaks to the notion of seeking out people you have an underlying sympathy with.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on June 24, 2005 - 13:47 Permalink

John makes a good point.

Ken Williams's picture
Ken Williams on June 24, 2005 - 15:13 Permalink

Ok, wildly off topic but her is an idea I love to ponder…maybe it would forge new friendships?
Economic & Cultural Development Plan:
Establish new air service between five city pairs on each side of the Atlantic. Use two small jets to provide each city pair one weekly flight back and forth. Financing by economic development agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Crew and staff from both sides of the Atlantic.
The city pairs:
St. John’s to Rejkavic
Moncton to Brussels
Charlottetown to Cardiff
Halifax to Glasgow
Sydney to Dublin
This new air service will be year round, and provide new connections to improve economic, cultural, and personal affairs between the city pairs.
It will also encourage more connecting flights to these cities from other carriers.
I wonder if this could ever happen, and what it would cost for ten years commitment?
I think there is a natural affinity between these city pairs and both sides of the Atlantic would find something familiar and new on the other side.
Can we trade in the ATC and use the money for this plan?