“From Away”

From Away

Fredericton Arts Alliance Residency
July 25-29, 2016

Every place has its own ideas and attitudes about outsiders, usually some combination of distrust, indifference, and outright hostility. Where I grew up, we called them flatlanders. They were usually (but not necessarily) affluent people who had moved up to Vermont from “down-country,” purchased property, conducted themselves in ways often considered ostentatious by locals, and they were assumed (sometimes correctly) to have a condescending attitude toward local lifestyles and culture.

In Atlantic Canada, where I now live, “Come From Away,” often shortened to “From Away” or even “CFA,” is the term used to indicate that someone has relocated from another province or country. As the region changes and increasingly relies upon the influx of outsiders for population growth, some Maritimers are suggesting that the term is outdated and undermines efforts to attract and welcome immigrants from elsewhere in Canada and beyond.

But what purpose does the phrase serve for people who use it? How do Maritimers perceive themselves to be different from newcomers? How does one become a Maritimer, and is it possible to ever stop being an outsider in Atlantic Canada? What do locals want newcomers to understand about their home and culture? How do new arrivals experience and perceive that culture?

I plan to explore these questions during the month of July as an Artist in Residence with the Fredericton Arts Alliance. If you’re in Fredericton July 25-29, 2016, please come down to the Soldier’s Barracks off Queen Street to visit and chat. This is your chance to teach me about this uniquely Maritime phrase. Your input will help to inspire some new poems I’ll be working on during the residency related to themes of home, place, here-and-there-ness, and belonging. If you can’t visit me in person during my residency, please feel free to Leave a Reply in the comments section below.

Questions to consider:

  • What does it mean to be “from away”? Where do you have to be from to not be “from away”?
  • How long does a family have to be in the Maritimes (or in New Brunswick, or in Fredericton) before its members can consider themselves to be from “here”?
  • What does the term “Maritimer” mean? Does it include Acadians? First Nations? African-Canadians?
  • What are the characteristics of people from “here” that people who are “from away” do not share? What are the stereotypes of “CFA”s?
  • If you are not from the Maritimers, what words, phrases, and stereotypes are used where you’re from to describe outsiders? What are the origins of those ideas?

I look forward to learning from you! Thanks for your comments.

2 thoughts on ““From Away”

  1. Hi Abby
    I am a New Brunswicker first, Maritimer second. I was a CFA when I worked in Charlottetown for a winter which I was surprised at – I can see PEI on a clear day from the river I grew up on but that counted for little.

    I think ‘marrying in’ can lead to earlier acceptance but is no garentee without the right attitude. When I started work here as a women in a male field it was very important to some of my patients that I was from here -it explained my presence. That is why my high school diploma is on the wall!

    Jill

  2. Hi Abby,

    Since moving to New Brunswick I have felt, and continue to feel, like someone from “away”. Having married into a large, rural, New Brunswick family, my “otherness” was obvious from the early days of my relationship with my partner. Points of reference, common sayings (“Right cold out, eh?”), lack of understanding of rural community groups (Woman’s Institute), lack of familiarity with local geography, dialect (I never was able to comprehend my partner’s Grandmother), all combined to leave me feeling exotic in some way. Over time, I have become fond of the feeling of being unique to this place.

    Now that we have settled in Fredericton, I do notice that most of my friends also “come from away”. This diverse tribe of mine has made my transition easier and my life richer with stories from far off places. Finding like folk has meant that being from “here” or not no longer really matters.

    Bronwyn

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