If you're planning a visit to Maine soon, it's good to learn about the state's culture. There are many reasons why you'd want to do this, but the obvious one is to learn how to 'fit in' so as to make your trip even more comfortable. In other words, you need to 'get a feel' of the Maine experience prior to setting foot there. There are a host of things that define Maine culture and make it unique: history, art, material culture, folk culture, environment, geographical features, sights, daily life, and cuisine. But for the most part, heritage and history define a big part of Maine culture.
People and Lifestyle
Mainers, for the most part, are great people. They have strong values and are committed toward them. They are solid and live principled lives: no nonsense and no pretense. They're also honest to a large extent. Statistics consistently rate Maine as one of the places with the lowest crime rate. The majority of the population resides along the coast, so if you're going to stay for a while, it's highly likely that you'll stay near the ocean.
The population is predominantly white (more than 95 percent of total) while other ethnicities make up less than 5 percent of the total population. Because the state mainly comprises small towns, there tends to be a 'small-town mentality' among the locals, along with all other problems associated with small towns, notably intolerance to 'outsiders'. However, there's increasingly a growing tolerance towards people of other ethnicities, religion, and race.
Maine's population comprises two distinct categories of people: the first group are the natives whose families have lived there for more than three generations, and the second group consists of people from 'far away'. While the two groups get along comfortably, there's always a separation. A typical Mainer minds their own business and will always be courteous, provided you don't interfere with their lives.
Mainers are generally hardworking people although the state is economically depressed. So if you're moving here for the money, prepare for a rude awakening. However, that's not to say that you cannot make it here. Matter of fact, there are many successful Mainers both in full-time employment and self-employment. Of course, self employment is more lucrative in the long run if you have the talent and motivation.
Mainers are very creative when it comes to food. In fact, Portland, the largest city in Maine, has become some sort of Mecca for foodies. Seafood is a big feature on a typical Maine menu, but expect to see differences between northern and southern cuisines. Maine lobster is now a favorite dish around the world.
Maine lifestyle is generally laidback. It suits the quiet and reserved type or those that want a slow pace of life. However, life in big cities is much different from what you will find in small towns.
For instance, in Portland, people there are generally liberal, affluent, and trendy. They are foodies too but their care-free lifestyle is mainly because the majority are not native Mainers.
There are many native Mainers living in small fishing towns, but you'll also find natives in affluent touristy towns. Northern Maine is sparsely populated as it's mostly wilderness.
History and Heritage
Maine is a place of inspiration. Hundreds of artists and leaders have been inspired by this place, not to mention builders and dreamers. Maine's barren fields and Oceanside cliffs inspired artists such as Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer, often featuring as landscapes on their canvasses. Many other artists were inspired by Maine's rugged coast and pine-covered mountains.
While geography and art have influenced culture in Maine in one way or another, the history of small towns is what gives Mainers their distinct way of life. This is where people gathered over several interests, mainly social and economic. People came together for quilting bees and barn-raisings, as well as for school, church, and the more mundane activities such as meeting over lunch.
The sense of community was strong, especially for dear locals of small towns, but there were other differences that brought separations, age, religion, and many others. Nonetheless, things such as the aforementioned activities help to create closeness among locals, even if only short-lived.
For years, town festivals and events have long helped to bolster a sense of community and identity among native Mainers. Events, festivals, and celebrations take the form of many things, notably Old Home Days, which typically feature old-fashioned games and school re-unions, among other things.
The motivation is usually to evoke memories of the past when things were simpler in the community, but there's also a lot of reflection into the future.
Festivals may be held to celebrate ethnicity (such as ones held in Waterville and Lewiston-Auburn, and the La Kermesse, a celebration of the Franco-American community), crops (the Rockland Lobster Festival, the Machias Wild Blueberry Festival), religious rituals, and seasonal calendar events.
Some communities in Maine are bound by work and specific recreational activities. Many waterfront communities hold 'rituals' for commercial craft and fishing boats.
Social Customs and Religion
Town meetings are a part of community life in Maine and have been since those towns were founded. In the early days of town meetings, the whole family would come along father and mother to vote while the kids came along to watch and learn. Typically, business in town meetings was conducted by men while women provided food. It wasn't until 1920 that women were given voting rights.
In the current settings, the traditional town meeting has been replaced with various forms of municipal government.
Colonial Maine (as with most of New England) was largely a religious area, with many churches and taverns among the first public institutions to be set up. Most churches setup in the 19th century were catholic churches, but Protestants equally vied for the hearts of Mainers.
Currently, the Protestant denomination makes up 45 percent of the Christian population in Maine while Catholics are 37 percent. The rest of the religious population is mostly Baptist and Methodist Christians, as well as Lutheran, Pentecostal, Episcopal, and Methodist, among others. Seventeen percent are non-religious.