10 Noticeable Small Differences

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Ottawa Sky

Ottawa Sky

A six-week-long break is a long-enough time frame to notice, once again, differences between the two countries I call home. I’ve been flying from the old world to the new continent and back for over ten years now, and I know what to expect—at this point, neither France nor Canada is particularly exotic to me. Yet, there are still a few small things that stand out right after landing!

Everything is colder in Canada. Not the weather (we do not have snow all year round, it’s hot and humid right now…), but drinks, fridges and coolers at the supermarket, air-con in stores… this country does cold like no other, which is weird considering most people complain about frigid temperatures half of the year.

Canada is definitely a multicultural country. Even during the summer high season, most tourists in Nantes were of European descent and came from neighboring countries. As soon as we landed in Toronto, I saw people from all over the world speaking Hindi, Mandarin, Thai, Vietnamese, Portuguese, etc.

Cars rule the road. In Nantes, most people walk or take public transportation. There are cars, of course, but they are usually left at the parking lot until their owner feels like going somewhere really far. Indeed, driving around in the city centre makes little sense and is generally discouraged. In Ottawa, it’s sometime difficult to cross the streets because the pedestrian green light only lasts for ten seconds and there aren’t enough sidewalks or safe walkable areas.

We have more room. Our house, a semi-detached that it very small by Canadian standards, feels huge after tiny French apartments. And we can’t even hear the neighbours!

Everything feels new. New asphalt, newer buildings, newer cars… even Canadian dollars feel crisper and newer than Euro banknotes!

True ethnic food. I went to Chinatown today to buy groceries and my food tasted and smelled exactly like in China. There are ethnic restaurants in France but recipes and menus are tweaked to please delicate (and patriotic) French palates. I mean, I saw an Indian restaurant in Nantes serving curry with baguette…! French don’t mind “exotic” food as long as it’s bland, served with bread and paired with French wine, bien sûr.

People are polite! I passed someone on the street this morning and he said “sorry”. And we weren’t even close to bump into each other. In France, I had to scream “pardooooon!” for people to let us through with the stroller (Mark also learned to scream “pardon” with me, then he usually adds “that’s funny!”).

Zero dog poop to report, however, hedgehogs dotted the lawn yesterday close to Hog’s Back Park.

Locals have apparently been abducted because the streets are empty and it’s very quiet at night. Yesterday, I thought I saw someone having a smoke outside. “Finally, someone enjoying a nice summer night!” I thought. Then, when I walked by, I realized it was just the shadow of a tree. Yeah, well, I was tired. This is how quiet Ottawa is—I see mirages of people.

Water pressure is perfect, i.e. it takes me a minute or two to rinse my hair instead of fifteen minutes like in France. In old apartment buildings, the higher you are, the lower water pressure is. On the other hand, Canadian plumbing delivers Niagara Falls in the shower.

I guess no place is perfect…


About Author

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


  1. Your remarks about yelling “pardon” and mirages of people made me laugh. Please take a picture of the hedgehogs! I have never lived somewhere where I’ve seen those.

    • I think I’m cursed because I can NEVER take good pictures of critters. Hedgehogs are faster than you’d think, and they hide really well!

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