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5 Things My Mum Observed in Canada

Oh Canada Cook­ies, Byward Mar­ket, Ottawa

In July, part of my fam­ily (my brother, who is 19, and my mother) came to visit us for three weeks. It was the first time we had vis­i­tors in Canada and it was their first time in North America.

I loved walk­ing around with them because they noticed a lot of lit­tle Cana­dian quirks I don’t even see any­more. I changed over the years—I became more Cana­dian. Two pairs of fresh eyes was all I needed to redis­cover the city and some aspect of our culture.

So, here are five things my mum observed in Canada:

Por­tions are huge! — After we picked them up at Mon­tréal air­port, we stopped at Tim Horton’s on the way to Ottawa. My mother asked me to get her a cof­fee. I ordered the small­est one, yet she looked at it with wide eyes: “it’s huge!” “Yep”, I agreed. “And believe it or not, this is the small­est size.” A far cry from French cof­fee, which is usu­ally three drops of espresso in a thimble-size cup. For­tu­nately, I remem­bered there was a size smaller than “tall” at Star­bucks (“short”) and my mother got used to a lot of caf­feine. Like most French, she doesn’t put milk in her coffee—Canadians usu­ally throw away half of the cof­fee to make room for tons of milk and sugar.

Shops are always open — Still on the first night, I had to go pick up some gro­ceries at the super­mar­ket. I offered my mother to come with me—on a warm sum­mer night, I enjoy walk­ing to the nearby super­mar­kets. “What super­mar­ket?” she asked. “It’s 10 p.m.! And it’s Sun­day!” Well, in Canada, unlike in France, we can shop pretty much any­time, includ­ing late at night and on Sun­day. The cus­tomer is king, right?

Miss­ing: cheese, yogurt and other dairy prod­ucts — I had told my mum many times that I barely eat cheese in Canada. Good cheese (read “imported cheese”) is expen­sive and rel­a­tively hard to find. My mother was sur­prised to see that we didn’t have a lot of vari­ety when it comes to yogurt: it’s either plain or with fruits. In France, the yogurt and “crèmes” selec­tion is huge. It’s a treat for dessert: caramel flan, choco­late mousse, sophis­ti­cated lemon meringue flavour are a sta­ple of the French diet. Sim­i­larly, the sour cream and but­ter selec­tion is pretty lame here com­pared to France.

North Amer­i­can food — They had the chance to taste a lot of new North Amer­i­can spe­cial­i­ties: pecan pies, but­ter tarts, car­rot cakes, banana bread, cream cheese, bagels, good burg­ers (not fast food!), onion rings, muffins, pan­cakes… over­all, they were pleas­antly sur­prised.  Food in North Amer­ica is pretty tasty and local spe­cial­ties make up for the num­ber of fast foods per square metre.

The dis­tances — I warned my mother right away: do not assume you can always walk from point A to point B. I made the mis­take when I first came here. I had sev­eral appoint­ments on Bank Street and I thought I could just walk from one to another—why not, after all, since I’m on the right street? But Bank Street is over 40 km long, and so are Base­line, Merivale and other main streets in Ottawa. And I’m not even talk­ing about Yonge Street—the longest street in the world is 1,896 km long!

Did your fam­ily ever visit you abroad? What did they observe?

19 comments

  1. I never have thought to walk from point “A” to point “B” in big cities! Never! The road is end­less. :D

  2. Zhu,

    LOL yes, every­thing is huge in Canada. I remem­ber that the Big Mac was really big! Ours is so small that I can’t under­stand why they call it big…

    Oh yes, it is like in Lon­don: shops opened all night…I love it. In Por­tu­gal, now, we can shop even on Sun­days (because the first social­ist gov­ern­ment passed a bill for­bid­ding hyper­mar­kets from open­ing on Sun­days — the PM was a truly obser­vant Catholic — but our for­mer social­ist gov­ern­ment, this year, passed another bill allow­ing hyper­mar­kets to trade on Sun­days again…it was one of the few good mea­sures PM Socrates imple­mented when in office).

    My brother vis­ited me in Lon­don and he loved cos­mopoli­tan fea­ture of the city. Again, he love the options he had there and the fact that the client is always right and well served.

    Cheers

    • I like hav­ing options too, but I know these kinds of avail­abil­i­ties take a toll on work­ers. I wouldn’t want to work the night shift at WalMart…

  3. that’s some inter­est­ing obser­va­tions. some­times we need a tourist or non-local to point out at the things we don’t really see in our own towns!

  4. En six­ième point, elle m’a dit à son retour que les cana­di­ens étaient plutôt cool : lorsque moi aussi j’y viendrai, je percerai ce secret pour l’importer en France.

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