10 Things I Missed From Canada

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Self Portrait, Nantes, July 2013

Self Portrait, Nantes, July 2013

We had a great time in France and it’s always good to be back in my hometown. This time, I got to enjoy the French life for four weeks and I introduce Mark to his other culture. I am not the most patriotic person and I rarely get homesick but I do need to visit my birth country once in a while. It feels comfortable, it feels safe and relaxing.

Then I remember why I left in the first place… There are things from the New World I miss badly after a few weeks!

Exotic Foods – Don’t get me wrong, French food is great. I enjoy cheese, bread, pastries and “comfort food” such as croque-monsieurs (the French grilled cheese sandwich) and crêpes. But after a while, I miss “ethnic” foods and flavours. In Canada, I cook with Sriracha sauce, we shop at the Chinese supermarket and I can find spices and products from all over the world. Same goes with restaurants: I can find true Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Italian, etc. in any sizeable Canadian city. Problem is, France doesn’t do ethnic food very well. Case in point, Chinese restaurants. French seem to think Chinese food is just riz cantonais (fried rice) with a couple of nems (spring rolls) and shrimp crackers. Where are the jiaozi, the baozi, the spicy eggplants and all the great Chinese staples?

American Coffee – Okay, I am not a coffee connoisseur. I am sure these Carte d’Or Expresso are the real deal but gee, when you feel like sipping a comforting hot drink while reading a magazine, the 1.50 euro thimble-sized cup just won’t do. Even McDonalds coffee cups are tiny. I needed a Starbucks grande, at least!

Air-Con – We had a heat wave when we were in France. In Nantes, it only rained once the entire time we were there (that’s almost unheard of in Brittany!) and it was well above 30°C. Problem is, most French cities aren’t built for such temperatures and it gets very stuffy indoors. Few places have air-con, including public transportation. They were seven of us in a two-bedroom apartment—trust me, I miss the convenience of air-con at night!

Longer Business Hours – I had to rush to Monoprix a few times because I had forgotten something and I barely made it—the supermarket closes at 8 p.m. Businesses close on Sundays (and sometimes on Mondays as well, just because), rarely open before 10 a.m. on weekdays, and some even close for the entire month of July. In Canada, I never have to worry about running out of bread, milk or eggs—there is always something open, somewhere.

Canadian Politeness – I wouldn’t say French are rude but they aren’t naturally nice and polite with strangers the way Canadians are. I hated fighting to get in the bus with the stroller because no one would let us through, and I am certainly not used to having the door slammed on my face.

American-sized Clothes – I am a fairly regular size (my pair of Levi’s jeans are a US size 6 for instance, most of my clothes are either size S or M and I wear anything from size 4-8 depending on the cut) yet I found a lot of clothes in France were way too small for me. Funny thing is, French women aren’t that thin—where on earth do they shop? I do remember struggling to find pants that would fit well when I was a teen. In North America, sizes are a bit bigger but mostly, there is a larger choice of sizes available.

Parks – I missed being able to take Mark to local playgrounds or parks. French playgrounds in Nantes are pretty lame compared to the ones we have in our neighborhood, where there are swings, slash pads, etc. And don’t get me started on the French obsession for perfect lawn with their “do not walk on the grass” signs everywhere. Gee, Canadians walk on the grass and our lawns are as good-looking!

Affordable Groceries – I am not going to start the endless argument among expats about which country has the lower cost of living, but I did find grocery shopping in France much more expensive than in Canada. Fruits, veggies and basic products were pricier in general, and even French staples like cheese aren’t that cheap anymore. A baguette is at least one euro—I still remember when it was 3 francs, which is about 0.50 euro.

Good Customer Service – French are nice people, really. Just not when they are working in the service industry. As a customer, I always felt I was a nuisance and God forbid there is a problem to be dealt with—you will hear a lot of “merde”.

Qwerty Keyboards – Whoever invented the azerty keyboard, mostly used in Europe by French speakers, was an evil person. Seriously, the Canadian Multilingual standard keyboard I use here makes more sense, no?

Anything you miss from your new country after spending time in your hometown?

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

26 Comments

  1. I’m with you on the food! And hey, Winnipeg has EXCELLENT restaurants of all types of ethnicities. If/when you come here, I will take you on a tour just of food. That sounds alright, doesn’t it?

