It has been observed that Maine is the only foreign country in the United
States. There is no question that Maine is definitely unique and many things
here are different. For some, these differences are
frustrating; for many others they are the very things that make this state such
a great place to live and raise a family.
To get you in the mood to cover a few of these differences, consider what other
state's image can be conjured up so vividly with a few well-chosen words:
One of Maine's oldest clichés "if you don't like the weather, wait a minute"
gives rise to one of the major differences in life-styles here: Folks in
California keep an eye on the TV and an ear to the radio to find out what
traffic is going to be like, while folks in Maine do the same thing, but
to find out what the weather is going to be like...
Bill Caldwell, one of Maine's favorite journalists, once wrote "The weather out
there changes every day. And every day I enjoy it more. If you like weather, you
love Maine. In one day Maine can get up to five kinds of weather. In one year,
we get 10 seasons."
So although the weather may be changeable, it's never boring. While winters are
long, there are many, many days that are cloud-free and brilliant. Also good
news is that the climate along the coastal region, which extends inland for
about 20 miles, is moderated by the ocean which makes for milder winters and
cooler summers. Plus, there is just about every kind of winter sport and
recreational activity you could hope to find anywhere.
The numbers vary greatly by region, but using the Portland area as an example:
44 inches of rain and 71 inches of total snowfall per year, 132 freezing days
every year, snow on only 15-20 days, and 3-8 days with temperatures over 90
In Maine, the real natives are Native American tribes - the Micmacs, the
Penobscots, the Maliseets, the Passamaquoddies - about 1 percent of the
population. The other "natives" are people who were born in Maine, who are about
95 percent Caucasian. However, a steady influx of "people from away" (sometimes
called flatlanders or rusticators) is slowly but surely changing the ethnic
diversity of Maine.
"Are the natives friendly?" This is a question often asked by people from away
who are considering moving to Maine to slow down, to change their lifestyle, to
try something new. The answer is that, despite their reserved and sometimes
crusty nature, they are both friendly and more often than not, very helpful.
These "natives", the people who have lived here year-round for one or more
generations, are one of the major contributors to Maine's specialness. These
Yankees are highly independent, resourceful, frugal, rugged and hardworking
individualists who have learned to wrest a living from the land or the sea, no
matter the weather, oftentimes working at two or three jobs or trades to make
ends meet. And all with a "wicked" sense of humor.
Visitors, traveling the back roads of Maine, stopping at a country store, or a
farm stand or a yard sale, quickly pick up on the fact that Mainers have their
own lingo. They use words not heard in other states and use pronunciations that
are unique and sometimes difficult to understand. It is not only remarkable that
these localisms have survived, but that they are delivered with unusual brevity
and a dry humor that's hard to grasp at first.
From "ayuh" (yes) to "daow" (emphatic no), for those interested in learning more
about the language of Maine, we would refer you to "How to Talk Yankee" by
Gerald Lewis. See our
"You can't get there from here" is another famous Maine cliché - and not without
some foundation in fact. While road signs in other states have mileage distances
to the next town, in Maine these are typically not given. Bridges do not have
the name of the river or creek they pass over. And highway number signs are very
sparse, particularly on back roads, making it possible to drive many miles in
the wrong direction before discovering your error.
When you stop to ask directions, you will discover that locals seldom use street
addresses. Instead a "metes and bounds" colliloquy will be given such as "go
straight ahead about two miles until you see a big rock on the left, then after
that there will be a dirt road to the right, then go until you see a brown
Is it any wonder that "awayers", hopelessly lost (or "turned around" as locals
call it), see all this as a plot to frustrate and discourage them from moving to
Our best advice is to do what even the old-timers here do: Keep a copy of
DeLorme's "Maine Atlas and Gazetteer" handy in your car.
Maine has the traditional form of New England government - home rule - said to
be the only existing type of "pure" democracy. This means that state government
has relatively little power, and that the town and cities make all their major
decisions by citizen vote through the vehicle of annual town meetings, usually
held in March. In many of Maine's 450 smaller towns and plantations, this is one
of the major social events of the year, usually with refreshments and, more
often than not, a potluck dinner or supper.
There are only a couple of dozen larger cities that are ruled by city councils,
although more towns are beginning to elect some officials and hiring
professionals to manage their day-to-day business.
In any event, when researching real estate, it is best to talk to the folks at
the local town office.
REAL ESTATE VALUES
Although it is not always prudent to generalize, real estate tends to be less
expensive the farther up the Maine coastline you go and the farther inland you
go. With more and more people from away willing to pay a premium for shoreline
real estate, values seem to be steadily increasing, So the old adage that "now"
is always the best time to buy certainly appears to be true for Maine's