Imagine the Martians. They look more or less like us and have thus far escaped notice. And today, one sees a nice Tourism Nova Scotia advertisement on Facebook. Moved by the lobster, fiddlers, and happy kayakers, he decides to visit Halifax.

He lands in front of your house. “Greetings Haligonian-Earthling! Your city is strange, with dangers and delights in equal measure. What is one thing I must know to survive here?”

After a moment to compose yourself, your natural Maritime helpfulness kicks in. What do you tell your new Martian friend?

In a fit of whimsy, I recently asked this on Twitter, eliciting some interesting reminders about what really matters to Haligonians.

Some of my favourite wisdom comes from @NFMazdaspeed: “The Dartmouth – Halifax divide. Do NOT refer to Dartmouth as if it’s part of Halifax, even if that’s what the official things you read say. I’m not joking. I have done this and it was awkward.”

We hear variations of this regularly from Dartmouthians (and Chezzetcookians and Lower Sackvillains and people from every other HRM community). The “Halifax” in Halifax Magazine refers to the whole municipality. We focus a lot on peninsular Halifax because that’s where the bulk of our readers live and/or work, but we try (and are trying harder) to broaden our reach. For example, see Josefa Cameron’s report from North Preston on page 24.

We can assume the Martian is unfamiliar with crashing ocean waves, so @Labville has a ruthlessly practical tip: “Stay off the black rocks.” Our visitor also gets pragmatic lifesaving advice from @realfatapollo: “Don’t use crosswalks. You are more likely to be killed.” This winter it certainly feels that way, but still, use crosswalks. Just don’t count on drivers obeying the rules or police enforcing them.

This Martian will also need provisions. @PRapproach steps in: “You can only buy booze at the liquor store. As someone who moved from N.L. this was a harsh truth to learn.” This is one of those Nova Scotian things that feels so normal, until someone questions it. Why can we trust the cashier at the corner store to be responsible with tobacco but not alcohol?

As a small city, we sometimes take on weird quirks. @LauraORourke highlights one that will baffle Martians as much as it baffles me: “Everyone here buys chips to prepare for storm. (This was a legitimate conversation with my mother-in-law after she recently moved from Toronto.)” This whole #StormChips business is weird. I get wanting chips, but why the compulsion to do a bunch of free marketing for the potato-chip company?

@ColinHodd encourages the Martian to embrace transit: “Make friends with the ferry.” @Jer_Godfrey has similar advice: “The number 1 bus comes every 15 minutes or in rush hour every 10. Takes you to the Mall and Dartmouth!”

We Haligonians grumble about our transit system, but many newcomers love it. Halifax Magazine columnist Marianne Simon shared her impressions in the November issue: “Buses were modern… The drivers were courteous and helpful…I thought about the city buses back in India. People would be packed like sardines without a bit of personal space, adding to the misery of women.”

It’s easy, particularly for rich folks with lots of suasion, to discount Halifax Transit as a tax-dollar-sucking traffic-blocking nuisance; it’s good to get a reminder that it’s a vital service that improves thousands of users’ lives. (And see Marianne’s latest column).

Finally, should the Martian decide to settle and build a new life here, @RyanVanHorne has a career-building tip that would be funny, if it wasn’t painfully true: “Use the word ‘innovate’ a lot and you will never go hungry.”

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