The word “Vacationland” has been on license plates since 1936, and Maine saw 11.4 million visitors in 2022.
I can all but guarantee that 11,399,994 stood out as being from another state. To the guys in banana hammocks on Old Orchard Beach? Ayuh, we’ve spotted a Canadian.
Whether you want to stand out or fit in, here are the telltale signs someone in Maine isn’t from Maine.
Tourists don’t exist. Neither do locals.
If you’re a Mainer who clicked on this article just to be outraged by the world “local” and “tourist,” it’s okay. We know the lingo. We just had to speak universally to start.
First things first. You are on vacation, but you aren’t a tourist when you visit Maine. You are “from away” or a “Flatlander,” the latter of which can sometimes have a negative meaning.
In fact, you can live in Maine and still be “from away.” A Mainer is someone with a pedigree akin to an AKC show dog that can prove lineage in Maine going back at least three generations.
Mainers have quiet confidence and love where they live. It’s not that they don’t care where you’re from. They just won’t ask. They already know. You’re “from away.” Don’t call yourself a tourist.
Those From Away have a 26-letter alphabet. Mainers talk with just 24.
One of the easiest ways to stand out as a tourist is to use the letters “R” and “G” at or near the end of a word. Be warned, Flatlanders, never accuse a Mainer of having a Boston accent. It’s a Downeast accent.
- Lobster = Lobstah
- Supper = Suppah
- Here = Heeyah
- Fishing = Fishin’
- Farming = Fahmin’
Don’t try to fake a Maine accent to fit in. You’ll end up sounding somewhere between Mark Wahlberg in The Departed and Scarface.
Mainers don’t put an “uh” in Kennebunkport…
It’s Ken-KNEE-bunk-port and Ken-EE-bunk. Don’t say Kenn-uh-bunk-port unless you want to stand out as from away.
Flatlanders also don’t really take the time to get to know the pronunciations of towns, and that’s going to be another obvious clue of your origins. You go to Bang-GOR, not Bang-ER. Calais is CAL-iss. That big mountain in the North Maine Woods? That’s Kah-TAH-din, not CAT-uh-din.
… But they do have an “uh” in “Yes.”
If you’ve read any Stephen King, you’ve seen the word “Ayuh” written many times. In the simplest explanation, it means “Yes” or “Yep.” It can also be similar to the “uhh huh” that Flatlanders give when someone is talking, and they’re barely listening anymore.
It can also be used repeatedly upon inhale, suggesting, “Keep tahlkin’; this is gettin’ good!”
Flatlanders endearingly ask for directions expecting an easy answer.
Mainers are salt-of-the-earth people who would give you the (flannel) shirt off their backs. However, when it comes to giving directions, they only have three options:
- “You can’t get there from here”
- A history lesson mixed with obscure references a visiting driver couldn’t possibly know
It’s a time-honored tradition in Maine to be the absolute worst at giving directions.
“You can’t get theya from heyah”
This means there’s not a direct route to where you want to go, or you’re saying the name of the place wrong, or the Mainer just doesn’t have the energy to explain the 20 landmarks comprised of trees, boulders, and mailboxes that are going to get you lost anyway.
A history lesson mixed with obscure references
If you think approaching a well-aged Mainer about how to get somewhere, you’ll be at the mercy of all the families who lived here in the past century and the stores that may or may not still exist.
Example: “The watafall? After that pissah of a wintah? Go up the road a bit, and turn left where the big barn used to be. If you miss it, Tommy is okay with you turning around in his driveway. Drive until the road turns to dirt. Right by where the Baxtuhs used to live. We did a lot of speeding down that road until they put the gate up. Oh, if the gate is up, turn around and then look for the road between two maple trees. Not the maple trees with the mailbox Ms. Smith uses. The other one. Take a straight until…”
Mainers will definitely give you bad directions if you’re rude or act entitled to their time to get directions.
Flatlanders wear lobster bibs. Mainers wouldn’t dare.
Legend has it that the lobster bib actually started as a bet between two restaurant workers to see if they could get a guest excited about wearing a bib. The rest is history.
