Monday, April 21, 2008

The Globe Does it Again: "Newfie dialect" is "as impenetrable as the lanscape"

Funny, for a moment there I almost thought we were being taken seriously...

Getting real in Newfoundland

Forget pampering. Or It lists. A growing number of travellers are on the hunt for 'deep authenticity,' flocking to destinations like Newfoundland to get away from such trappings. The only problem: When you can't understand the locals — or crack their inner circles. But one tour company may have a solution. Call it a concierge service with a twist

‘If you're extra lucky, you'll get yourselves invited to a kitchen party,” Terri told us in the days leading up to our Newfoundland vacation. “Friends and neighbours get together and play instruments and sing and tell stories and drink. That's the real deal out there.”

Terri, a close friend who grew up in Gander but now lives down the street in British Columbia, had just “screeched in” my wife and me in her living room. Following tradition, we downed a shot of cheap rum. Then we kissed a frozen salmon – our West Coast stand-in for the cod that's usually pulled out for the ceremony that makes “come from aways” honorary locals.

So we necked with a fish. We had been anointed pseudo-locals. We even had certificates to prove it, downloaded from the Internet. But we knew we were Newfies on paper only. And, like a growing number of travellers, we wanted that real deal.

Along with the 490,000 other visitors that head to Newfoundland every year, we were attracted to a place that seemed largely untouched by the crushing effects of mass tourism. This was a province of genuine outport communities – effectively cut off from one another by fierce winters and a harsh interior of scrubland and ponds known simply as the Barrens, but famous for hospitality and openness.

Or maybe we had seen too many glossy brochures. Because the Newfie dialect can be as impenetrable as the landscape. Then there are the mannerisms: Men greet one another with a quick left-to-right sideways nod that can seem cryptic to outsiders. Which leaves even the most intrepid travellers stranded just on the edge of the authentic – among the locals, but always apart from them.

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