Friday, April 05, 2013

Things They Do Different - Canada

Within my first days of arriving in Canada I noticed several things that made me realise I was away from home. At first you get pissed off with them but then you start to appreciate it as part of the transition of living in a new place. The wonderful people and scenery make it easy to get over such trivial irritations.

Let's start with the basics. I know that London water is not far from sieved urine but water here in Ontario has been far from "clean", but I have been spoilt growing up in this Highlands... Regardless nobody wants black flecks of god-knows-what in their glass so everyone here has a water filter of some form - for a reason.

Canadian supermarkets are strange places to shop: their milk is in a bag, their sugar in cartons and their juice comes in tins - even the A4 paper is a few cm smaller than ours. In fact the supermarkets here are different to home, places  like Tesco or Asda that sell everything you need are hard to come by. You'll realise Canada is much more of a fan of the independent shops.

Don't be fooled by the packaging, dairy milk over here is a disgrace to advent calender chocolate. Canada has a lot more rules regarding what you can put in food so don't be surprised if everything from home tastes a bit strange. Fear not though, there are specialised British Shops littered throughout the country to cure any gastronomic homesickness.

While being confused by milk and disgusted by chocolate you may also notice the supermarkets don't always sell alcohol.  This varies between province to province but in the majority of provinces alcohol is sold by outlets owned by the government. After your time in Scotland you'll be used to the opening hours of 10am-10pm but you might find it a nuiscence to go out of your way to get alcohol.

No you are not a loonie, that's what they call their $1 coin and a $2 coin is a toonie. Also their 5 cent coin is bigger than their 10 cent coin - I fail to see the logic. To make it more confusing their 10 cent coin is the same size as a 5p. It's been 3 months and I am not used to it!


After buying all this food an alcohol you will have sure experienced sales tax. Back in the UK we are used to the system where the price you see is the price you pay, this doesn't happen in Canada. This is because our sales tax is already included in our price but Canadians add this on at the checkout. No matter how long you spend in Canada the sales tax issue will never fail to annoy you - unless you are a whizz kid at percentages. The main piece of advice I will give you is to keep the majority of your receipts and claim the tax back at the airport at home, which I of course haven't done.

Canadians are renown to be very polite people and this is true; they will hold a door open for you even when you are walking 10m behind them however putting kisses on texts to your friends is bizarre. You will also rarely see a Canadian eating outdoors on the move and only if it is part of the restaurant.

As with every country the toilet layout is different to your own. There is no doubt that after the first time you use a Canadian lavatory you will think you have broken it as it will roar or merely gargle back at you. In general though, Canada is no Japan when it comes to the waste closet.

As well as everything being in French you'll notice slight differences in English. Canadians really do say "Eh" a lot but they don't say aboot, in reality it just sounds the same as a Scottish accent. University is called "school" and lecturers are "profs" and they'll have no idea what you are doing when you are revising.

As soon as you tell someone you are Scottish/Irish they will no doubt tell you they are too, or at least that their Mum is. There is a massive obsession with your heritage here and some people have worked it out to the most obscure fractions - I'm sorry but 1/16 Ukrainian? I find this strange as Canadians have such a good reputation around the world I don't know why they hide it so much!

The academic side to life in Canada is very difficult for someone conditioned to the UK. I am taking 5 subjects instead of 2 as I would at home and they are from a much broader range. The courses don't go into as much depth as I was used to but the workload is constant with midterms and assessments throughout the semester. The strangest thing is that people actually ask questions in class and they even get up and go to the toilet while the lecturer is talking, if they are feeling extra rebellious. I'll be doing a special piece on this once I've finished the semester...

No comments: