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Life In Maine

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:

  • Lobster rolls
  • Yard sales
  • Windjammers
  • L.L. Bean
  • Mud season
  • Whoopie pie
  • Ice fishin
  • Wild blueberries
  • Moose
  • Sugaring off
  • Friendship sloop
  • Leaf peeping
  • Snowshoeing
  • Fiddleheads
  • Black flies
  • Lighthouses
  • Down east
  • Baked clams
  • Nor’easter
  • Wild turkeys
  • Wicked good


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 degrees F.


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 Useful Publications page.


“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 cape…”

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 Maine?

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.


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 waterfront properties.