Stop Making Fun Of My Hometown (Or, Why Small Cities Are Great)

by Brenna Holeman
Welcome to (Friendly) Manitoba
I was born and raised in a city called Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. For those who don’t know, it is a medium-sized city located in the very centre of Canada – when I describe its location to people, I often say that if you were to fold Canada in half, Winnipeg would be in the crease. It’s a city known for snow, festivals, and farming.
It’s also a city that seems to be the butt of many jokes.
“Oh, you’re from Winnipeg?” a young woman from Montreal said to me recently. “I’m sorry.”
Sorry for what? It is rude and condescending to say that to somebody, no matter where they’re from. There are, certainly, places in the world that are considered to be boring for whatever reason, but I am a firm believer that nobody has a right to judge or comment negatively about a person’s hometown. I meet people from London that hate it. I meet people from Paris that think it’s a dump. I also meet people from tiny towns in South Dakota that think their home is the absolute best place in the world to live. It’s all about perspective, and, unless you’ve been to a place and have some solid examples of why a place is so terrible, I’m going to call bullshit.
I can’t remember how many times people have made fun of me for being from Winnipeg; without fail, none of these people have ever been to the city. “Who’s from Winnipeg??” I’ve gotten. Um, me, obviously. “Don’t you all just want to kill yourselves due to boredom?” That one was said to me recently by a middle-aged professor from England, to which I simply replied, “No”, and turned my back to him, signalling that the conversation was promptly finished.
I’ve travelled a lot, and, though I absolutely love big cities, I’ve realised that some of my favourite places in the world are smaller towns. When I reflect on my past two years of travel through Asia and South America, for example, the highlights are not Bangkok or Panama City, Kuala Lumpur or Lima, even though I’ve enjoyed those locations. My favourites are tiny Pai and quaint Popayan, sleepy Kampot and relaxed Mendoza. Sometimes I feel that I get to know a country the best by spending time in a smaller place – in cities, we’re bombarded by the hustle and bustle, by the crushing of a rush-hour crowd, by a million different restaurants and a million different faces. In smaller cities there’s a familiarity, a sense of immediately fitting in. Again, these are just my experiences, but when I talk to other travellers the opinion seems to be universal.
Going back to my own hometown, then, I’ve found that these past years of travelling have made me appreciate Winnipeg more than I ever could when I lived there. We have snow, yes, but it’s beautiful and (can be) fun: cross-country skiing and snowshoeing and ice-fishing and hockey. We have great breweries, fantastic restaurants, and an active music and art scene. We have some of the best festivals in North America, both in winter and in summer. We have perfect weather from June to September, hot and sunny but not humid. We have loyal sports fans, even when our teams leave us for nearly 15 years. We have a rich history, and have been home to many very important Canadians. We survive in even the coldest of temperatures – not only survive, but function quite well despite the freezing cold and the snow (I never once had a snow day in 13 years of school). We have been consistently called the nicest people in Canada, and that’s in a country that is known for being really, really nice. We’re the goddamn Christmas capital of Canada, all right?! Winnipeg is one great city, despite what the Weatherthans sing.
And, on top of all that, Winnipeg is my city. It’s where I was born, and where my mum and dad and sister and brother and most of my favourite people in the world were born, too. It’s where I learnt a lot of what I know now. It’s where I laughed and loved and cried the most. It’s where I started to become who I am today. I don’t live there now and I don’t plan to live there again, but it will always have a soft spot in my heart.
I’m proud to be from Winnipeg, even if we have the nickname “Winterpeg”. Guess what, big city girl who just insulted me? If you were stranded in a snowstorm and couldn’t get your car to start, I’d bet you’d be mighty happy to have a Winnipegger around. We’d hand over our mittens and toque for you to keep warm, give your car a boost, share our Timmy’s with you…and do it all with a smile.

Festival du Voyager (in -30°C)

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Jay November 12, 2012 - 8:07 pm

Hear, hear Brenna!

I grew up in Saskatchewan and I think we’re at the end of just as many jokes as those in Manitoba. There are positives and negatives to absolutely every place and nothing annoys me more than being constantly teased about where I grew up.

(I often hear that the Saskatchewanians are the nicest people in Canada but I’m sure the Manitobans are just as friendly.)

Colleen Brynn November 12, 2012 - 8:36 pm

That Weakerthans song is actually sarcastic. It is an endearing song to our city… when I listen to it, I feel warm feelings to all those things that are uniquely, and just ours, just Winnipeg’s. Do you feel that way too?

