As I explained before, when I came to, I really didn’t expect it to be that different from Europe. After all, I had survived China, most Latin America countries, Australia, New Zealand… Why wouldn’t I blend in in Canada ?
I was wrong. Canada was different : culture, architecture, people, society, politics were kilometers… sorry, miles, from Europe. Yeah, it’s easy to come for a visit and live like a foreigner, but I didn’t want that. I wanted to adapt. I wanted it to be my place. I wanted to master all.
Here are the five first things I noticed when I came to Canada
1) The weather :Canada is known to be a cold place. Really cold. So cold that Canadians like to brag about it. Endlessly. They also like to comment the weather. Endlessly. Not that I have anything against weather reports, mind you. It’s just that in France, they are usually inaccurate, and commenting the weather is okay only as long as you’re 80 years old and over. But here, not only weather reports are pretty much essential if you don’t want to find yourself caught in a snow storm, but commentating them is a national sport. So be it. On the same subject, Canadian weather’s vocabulary is extremely rich. In France, you have rain/ cold/ foggy/ sunny. In Canada, you have cold/ very cold/ freezing/ rain/ freezing rain/ ice/ snow/ vertical wet snow (I am not making that up !)/ hail/ snow storms/ flurries/ rain etc. Wow.
2) The distances : Back in France, I had friends living on the other side of the city. A twenty minutes walk. Top. In Canada, there’s the place I live in, my work place (25 min. drive), the shopping malls (East side or West side, take your pick but drive for 30 min.), the supermarkets (20 min. drive) etc. Never trust a Canadian when he/ she says : “it’s right next door !”. To go to that “right next door” place (let’s say it’s a specific shop), you will have to :
- Take your car
- Drive for 30 min.
- Get into the parking lot and look for an empty space (5 min.)
- Walk from the parking lot to the entrance of the mall (another 7-10 min.)
- Once in the mall, find the shop you’re looking for (1st, 2nd or 3 rd floor ? East or West ?)
Hurray, you find it. Only took 45 min. It was right next door, wasn’t it ?
3) The… hugeness : When I go visit in France now, I feel like I’m in Lilliput. Yep, that bad. Why ? Because in Europe, the average size is not 6 ft. I’m 5.6 ft. I’m fairly tall for a French women. Barely average for Canadians. Everything is big. Streets take about 5 min. to cross and you actually have to look both ways for cars. Cars are huge. Houses are… Well, let’s just say that if you’re used to the average Paris studio (bathroom + kitchen + living-room + bed all in the same room), you might be lost at first.
4) The food : Food is always plenty and available everywhere. You will soon get used to see malls’ food court busy anytime. Well, I can still understand that, flexible work hours etc. But food is… food is too much. I’ve almost never finished a plate in a restaurant. In France, “very little” is synonym of quality : French people are always happy to pay 30 € for half a broccoli, two carrots and an inch squared piece of meet and then call themselves “full”. In North America, you pay $10 for the whole beef, three pounds worth of veggies and a huge dessert. Can’t finish ? Take out your left-over. Can you imagine that in a French restaurant ? “Garçon, Aïe can not finish my broccoli, pleeeze put it in a box for me, thank you beaucoup”.
5) The TV : Back in France, my daily channel surfing might have looked like that :
- Turning on the TV
- Checking out channel #1, TF1
- Finding the movie boring, checking out #2, France 2
- Finding that debates about Roman literature was not that interesting
- Checking out channel #3, with its 4 hours long Senate minutes
- Checking out channel #6, M6. Too bad, it went blank, one more time.
- Going to bed.
In Canada, it was more like…:
- Turning on the TV
- Cooking diner waiting for the commercials to end
- Twisting my thumb cause it wasn’t trained to switch form channel 415 to channel 34 more the 30 times per hour
- Admiring the necessity of having a channel dedicated to weather, another to infomercial etc.
- Seeing people fighting, divorcing, having surgery, having accidents, having sex, having kids, dying, crying, falling in love, turned on, turned off, getting a job and losing it the “you’re fired” style, exposing every single inche of their – often pathetic – lives to big brother.
- Getting addicted to the big eye on the world.
And that was only the beginning…