  2. As a German, I mostly miss the brown bread. What they call bread here is mostly air. Looking at the prices, groceries are much cheaper in Germany, but then again, the health insurance in Ontario is funded with taxes, so the overall living costs are probably not that different.
    What I dislike in Germany is the service in general. We use that word in Germany too, but we don’t have a clue what it means. Complaining customers are not commonly seen as an asset (after all, they give you free advice on how you can improve your business).
    And of course Canadians are just a polite bunch. The other day I went shopping and accidentally pushed someone with my shopping cart. In Germany that would usually lead to a few harsh words, but the lady actually apologized to me!

    Anyhow… it’s still nice to visit my home country once in a while. I try to see the good things in everything and they always exist, no matter where I go.

    • I’m addicted to brown bread (rye, right?)! I find it at my local supermarket in Canada. I don’t buy baguette here because I don’t eat as much bread as in France, and baguettes have to be fresh. Brown bread can be kept longer and is delicious toasted with Vache qui rit cheese 🙂

  3. This might sound a little ridiculous (not sure if this qualify as an answer): when i first moved to the US and went back to Ivory Coast for vacation, i actually missed my car and driving in “normal” traffic. I only drive Automatic and my mom only had a Manual (no rental cars companies in Ivory Coast), and the traffic lights rarely work so people drive insane and run lights all the time!

    • I also find that driving in Canada is much easier and much more relaxing than in France! And I love automatic cars. I learned to drive manual cars and hated it.

  4. Pas mal d’accord avec tout ce que tu cites Zhu 🙂 C’est vrai qu’on trouve rien en France en fait de bouffe étrangère. Les rayons de produits étrangers sont super pauvres! Au début quand je suis arrivée ontrouvait du beurre de peanut, maintenant y’en n’a pu! 🙁 Après, c’est clair qu’ils ne peuvent pas tout avoir mais quand même, ça pourrait être un peu plus étoffé. A Paris on doit sûrement trouver de tout, mais en province accroche toi!

    Pour les heures d’ouvertures je suis 100% d’accord aussi. C’est nul les boutiques qui ferment entre 12h et 14h… ou quand tu te fais avoir parce que c’est fermé le lundi matin, par exemple…

    Par contre, je suis pas d’accord pour le clavier! 😀 Pourtant je trouve que les azerty sont plus logique, les é è à sont déjà fait, alors qu’avec un qwerty tu dois taper 2 touches pour avoir ton é è à etc. Enfin, je suis pu sûre à 100% des touches mais je sais que lorsque je vais au Québec c’est chiant de devoir trouver les accents 😀 Mais bon, je viens d’y penser, t’as pas d’accents à faire toi en anglais 😉

    Bizz bizz 🙂

    • Pareil, je parle pour la province, à Paris c’est un peu différent. Par contre, on trouve du beurre de peanut à Monoprix et dans quelques supermarchés à Nantes, mais c’est une marque que je ne connais pas (on dirait une no name américaine vendue cher!). Dommage que j’aime pas ça 😆

  5. Zhu,
    It look me a long, long time to get used to French business hours. The first year, I would constantly “forget” the lunch hour & Sunday closures.
    It is slowly changing for the Sunday closures; you see a few shopping malls that open on Sundays. I know of 2 in my region.

    I also “forget” sometimes when in North America about late hours & 7/7. Then I get too used to it and I have to go back home!

  6. As I was on vacation, I just saw this. I was away from Berlin for 2 weeks, and sure enough, there were things I missed, like the No Smoking policy in restaurants, for example, and the general cleanliness of the city.

  7. Great article, Zhu!

    When I return to England, I too miss the convenience of 24 hours stores – and not to mention road sizes and ease of local travel!

    …but then again, I don’t miss the endless traffic lights or the placeless malls.

    I suppose being an expat, there is always a tug in either direction, but that’s part of the fun!

  8. Well, I agreed with you on the exotic foods in province. We used to live in USA and enjoyed a big variety of choices. Here in Nantes, we also feel disappointed whenever we want to dine in a restaurant, there just isn’t much choice and most of the time we ended up eating at home.

    Between, you have a nice blog.
    I’m a Malaysia Chinese living in Nantes, with my French husband and a daughter.

    • Hello!

      So funny that you are living in my former hometown! I agree, Nantes doesn’t have that many good exotic restaurants, most of them are crêperies or bars 🙁 That said, I know a couple of goo places, including a couscous restaurant. Email me if you want the address!

  9. Martin Penwald on

    Neither QWERTY nor AZERTY keyboard make sense. These layout have been conceive to slow down the tipping in order to avoid jamming a typewriter, which cannot happen on a keyboard.
    To minimize hands movements and pain, the best is to use a Dvorak layout in english and a BÉPO one in French.

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