I welcome tourist season every year. I enjoy checking out the different license plates, giving people directions, advising them on the best places to eat (Two Whales Coffee Shop) and the most rewarding hikes (Tickle Cove, King’s Cove, Fox Island). I love icebergs, whales, blueberries and puffins. They are just a few of the reasons I still live in Newfoundland, in a town of 100 people. This place rocks.
Every tourist season brings a fresh crop of mainlanders and Europeans who agree with me, decide to buy a place, and stay. (I should know – I live with one of them). I understand the lure of the fresh salt air, but it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. If you’re thinking of moving to rural Newfoundland, I’ve put together a handy guide to help you in your decision-making.
1. Do you value your digital connection to friends and family around the world? If so, check availability of high speed Internet before you buy that century-old home with the million-dollar view. And don’t think you have satellite to fall back on – when the weather is mauzy (often, between January and December), a satellite connection will be no more use to you than dial-up.)
2. Do you have a special diet, for medical, religious or personal reasons? If so, be prepared to buy gluten-free flours in bulk and stock up on salt-free products by the case. And maybe buy an industrial freezer to stock-pile the essentials. Depending on where you choose to take up residence, whole-wheat flour could prove elusive. Do your research and plan ahead.
3. Do you only eat organic fruits and vegetables? If so, make a greenhouse your first project at your new home.
4. Do you enjoy fresh seafood? If so, make friends with a fisherman. You’ve come to the right place. But don’t count on getting local fare in at the grocery store. It’s a complicated process, the selling of fish. Ask your new fisher friends to explain it to you sometime when you have an hour or nineteen to spare.
5. Do you enjoy codfish? If so, learn how to gut and split it yourself. Come the food-fishery, your fishermen friends will have enough cod to gut and split without having to do yours, too.
6. Do you rely on an assortment of exclusive brand-name beauty products? Either get used to the Walmart selection, or buy shares in Sephora. (You’ll need high speed Internet for all the online shopping you’ll be doing).
7. Do you own rubber boots? If not, go buy some now. The $10 Canadian Tire variety will do.
8. Do you own a snorkel? If so, don’t bother unpacking it. Save it for a trip to warmer waters.
9. Do you know about coliform, E-Coli and Beaver Fever? Chances are your new home will run on well water. Learn where to get your water tested, and how to shock-chlorinate the system when the results come back substandard.
10. Are you scared of the dark? Many towns have no street lighting, so there’s no such thing as ambient light outside after the sun goes down except for what comes from people’s windows and car headlights. Keep a flashlight handy.
11. What do you do in case of an emergency? There is no 911 service, but volunteer fire departments answer all kinds of emergency calls. Learn the number for the department that serves your area. Cut them a cheque a couple of times a year to show you appreciate their service.
12. Make friends with the locals, not just other ex-pats who have a summer home like you.
13. It’s really really quiet here. Oh there’s lots to DO, but the silence can be deafening.
I believe too many people have romanticized country living (thanks, Peter Mayle). I hate those books that examine the local ways through the “How quaint! How backwards!” lens. It’s just life, with less people around. Rural Newfoundland is a wonderful place to visit, and an ever better place to live. Just know what you’re getting into for the long haul.
And check on that high speed thing. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.