vintage maine license plate

How to Spot Visitors in Vacationland

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.

Welcome to Maine Sign

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.

welcome to kennebunkport
Dock Square, Kennebunkport, Maine

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!”

atlas map of Mount Desert Island Maine

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:

  1. “You can’t get there from here”
  2. A history lesson mixed with obscure references a visiting driver couldn’t possibly know
  3. Lie

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…”

A Lie

Mainers will definitely give you bad directions if you’re rude or act entitled to their time to get directions.

eating lobster wearing a lobster bib

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.

Bull moose munching on water plants in Maine's North Woods

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.

Nobody: …

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.

Wells Beach - Wells, Maine

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.

Lobster Roll
Marshall Wharf Brewing Company | photo via heatherandmaine

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

Winter Hike Acadia
Winter in Acadia | photo via itsmejesspierce

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.

Why don’t you come back in winter and check it out? Maybe we’ll even give you (correct) directions to Sugarloaf!

Portland Headlight, Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse - Cape Elizabeth, Maine

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?

11 Comments

  1. A. Portland says:

    The Mainers I grew up with had integrity to a fault and would not lie when giving directions. Ayuh is common but other pronunciations you give are Downeast. This is regional.

  2. Ed Boynton says:

    Both sides of my family, that’s my mom’s side and my fathah’s side, go back to the founding of Kittery …that’s pre 1630 and 1707 respectfully. I was born in Augusta but started school in Lexington Mass due. To my father’s job. Yet, ever school break and ever summer we were back to Whitefield of Stockton Springs. My mother has 6 siblings and my father had six siblings, this naturally i have some 60 cousins in Maine. Some do indeed have the brought.
    As a boy I’d as my father to reiterate what my Grandfather had just said, Oh my God did he have it thick, but I think ….it might have been due to a reduction of teeth, that things didn’t come out the way it was intended. This set of my family had been in the lumbering business ….well since it first took of in 1762, in Jefferson Maine. So words like millin and skidah Melk gozintah ….were a way of life that this now 6 year old preppy Lexingtonite would get use to.
    Millin – milling logs into boards
    Skidah- skidder tractor type of Vehicle that pulled several logs 20 to 60 feet long out of a dense forest.
    Melk – Milk….as in from the cow. One of my elder cousins had, and still has this accent where you’d share this was a new vocabulary…..but in maine, it works.
    Gozintah. -well the best way…. 2 gozintah 10….. 5 times. 10รท2 = 5 Or Jeannie goze into town every day.

    Talk about Ayah. My grandfather …. Could have been a man from 1800….his expressions ….for the life of me I couldn’t understand verbally but I eventually caught on. , but what a genuine man of Maine. He loved a good story, not especially telling ,but listening. The Ayah was a way of saying …go on, I’m with ya…then there’d be a ayah
    ayah He’d used expressions like” by and by” . He seemed like a friendly farmer type but in actuality he has a BS from Bowdin pre 1930. He’s a product of the interior of Maine where you just did your business and took care of all the things at home.

    I enjoyed your humor of those from away. There’s truth in your story. I can very well attest to the uniqueness of Mainers. As a boy growing up with one type of education and friends in the suburb of Boston, then seeing and hearing my Maine Uncles Aunts and many cousins….I felt like I needed to live in Maine…. In the late 60’s and 70’s. So glad that I am a Mainer, I live away but and back often.

  3. Maria Samuelsson says:

    I once left a young clerk in Reny’s gobsmacked when I informed her that Maine used to be part of Massachusetts. Her supervisor, who was older, backed me up. After living part-time in Maine and Massachusetts alternately, I said I was no longer from “away,” but that I was “Trans”… I had reached retirement and transitioned. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Bustah hartford says:

    Bein from downeast columbia falls to be exact, i undahstood the mainah way of talk loved the story !

    1. Back in 1972, I drove down to Columbia Falls from Bangor to attend the wedding of a couple of housemates. The bride was from theyah.

  5. I loved livin in Maine. I lived in biddeford Pool..

  6. Donald Collins says:

    What I want to know is if thuh ain’t no R’s
    or G’s why are we called Mainers insteda Mainahs?
    Ifah my ruthahs, I’d rutherbe called a Mainiak.
    Now I was boned upta Liberty but my people wus from away, they come down here from Masschawsits dang neigh300 years ago and formed the settlement of still in town, now known as Union. And, yeah, I got A kar and moose story fur ya. I don’t know but I expect that whoever wrote this article might live in Maine, but is from away. Just cuz your cat has kittens in the oven, that don’t make them biscuits.

  7. Sally. Hallee says:

    I go back 5 generations in Maine. So am happy that I am a true Mainer even though I live in Florida. (45 yrs). My greT grandfather was one of the first settlers in Rumford Point. My grandmother always took us all over Maine. Boothbay is so dear to me. And the woods. Rangely views embedded in my head. Don’t know when I can make it up to rumford again. I think about Maine everyday and miss it terribly. Much love to the beautiful people of Maine.

  8. Sally. Hallee says:

    I have been craving a lobster roll for 33 years. They don’t make it right in Florida. I don’t eat FL lobster either and scallops are no where near the quality of Maine.

  9. Richarfd Stivers says:

    During the summers of ’66 and ’67 I worked at the Pemaquid Point Motor Hotel. Once a local asked me if I wanted to go to the party (potty) with him. Shocked I just said I wasn’t that kind of guy.

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