This Battered Suitcase November 12, 2012 - 8:51 pm

Jay – So happy that you feel the same way! I love Saskatchewan, and yes, the people are ridiculously friendly there. I once had two mechanics work on my broken-down car for two hours in SK and then, at the end, refused my money. Amazing.

Colleen – I know that it’s sarcastic, but most people don’t. Most people simply quote “I hate Winnipeg” when they hear that I’m from there, so I put it in this post as a cheeky reference. And yes, I really like the song.

Katelin November 12, 2012 - 8:59 pm

I know this exact feeling.

I’m from Brisbane in Australia. Brisbane is seen as the least interesting and least culturally diverse city in Australia – even though we have lovely weather, great outdoor activities, and really a lot to be proud of.

People bagging other people’s home towns is so incredibly tactless!

ELN November 12, 2012 - 9:02 pm

AMEN B!!!!! Couldn’t of said it better myself.

kay* November 12, 2012 - 10:05 pm

AND come the end of November Winnipeg will have IKEA’s newest store!


Rika November 12, 2012 - 10:45 pm

Amen lady!! Being from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan makes me the butt of many a joke, in the media and in real life. People often give me the “I’m sorry” as well. There might not be much to do in a tiny town in the prairies but I find that makes us the most creative – we have to make our own fun! And now living in a village of 300 people, I’m always the one finding/suggesting things to do when people are complaining about how small and boring it is here 🙂

Murissa Shalapata November 12, 2012 - 10:54 pm

I’ve moved around a lot all over BC and have never been to Manitoba, let alone Winnipeg (aka Winterpeg as we sometimes call it). I’ve lived in a few small towns and the life isn’t really for me, however, I did find some of the most charming towns are small towns. Some have a ton of personality (for better or worse) but like people, towns appeal to each of us differently for various reasons.
Why those people were so ridiculously rude to you on the other hand is very shocking.

Lovely post!


Steph Lloyd November 12, 2012 - 11:49 pm

Yes! I completely agree with this post. I was born and raised in Minnesota and get so many rude jokes because of it. Most of the jokes are related to Canada in some way. “So you are basically Canadian”… “Southern Canada”… “You speak like you are Canadian”… “That accent is hilarious”. I reply with a “Thanks!” because I don’t care to play along. They are basically dissing my home state and Canada in one shot. Screw them. Minnesota is also beautiful and full of a lot of great people. I’ll never live there again but I love that I am from there and appreciate the way I was raised and the principles and work ethic that were instilled in me. 🙂

Azizah November 13, 2012 - 12:45 am

Amen sister. Well put! I actually come from Thompson, Manitoba, which shares many attributes with Winnipeg – cold. Not many people have heard of it. Those who have feel sorry for me, etc. I love that you love your hometown and for you to say that, someone who has been pretty much everywhere, makes me happy! You’re right. It is totally rude to insult someone’s hometown, or even where they live at any point in their life, hometown or not. Thank you for this post.

Jessica Piche November 13, 2012 - 3:35 am

I got the chance to live in Winnipeg for one short month this past April. I was interning at CBC, living on Balmoral and spending every free moment walking all over the city. I absolutely never thought I’d end up in Winnipeg, much less enjoying it. But I fell head overs heels IN LOVE with it. I miss it like crazy, even though it was only a month. I felt like I met my soul mate! I’m from Calgary, and currently back home, but applying for jobs out there like mad.

I just die from joy when people tell me they’re from Winnipeg, and I can’t wait to go back. I’ve never felt so at home, or so like myself, as I have there.

Go Jets!

bishopstravels November 13, 2012 - 5:26 am

Yeah it was pretty disrespectful of that woman to say I’m sorry. I’m originally from New Jersey and I hear that every time I bump into a New Yorker. It does something to me internally we they make their little comments. Any who I would love to visit a place like Winnipeg. do a little ice fishing, Moose hunting (if that’s legal) I’m sure the meat is delish.

Katie @ November 13, 2012 - 2:27 pm

I hear ya. It’s not my hometown, but I spent a lot of my formative years in Omaha, Nebraska, which is actually right smack in the middle of the U.S. So I could use the same description… except it’s not as cold. It’s not huge, but it’s not small – maybe half a million people. And I find myself having to defend it all of the time! It has a great little downtown called the Old Market and a fantastic food scene. Really, what more could you want? 🙂

Katie @ November 13, 2012 - 2:32 pm

Oh and P.S. It is FILLED with beautiful, corn-fed white people. I’m not kidding. I told a friend from NYC about it and he didn’t believe me until he had to go for a fraternity thing. So if you want to find yourself a seriously attractive guy, head that way. 😉

Christine loves to Travel November 13, 2012 - 3:26 pm

Yey Winnipeg!

