The Top 10 Island Life Faux Pas

Do not be deceived by idyllic appearances. There is shit that you must not do when living on a piece of land surrounded by water with 10,000 other people, who all shop at the same grocery stores, visit the same doctors, dentists, restaurants and post offices as you. The following are rules to live by.
  • Sneaking ahead of your turn on the ferry line. You are not unnoticed, especially by your neighbours, and most definitely by the ferry staff.
  • Moving someone’s jacket, bag, or other item signifying that the seat is reserved at your local theater. I almost incited a lynch mob the last time I was at the Fritz and someone moved my scarf – luckily the situation deescalated before anyone could get through the popcorn line. Because, priorities!
  • Never gossip about anyone, ever. Gossip is a lesser name for character assassination. You know that the cashier or person behind/in front of you in line at the grocer is most likely related to your object of discussion in some way. Always imagine the person you’re tempted to rant about is right behind you. Or use nicknames, like “the troll”. Or seriously, just don’t. Happy people find solutions, rather than perpetuating problems and misunderstandings. Be a happy person. Recognize your extreme privilege in being able to reside in paradise, and work on making yourself and your community a better place.
  • Wait until you hit the passing lanes. Winding country roads do not offer many opportunities for passing. Yes, the person in front of you, who is often driving under the speed limit, is aware that you are there, and likely thinking you need to slow down and plan your trip to the ferry a little sooner (because where else could you be rushing too?). Anywhere else in Canada people pull over when they notice someone wanting to pass on an unsafe passing stretch; but on an island drivers know you deserve the lesson of their righteousness. Take a deep breath, and hope that the ferry is running behind schedule.
  • Never act like an asshole – you never know if you’re going to have to depend on that persons benevolence at the bank, or hospital, or at any other crucial moment (like the aforementioned ferry line up — literally an islanders lifeline).
  • Panicking if you see someone in your vehicle. In all likelihood, they are turning off your lights. Or in the case of one of my children, they sat in a car identical to ours for at least 10 minutes before they noticed me across the parking lot getting into our actual vehicle.
  • Never cross a cross walk unsuspectingly. Islanders are very busy people, and most don’t bother waiting until pedestrians are off the road to proceed (if they stop at all). Paradoxically, when the population of the island swells to double during tourist season, expect that people will be all over the road, anywhere and anytime. Because, again, island time.
  • Island time. Not only an expression, but a way of life. Cool for potlucks and dance parties and all types of casual events, but not professional appointments or work commitments. C’mon people, even Horton means what he says.
  • Tip your barista. If you can afford the luxury of buying a coffee, you can probably afford to treat the staff well and respectfully. These people work hard for usually minimum wage to make your day a little easier. Besides, they know EVERYTHING about anyone who spends any amount of time in said coffee shop – who’s together and who isn’t, who speaks kindly and who doesn’t, et cetera. The collective power they could wield if they chose could likely bring many of us to our knees. On second thought, tip a LOT!
  • Telecommunication companies. Your choices are limited, that’s a fact. Rather than get frustrated at how the bureaucracy is run, makes friends with the local techs and glean their wisdom. Graciousness and good manners are always appreciated. However, do ask your neighbours, as someone else always manages to negotiate a better deal (my experience on Salt Spring is that the average person is charged triple what they can offer for best rates – it pays off to ask).

No doubt any islander will have something to add to the list — I’d love to hear it!