"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Monday, 26 August 2013

Lessons from Newfoundland: Being a Neighbour

I've been a terrible blogger this summer.  My sincerest apologies to you all.  If you have any advice on how to keep regularly writing, I'd love to hear it.

Today's post is something I've been thinking about for the last month.  I wrote recently about our trip to Newfoundland, but ever since then, I've been pondering the things I learned on the journey.  Newfoundlanders are different from the people I meet every day.  Who knows whether it's the environment or genetics that makes the difference, but they inspired me to work on my own attitude.

When you mention Newfoundland to other Canadians, they often respond with phrases like, "Friendliest folks on earth".  Canadian shows like 22 Minutes poke light-hearted fun at Newfie hospitality.  It may be a stereotype, but it's based in fact.  Even when we were sitting on the plane in Toronto, waiting for take-off, people were greeting one another and finding personal connections, when typically travelers are glued to their iPhones or in-flight magazines.

Once we got to Newfoundland, the friendliness continued.  We were invited to have lunch at the mother of one of Gil's colleagues, someone we'd never met before.  When we visited friends, they repeatedly said we should eat whatever we liked and feel at home, and one woman went out of their way to make all of Gil's favourite foods, even though she was busy with her only son's wedding that week.

I came away from the experience feeling like a cold-hearted city person.  In Toronto, I consider myself a reasonably friendly person; I smile at other peoples' babies and have a great relationship with one of the clerks at the local FedEx.  The truth is, however, that I rarely go out of my way to be helpful or friendly.  I like the idea of hospitality, but it's only a few times a year that I actually invite people over because I'm embarrassed about the mess and my limited cooking skills.  We've lived in this house for a year and only know the names of one set of neighbours.

How does one cultivate friendliness in a culture that is not conducive to it?  How do I work on being friendly without scaring others away?  These are the questions I took away from my trip and hope to work on in the future.  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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