When you live in Maine for a little while, the state’s way of life gets under your skin. From the tip of Aroostook County to the 4,600 islands along the coast, Mainers have unusual habits that are hard to shake off, especially when they leave the state boundaries. Here are seven quirks deeply ingrained in every Mainer out there.
1. Saying “wicked.”
It’s not just “good,” it’s “wicked good.” It starts out as a joke — a wink and a nod to the old Mainer caricature — and before you know it, you’re telling your buddy about that “wicked” Ghost of Paul Revere concert you went to and the “wicked good” hummus sandwich you ate for lunch. When your travels take you elsewhere, it’ll be hard to shake the phrase. But be warned: exclaiming that Aunt Josie’s Georgia peach pie is “wicked” at a church picnic might earn you sideways glances.
2. Waving to everyone.
Driving or walking through rural Maine you’ll receive a brief raised-hand acknowledgment from just about everyone — even people you barely know or strangers. Waving quickly becomes a habit. There’s the two-finger salute, the full hand salute, or if you’re really excited to see someone — a full hand wave, complete with a grin. The drive-by wave is a simple acknowledgment of humanity. It says, “Oh, hey there! I haven’t seen another human for a while and not sure when I’ll see one again; it’s been nice socializing with you.”
3. Getting money for your recyclables.
Mainers tend to be less concerned with the redemption of souls than they are with the redemption of bottles. A recent hot-button topic addressed by Maine’s legislature was whether or not to tag a five-cent redemption cost onto the single-serving liquor bottles, called “nips,” that often pile up on the side of the road. Mainers tend to be sensitive to the environment and our state government often employs policies that reflect this, so recycling and upcycling are expected. There have even been instances when transfer station employees have rifled through residential trash in order to identify and chastise non-recyclers. When you leave Maine, emotionally prepare yourself for the death of recycling bins.
4. Paying unexpected visits.
Although this practice may seem rude and intrusive when out of state, Maine is the kind of place where it’s socially acceptable to pop in on a neighbor or relative uninvited. Depending on the distance, you may call to say, “I’m on my way,” but it’s not necessary. It wouldn’t be unheard of to come home to a note from a relative who had stopped by, or having neighbors come over to share garden-fresh produce or to just say “hi.”
5. Talking about the weather.
Small talk about the weather is one way Mainers connect. It often gets a bad rap as being shallow and lame, but it’s hard to deny the technique’s usefulness in finding a footing with others.
6. Eating whoopie pies.
Whether it’s the original whoopie pie, a spin-off like Red Barn’s ice cream-filled whoopie pie, or a gluten-free version from your local baker — leaving behind this confectionary habit will be difficult. Definitely request a care package from your favorite Mainer.
7. Being self-sufficient.
Mainers are self-sufficient, women no less than men. The traditional Maine woman might not identify as a feminist, but she operates as one. By example, our mothers and grandmothers have taught us to thrive and be independent. We hunt and fish, we sew and cook, we educate ourselves, we lift heavy objects. We don’t have time for weakness and ineptitude. Don’t bother trying to shake this habit.
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