What it’s like growing up on the Isle of Man
They have their own ancient language
Welcome to the Isle of Man: a small, self-governed, independent island in the middle of the Irish Sea. No, it’s not the Isle of Wight, our inferior rival. With a population of 85,000 and a size of 220 square miles, it’s not exactly a city getaway. Here, we call England “the mainland” and those who come from it “come-overs”.
It’s a small, tight-knit community and the majority of my home friends I’ve known since I was about 9. Crime is extraordinarily low on the island meaning we were free to roam and explore our picturesque home from a young age. We’re also allowed to drive at 16 which is awesome.
The island isn’t without its quirks – we have a fully functional steam train, our own ancient language, horse-drawn trams with name-tagged horses, a refusal to say the word ‘rat” (instead calling them “long-tails”) and call fog “Mannanan’s cloak”. Legend has it Mannanan would shield the island from unwanted visitors using his cloak. Good one Mannanan, you paranoid bugger, my flight was delayed 3 hours because of you.
It’s an extraordinarily outdoorsy place, so if you’re not a fan of the great outdoors I wouldn’t recommend a trip. We grew up with beach days, kayaking, hiking and abseiling all part of regular life.
You might wonder what a bunch of teenagers do when marooned on an island every weekend? The answer is we made our own fun. And by that I mean underage drinking, of which we are the capital of Europe.
The goal of any young person on the island is to turn 18 (or have someone who looks like you turn 18) so you can experience the nightlife on offer the pinnacle of which is the Outback. Known colloquially as the OB, this is where you will experience the stickiest nights of your life – shoes have been sacrificed to the dancefloor in there. The love-hate relationship towards the OB has divided young people for decades: those who hate it claim you’ll regret it in the morning, while those who love it (me) call them bores.
For many young people here the island fun ends when it’s time to head off to university. There’s a culture shock as you leave your horse and cart behind and swim to the mainland with all your belongings strapped to you, only to find bizarre machines called “mobile phones” are apparently essential items (we’re still heavily reliant on carrier pigeons back home).
All jokes aside, moving away from the safe haven of home is scary for anyone, but perhaps more so when you experience mysterious shops like Argos fresh off the farm. Native islander Tom explains his first experience of England as: “this magical mystery land where you can purchase anything you like from a seemingly tiny shop that has everything under the sun. Sitting there waiting for the most mundane of purchases to arrive for me at the desk (a £5 toaster I believe), my face was honestly more lit up, than those of the children sat next to me waiting for their toys.”
Coming home for Christmas is a shock again – after your new cosmopolitan experiences (which you’ll regale your friends with tales of until you’re no longer invited to help shear their sheep) returning can be an adjustment. The social side of coming home is undeniable – not many hometowns house almost an entire year group, and when we all come home you’ll see everyone you went to school with in the pub or out in town. If you didn’t like your classmates, don’t go out.
The majority of graduates move on to jobs elsewhere, as the island doesn’t really cater to young twenty-somethings craving excitement the way London can, although a few do stay. One man in particular is famous for never having left the island, simply because he never felt the need to.
However, those who leave remain fiercely defensive of the island and if any “come-over” dares to complain, they’re immediately told to suck it up or else “there’s a boat in the morning”.