The Hugeness (4/10)

18

After the weather, hockey and the use of both French and Eng­lish, here is another episode in this “what defines Canada” quest.

hugeness

Unless you’re from Rus­sia or China, you will prob­a­bly feel that Canada is a pretty big place. And you would be right: Canada occu­pies a large por­tion of North Amer­ica and even if “the North” is very sparsely pop­u­lated with only about 100,000 peo­ple (3÷4 of us actu­ally lives within 150 kilo­me­ters of the US bor­der), we are hard to miss since the coun­try cov­ers 9,984,670 km². And if you’re from Rus­sia, please let’s not argue about the North­west Pas­sage — it’s not like we can nav­i­gate it yet, okay?

A huge coun­try with a rel­a­tively small pop­u­la­tion (a lit­tle bit under 32 mil­lion), the den­sity is among the low­est in the world. The pop­u­la­tion is spread across ten provinces and three ter­ri­to­ries. Ad Mari Usque Ad Mare; from Sea to Sea is our motto… From the Mar­itimes to British Colum­bia, across the prairies and the moun­tains, there’s a lot of space… and a lot of roads to link us all.

As in the USA, Canada boasts a strong car cul­ture. Truth is, unless you live in Mon­tréal, Toronto or Van­cou­ver, you will need a car to get around. I still remem­ber back in France, where dri­ving 60 kilo­me­ters to the sea­side was con­sid­ered as a rel­a­tively long trip… I live in a very close sub­urb, still a good 15 km from work. And I’m not even talk­ing about peo­ple liv­ing in Ottawa’s fur­thest sub­urbs, like Kanata, 25–30 km away. Going to work, to the super­mar­ket, to the movie the­ater isn’t really a mat­ter of walk­ing a cou­ple of blocks. Drive, drive, drive.

Roads and streets are wide, and cross­ing them as a pedes­trian can be quite scary the first time. French roads are usu­ally one lane, and streets are old, nar­row, wind­ing and some­what have a neigh­bor­hood feel. In Canada, streets and roads alike are built for cars not for peo­ple. Dri­ves (no pun intended) me nuts sometimes.

For the huge roads, huge cars. SUV, 4×4, brand new from the GM fac­tory and ready to eat asphalt. I some­times quite don’t get why peo­ple keep on buy­ing expen­sive cars here, since roads are quite bumpy (bye bye sus­pen­sion!) and the steel frames get dam­aged very eas­ily with the salt we spread on roads in win­ter. Yet, most sub­ur­ban house­holds have a two lanes dri­ve­way and make full use of their two or three cars.

Every­thing is big. Peo­ple (with­out nec­es­sar­ily being fat­ter, peo­ple look stronger and taller than in Europe), houses, farms, stores, movie the­aters, schools, play­grounds, equip­ment, clothes, food por­tions, sport events and trends.

Liv­ing in a big coun­try has its advan­tages. Sure, we might spend more on gas dri­ving around all the time (and I wish we didn’t), but it’s rel­a­tively easy to find a place to leave since the occu­pa­tion rate isn’t 100%, unlike in France right now. Buy­ing a house is usu­ally afford­able as well in most sub­urbs — it gets trick­ier in TO, Mon­tréal and Van­cou­ver of course. We can also enjoy down­town parks (and even a government-owned farm in Ottawa!), the longest skat­ing rink in the world (7.8 km!), a vari­ety of cul­tures and the great geo­graph­i­cal diver­sity through­out Canada.

Yet… every­thing looks so small that when I visit Europe now, I feel like I’m in Lil­liput!

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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.

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