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Ten Priceless Canadian Experiences

Maple Syrup Cans
Maple Syrup Cans

Oh Canada! Since coming from France a few years ago, I experienced Canada in many different ways, some good, some bad…

The great outdoors: Canada is a huge country (9,984,670 km² !) with a population of only about 32 millions. Conclusion : a few cities here and there and a lot of empty land everywhere.
Cities are very spread out and it’s not rare to end up driving in the middle of nowhere to get to the shopping mall across the city. There are parks everywhere, the biggest being Major Hill’s park… and of course the Gatineau Park, across the border in Quebec. I also live close to the Central Experimental Farm, close to downtown Ottawa (!) … first time of my life I see a city which can afford “wasting” valuable residential or commercial space !

A snow storm & shoveling snow: you may have heard that Canada was fairly cold during winter time. Let me rephrase that : it’s fucking freezing !
Some days, you go to sleep and it’s + 10C. Next thing you know, you wake up the next day and there’s 30 cm of snow in front of your door. Half-sleepy, you then open the garage door (from the inside of the house, we’re not suicidal) and get your shovel. Canadians always have a shovel handy. We have shovels at home, in the car, at work… as well as huge bags of salt (not for food – to melt the snow !).
Snow removal is an issue in Canada : snow clearing expenses are an important part of public work budget ! A snowstorm immediately provoke a major logistical operation : first, the gritterssalt the road, then loaders push the snow to the side of the road. If a snow emergency is declared, streets must be cleared of all automobiles, so that snowplows can clear snow from the streets. Wow.
Do I need to mention that I had never seen snow in my life before I came to Canada ?

The Indian Summer : our last period of sunny and warm weather before the winter… It’s a beautiful time in Canada. Trees leaves turn red, orange and yellow. It’s transition period, one of a truly nice weather. I used to hate September – November back when I lived in France (back to school, exams etc.) but I learned to enjoy it in Canada. Besides, Thanksgiving is in early October and I love this holiday.

Driving : as I mentioned before (cf. I am a Passenger), I’m a pretty bad driver. Or let’s say I have a love & hate relationship with cars. Nonetheless, I found driving in Canada a real pleasure.
First of all, almost all cars have an automatic transmission. I almost had an orgasm the day I found the cruise control button – I still can’t believe I bothered to learn how to drive on a manual car. Gosh I hated shifting gear !
Okay, roads in Canada are quite bumpy (the salt damages them pretty badly) but driving on a long straight stretch of freeway is a bliss. I never got sick of it and my driving even improved (slightly, but it did !).

Going to a hockey game : hockey night in Canada is something to experience ! I’m not a big sports fan. I hate soccer, US football, I fell asleep countless time during baseball games but I’m always up for hockey.
Hockey is fun because it’s quick. Even when I didn’t understand the rule, just watching these huge guys ice skating was a lot of fun. And the fights ! Oh, I love them…!
The Stanley Cup is a national event and when last year, the Ottawa Senators almost won the cup, the city was buzzing with excitement. Big screen TV everywhere, fans, a game almost every night – a great experience !

Eating beaver tails and maple syrup : when I first came to Canada, I thought beaver tails were actually beavers’ tail – well, Canadians are barbarian, right ? It’s in fact just fried dough, on top of which you can put chocolate, butter, cream etc.
Maple syrup can be enjoyed with pretty much anything : pancakes, waffles, toast… My favorite is maple taffee : boiled maple sap poured on snow. Yummy !
Walking along the Rideau Canada in winter and stopping along the way for these treats is priceless.

Enjoying the summer : after a few long months of winter, the snow finally melts and it’s summer. There’s almost no spring in Canada : one day you’re freezing and the next one you go buy sandals cause it’s too hot outside !
Summer is generally pretty hot and humid in Ontario, and quite stormy as well. Yet, it’s a breeze after the long winter. No more winter jackets, winter boots, sweaters, gloves, scarfs… just a skirt and a tee-shirt. Bars set up tables outside and people eat lunch in the parks. Everybody is relaxed and in a good mood. I never got to appreciate summer as much before…!

Calculating the GST and the PST mentally : I think almost every country has some kind of sale taxes. In France, for example, there’s the TVA (VAT : value-added tax): if you eat at a restaurant, a 19.6% tax will be included in your bill – most people don’t even notice it.
The key word is “included”. Yep. In Canada, the two taxes in Ontario (and in most provinces) are not included on the price tag. It’s only added when you pay. For example, don’t even think of buying a $1.25 Coke because you just happen to have $1.25 left in your pocket. Because even if the Coke is labeled at $1.25, you’ll actually end up paying $1.44 (7% GST and 8%PST added).
I’m now able to calculate mentally how much I’ll pay after taxes, but it’s somehow tricky !

Spotting wild animals in the city : the wildest animal I ever saw in France was a pigeons. Well, a million pigeons to be honest. And my neighbor’s dog… quite nasty. But here, I get to see a bunch of funny animals, running wild in the city :

  • Squirrels
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Beavers
  • Geese
  • Deer

It’s quite funny the first time you’re smoking outside and you spot beavers, rabbits etc. running wild around you – even though I live really close to downtown !

Canadian politics : Canada’s political battles are quite different than European’s. Of course, the is the subject of the wars (Afghanistan, Irak…), immigration etc. But Canada is also truly unique in term of politics.
First, the language issue. Quebec has a separatist party and they used to be quite strong before the last referendum, where they lost sovereignty. Nonetheless, there’s always an argument going on between Quebec and the other province : are the signs supposed to be bilingual, French, English only ? Is is okay to send your kids to an English school in Quebec ? Should people be bilingual ? Quite funny when you first come to Canada.
The second battle, my favorite, is the US-Canada softwood lumber dispute. Please, don’t ask me to explain. Ever.


For this homemade meme, I’d like to tag my friends from all over the world (yeah, I’m bragging). Feel free to describe the best experience in your country, your region, your state, your province, your city… I can’t wait to read you guys !
If you’re not on the list (silly me), add yourself and have fun !

For the USA :

For Portugal : Max

For the UK : Graham at One Man’s Travel Blog

For Greece : My favorite Merc at Deadpool’s Laughing Den (please, you’re my only Greek around !)

For Australia :

For Mexico : Sebastian’s Soap Box

For Malaysia : Zunnur and his A Little Time

For India : A great photograph at Perzpective… more than just words! (you can answer with pictures !)

For Singapore :

For France :

The Canadian Team :

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