Adventures in moving from Toronto to PEI : Honesty isn’t the best policy here

In my semi-ongoing series on our transition in moving from Toronto to PEI, I’ve found a lot of similarities between Trinidad and Prince Edward Island. For instance

  • If you didn’t grow up on the island and your parents didn’t grow up here, you’ll never be an “islander”. In Trinidad, it came from our fundamental mistrust of foreigners. In PEI, it seems that many “islanders” are defensive about their identity in relation to the rest of Canada.
  • The “Come from Away” term or CFA in PEI is the same as we use “yuh from away” or “you living foreign” in Trinidad. It denotes that while you’re from a different place or living in a different place, the experience that you’ve acquired on your travels or while being away is fundamentally less than if you had stayed on the island.
  • The myopia of vision or strategy is similar in both Trinidad and Prince Edward Island. There are very progressive people on both islands, but there is a lot of upstream swimming to get anything off the ground
  • It’s very, very difficult to change entrenched beliefs
  • Trying to argue or change someone’s perception can end up with you being labelled a “know it all” or “arrogant” or “not playing nice”

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been doing the PEI Realtors course in an attempt to educate our family about the intricacies and nuances of the PEI Real Estate market. It was an excellent course … I highly recommend the course as a newcomer to the island, because you’ll also meet a diverse and very interesting subset of entrepreneurs. It’s not a cheap course ($2500+HST), but I thought that the course material and networking aspects of it, were invaluable.

As part of the course, I had the opportunity to chat with most people in the class and get to know a little about their backstories. It was eye opening for me, in that I’ve also made certain types of assumptions based on my collective experiences on and off the island. Some of those assumptions were positive and some of them were not as much. However the one truth that I’ve come to realize is that the island is a small place and reputation is paramount.

In Trinidad, when someone is trying to figure you out or make an initial judgement, they’ll ask two questions

In PEI, you’ll probably get the first question only, unless you’re a visible minority like myself and then the answer to the question is self evident.

As a citizen of the world, I’ve spent my time trying to get a glimpse behind the curtain of multiple cultures and trying to educate myself in non-standard ways. Most people however might not be blessed with the desire or opportunity to do so and I’ve had to work at not jumping to my own myopic conclusions.

In Trinidad, one has to be very cautious when meeting new people and speaking out of turn, lest that person be judged on snippets of unrelated or non contextual conversation. Prince Edward Island is very similar in this respect. When moving from Toronto to PEI, I didn’t really consider this cultural nuance. I’m not the best at holding my tongue and using my ears as much because I’ve spent a considerable part of my life trying to educate myself on the world, as best as I can. I have strong opinions which have come as a result of the things I’ve seen and done but not everyone on the “island” will care for those opinions or the knowledge behind those opinions.

Honesty … is not always the best policy

For many here, the mere fact that I would have considerably divergent opinions from their status quos will create a belief that I am challenging or condescending on their own self constructs or even the collection social constructs that they know. In Trinidad, honesty with everyone was never the best policy when it came to social interactions. Many people simply cannot handle a honest opinion, even when based on experiences ranging across the planet. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve realized that in Prince Edward Island … I’ll have to use a very similar mindset.

So when thinking about moving from Toronto to PEI or “eastsizing” as it’s now starting to be called … just know that your honest opinions about how things are done here might not be received positively. In fact, it might be better to remain completely silent and “bite your tongue”. For someone like me … I don’t think that honesty is the best policy here, when it comes to sharing your opinions.

Here’s one thing about people here … there is a lot of trust that goes around. If you’re driving around the island, you can buy vegetables on the honor system. That is simply awesome to me!

Tell me what you think … I’d love to get some opinions on this.

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at