Given how little most Flatlanders know about the proper way to eat lobster, it might be in your (shirt’s) best interest to wear one. Mainers will just know you’re from away. The real laughs will come when guests hold the lobster up for a photo op or pretend the lobster is pinching them.
Related: ULTIMATE Guide to Maine Lobster
Flatlanders love the left… and we don’t mean politics.
It’s called “camping in the left lane,” and it drives Mainers nuts. When driving on the Maine Turnpike or any other multi-land highway, the left lane is for passing only. Any driver that is cruising along at or below the speed limit in the left lane is widely assumed to be from away and strongly encouraged to go back there.
From Away drivers rent compact cars and head for the mountains.
Many a Maine visitor has overestimated their winter driving skills and underestimated the actual definition of a road in Vacationland. If you’re heading to Rangeley in your Ford Focus, you’re clearly from away.
The logging roads and gravel gorges of the lakes, mountains, and woods require high-profile vehicles and a sturdy spine to handle the massive potholes, half-flooded roads, and narrow turns that could be two feet deep in snow or mud.
Flatlanders are dying to see a moose. Mainers are trying to avoid them on the road.
Visitor: “Where can I see a moose?”
Those from away seem to have an expectation that moose stand on the state line with a Cirque du Moose performance for every passing car. Mainers also know that tourists lose their minds when they see a moose for the first time, so even pointing them in the right direction might not bode well for the moose.
Moose are exactly where you’d expect them to be… in the woods and lakes region. Most Mainers can tell you at least one story about a close car or crashed vehicle involving a moose on the road.
Mainers know the tide schedule is as important as the time.
“Let’s walk/kayak/swim to that island!”
Mainers have the tide schedule engrained in their brains, especially when so much of the state’s livelihood involves lobstering and clamming. Flatlanders have a bad habit of only seizing a moment in time when that island is just 1,000 feet away.
The problem is that in two hours, that island will be surrounded by water, and the people will get stuck, or the kayakers will have to portage back since the tide dropped.
Flatlanders lack situational awareness.
It’s bad enough they camp in the left lane instead of at Sebago Lake, but Mainers will tell you with vivid details about the group from away that stood in the middle of Route 1 to get a photo or wait in a long line for ice cream.
The beloved guests of Maine also get hyper-focused on the “Best Lobster Roll” listings and wait in lines for hours when two more crab shacks nearby have no line. It seems the Vacationland visitors only trust a place that has more buoys than boards on the building.
Meanwhile, Mainers are bargaining the best price right at the dock as the boat comes in.
Mainers don’t get buggy about bugs.
Those from away have the picture of a lighthouse and rocky shoreline in their head but somehow think Maine magic comes without bugs.
If you bring your beach bags to the edge of a saltwater marsh in early August, you’ll be battling biting flies and massive horseflies that sting repeatedly. You’ll wish it was just the mosquitoes!
Mainers know where to avoid the bugs and how to handle them. They’ve been inhaling them since they were kids. If you’re complaining about the bugs at the beach, you’re definitely not from here.
The person’s shirt says it all.
If you’re walking down Dock Square with a Kennebunkport (did you say it right?) t-shirt, a Federal Jack’s hat, or a football jersey that shows anything other than New England Patriots pride, you’re from away.
You might love your Raiders or Broncos, but most Mainers are loyal to a fault to the team that represents New England.
Related: Interesting Facts About Maine
Flatlanders can’t fathom Maine winters.
“It’s beautiful, but how do you get through the winter?” This comment is usually followed by a dramatic shudder.
Mainers don’t just embrace winter; they have leveled up winter in every way possible. Just about any town worth visiting has some version of Winterfest, the ski resorts will make you kiss your Aspen goodbye, and hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobiling and cross-country skiing trails await each winter.
What Mainers and Flatlanders agree on.
The increase in Maine tourism and record-setting numbers at places like Acadia National Park show that we all have something in common – We all love Maine.
The Downeast drawl is optional, but just get out of the left lane, will yah?