Carly Morson November 14, 2012 - 12:49 pm

Great post, i have family in Winnipeg, and was fortunate to visit them some years ago with my Grandma, we stayed for a month and had a great time! Saw bears and Moose (which coming from the UK, was amazing!)

This Battered Suitcase November 14, 2012 - 7:02 pm

Katelin – Totally agree with your last line! So tactless.

Erin – Yes! Hope to see you soon, either in Winnipeg or the UK…

Kisha – Ha ha, but of course! How could I have forgotten IKEA??

Rika – Absolutely! I agree that we are creative with our fun.

Murissa – I probably wouldn’t live in a smaller city again either, but I’m definitely proud of being from there! You should visit Winnipeg one day!!

Azizah – Thompson! Yeah! My grandmother was born there. Thanks for the Manitoba support!!

Jessica – That’s so great! It makes me so happy that you enjoyed it so much. I hope you get a job there soon!

Bishopstravels – Totally disrespectful! I hope you get to Winnipeg soon…

Katie – Yes, it’s amazing how happy we can be with only a few options. Sometimes in big cities I feel overwhelmed by all the choices!! And good to know about the men, ha ha…

Christine – Yay indeed!

Carly – I’m glad you had such a great time! There’s lots to do in Winnipeg…

Ellen Keith November 15, 2012 - 4:33 pm

Coming from “Dead-monton,” Alberta, I can sympathize with you! Bumping into a lot of Canadians lately in Peru, and Edmonton has been the target of its fair share of jokes! Oh well, any place in Canada is guaranteed to be a beautiful place to live.

This Battered Suitcase November 15, 2012 - 4:58 pm

Ellen – I’ve never even heard the term “Dead-monton”!! I’ve met a few Canadians here in South America, too, and I get tons of jokes about Winnipeg. Good to know I’m not alone! Central Canada unite!!

p.s. totally agree with your last line 🙂

holayessica November 15, 2012 - 11:45 pm

Love this post! People have the exact same reaction to my hometown (usually “I’m sorry”). After doing some traveling, I’ve definitely come to appreciate the good things about it when I’m home.

Sarah Dobson November 16, 2012 - 3:04 am

Oh, I hear you. My home town of New Glasgow, NS has been voted “Overall worst city in Canada” for three years by Money Sense magazine and people just won’t drop it! And now that I’m living in Dartmouth, I’m consistently subjected to taunting about “the darkside” from my Halifax friends.

Someday when I make my cross-country road trip I will be very adamant about stopping in Winnipeg 🙂

This Battered Suitcase November 18, 2012 - 11:28 pm

Holayessica – Totally! I appreciate my hometown so much more now that I’ve done some travelling…

Sarah – Bah! I hate the endless teasing…but it looks like it happens everywhere! If you do go to Winnipeg, let me know…

Frank December 10, 2013 - 3:46 pm

Hi Brenna – I’ve been to Winnipeg countless times on business. While maybe not the most exciting place in the world, it does have fantastic, friendly people who are always very welcoming. Great place for a steak too!
Frank (bbqboy)

Brenna Holeman December 10, 2013 - 10:17 pm

Thanks, Frank! I would agree with you, about both the people and the steak.

Kailey April 24, 2014 - 9:28 pm

I love Winnipeg! I have family about two hours away in Pilot Mound/Crystal City area so I have always had good memories driving in to the peg 🙂

Where To Travel in 2015 - This Battered Suitcase January 13, 2015 - 12:23 am

[…] in winter or camping in summer; if you’re more of a city person, you have Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, and a whole lot more in between. The best thing I can recommend to do […]

Mukel March 27, 2017 - 6:44 pm

Ha ha, I am also from Winnipeg. Last night a rude in-law called it “a dump” to my face. Today I googled “Someone insulted your hometown” and this was the first result!

I feel sorry for such narrow-minded people. Any fool can appreciate New York, London, Paris etc. But it takes a deeper intellect to realize that every place has something unique about it.

I also have a cousin who grew up in London, UK and has lived all over the world, including a long period in Hong Kong. Where did she choose to settle down? Winnipeg!


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