Cultural Customs Only New Englanders Will Understand

Vermont Farm
Vermont Farm | © Miriamichelle/Pixabay
Christopher Crosby

If people are a product of their environment, then consider the extreme climes of New England, frozen and bleakly beautiful in the winter, sunny and hot come summer. New Englanders, similarly, are cold at first, but quickly warm up. Differences vary widely among New Englanders, but here are a few things that anyone living there will understand.

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Wicked Means “Cool,” “Very,” and Almost Anything Else

The term “Wicked” is a verbal Swiss army knife for New Englanders and is rarely used in the context of the official definition, “morally wrong or evil.” The origins of its transformation in the area aren’t really known. Instead, you might hear it used here to intensify almost anything—wicked cool, wicked strong and, if the topic is New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, “wicked awesome there guy.”

They Pray For Snow

The exacting specificity of meteorology has not undone the common tradition known to every school-going kid of praying—regardless of religious affiliation—the night before a storm for two feet of snow. Kids and teachers alike want a day off, and there’s almost nothing better than hanging out and sledding with your friends on a snow day.

Everyone Forgets How To Drive When It Snows

You’d think those who live in a region known for snow would know how to drive in it. Mostly, they do, except for that first snow of the year, when it seems to be an annual tradition to forget how to drive in the snow. Regardless of severity, the first snowstorm claims an undue number of victims who’ve apparently forgotten all the strategies they had just the year before. Expect delays.

Auto accident

Milkshakes? You Mean Frappes

In new England, the dictionary is optional. Although the rest of the world knows a milkshake to include ice cream, in New England, you’d have to order a “frappe” to get the same thing. Not a big deal, except New Englanders are intransigent about getting what they order. Want ice cream? Don’t order a milkshake.

Driving Far North at Night? Take It Slow

Moose—they’re big, brownish-black, and active at night. Oh, and they love to run alongside your car, until they don’t, at which point they suddenly, and sharply, turn into it. The results are predictable and one of the reasons night driving in the far north—mostly the rural reaches of Vermont and Maine—is done slowly and on the edge of your seat.

Yes, Everyone Eats Lobster

Lobster is the best-known New England culinary staple, aside from blueberries. It’s so common that while you might spend $30 on your lobster dinner in other regions, New Englanders are getting it for $4 a pound out of the back of trucks. Lobster is so ubiquitous that in small inland towns, the local grocer—maybe even the local hardware store—sells it(though, admittedly, without the plastic bibs).

No One Uses Their Front Door (But Everyone Has One)

“Front door” is a misnomer. They’re just decorations to confuse out-of-state guests. No one uses them. You might be bewildered to see planters, barrels and all manner of seasonal landscaping placed squarely in the way of front doors. You might even try to navigate your way around them to get inside (at which point you’ll hear the only deadbolts in New England retract—no one locks their door). Instead, everyone uses they’re back door, as evidenced by the footprints and signs of wear and tear.

Everyone Shops at Farmers Markets

Farmers markets are as common here as going to the supermarket. Put that down to New Englanders’ sense of independence—almost every community has a farmers market, and even though the food might cost a little more, New Englanders will stretch their dollars to buy locally, which often means buying from neighbors. The population in many communities, especially those in Maine and Vermont, haven’t changed much since the 1980s.

Vermont farm

If You Weren’t Born Here, You’re from Away

Pick up a local newspaper and scan through the obituaries. No, this isn’t a macabre exercise. Instead, you’re likely to read about someone poking fun at the fact that, despite spending their entire life in New England, they were born elsewhere and have always been considered “from away.” New England communities are historic and traditional (detractors might claim they’re static and small), and it takes longer than a lifetime to change the “from away” status.

Excitement for the Next Season Starts Early. Very, Very Early

New Englanders love their seasons. So much so that they say the preparation for fall begins on the first day of summer. Although that might be a stretch (it’s more like the second day), seasons have a way of blending together here, and not just because of the longer Christmas shopping season. Fall wreaths, Halloween decorations, Christmas lights—they all seem to appear weeks and months earlier than anywhere else.

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