Beyond Weather Considerations – What I Miss After Coming Back to Canada

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Really, Canada??

Everybody mentions the sudden change of temperature we experienced when we left the warm Southern Hemisphere and flew back up North. But we knew it was going to be cold in Canada. It sucks, I hate it, but it doesn’t take long to grab gloves, a hat and a winter coat and join the millions of frozen Canadians doing what Canadians do best—complaining about the weather.

No, it doesn’t take long for the body, this amazing machine, to adjust to the significant temperature difference. My mouth, for instance, adapted quickly. It took me about five seconds to mutter, “fuck, it’s freezing and the cold air hurts my face!”

“You know what I’ll miss the most?” I told Feng as the taxi was driving through São Paulo’s endless urban maze. “Strangers doing things together. People walking in the street, partying, eating, shopping, taking public transportation, going to the beach together. The crowd. Feeling like I’m part of something bigger, occupying the space designed for us.”

Feng nodded. He got it.

I can’t stand our individualistic North American society where we spend so much time and effort taking care of our own needs, “fulfilling our own destiny” as they say, and where we go to great lengths to avoid “other people”, these damn other human beings, these inconvenient strangers on the way. While I respect the need for personal space, I don’t understand how we end up with a society where most households own several cars—weren’t cars designed to carry several people in the first place?—,houses have several bathrooms (for when you need to pee at the same time as your husband), where we eat at the wheel because sharing a table in a fast food joint is torture, where we cross the street to avoid bumping into the one lonely soul walking on the same sidewalk. This is nuts. Not only we don’t hang out together, as human beings, but we seem to avoid each other on purpose.

There are other things I’m missing. Homemade food instead of bland, standard corporate food—while there are many franchises in South America, you can still easily find independent bakeries and restaurants. It’s getting hard in Canada to find something different—we have abundance but little variety as mega food corporations control the market. I miss discovering new products, I miss going to a store to see what they baked that day, I miss street food—real street food, not overpriced burgers and hotdogs sold from a cart to hungry hipsters who feel they are doing something totally crazy and unconventional.

I miss being sheltered from North American media. While we were in South America, I conveniently pretended Trump was still firing people on The Apprentice and that the elections didn’t happen. Besides, North American and European media make me anxious. They find new stuff to be scared of every day as if planet earth was this doomed, rotten place to live on.

I miss a certain freedom. Everything is highly regulated in Canada—no smoking, no drinking, kids in car seats, no loitering, no selling stuff without permits, no street food, no loud noise, no fragrances, no unleashed animals, no allergens, no fat, no additives, no MSG, no violence, no swearing… no fun. Yes, we are safe and healthy and we will live a long, productive life—if we don’t die of boredom first. Even Mark has more fun climbing statue of local heroes in public squares than supervised by two adults in an age-approved playground.

Oh, that too—I miss giving Mark a freedom he can’t have in Canada unless I want looks of disapproval from strangers and a visit from social services. For instance, I let him buy his own soft drink (I gave him money and waited for him at the door of the store), play in the street and while Feng and I always supervised him, we weren’t shadowing him.

Selfishly, I miss a lower cost of living. While most South American countries aren’t “cheap” the way Guatemala was fifteen years ago—we could have a steak dinner for $2 back then—life is still a bit cheaper than Canada for what I find a better overall value, as long as you buy local and stay away from imported goods. I miss being able to afford a few luxuries simply because life is cheaper—taxi rides, haircuts (you wouldn’t believe how expensive a haircut is in Canada, and I never even like the result!), nice hotels, takeout food.

I miss the fact that the price on the sticker is the price I pay. Taxes are included and tipping isn’t expected like in the US or Canada.

I miss being able to pack and leave if I don’t like a place or if the weather turns nasty.

I miss the rollercoaster of travelling the world, good and bad experiences, the adventure.

Now I just have to bet on the unpredictability of life and work harder to make things happen.

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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.

16 Comments

  1. Does your last sentence have something to do with the secret project you mentioned in the comments on your last post? The plot thickens 😉
    As far as I’m concerned, though I hate the “nanny state” I do appreciate being in an environment that feels safe and where I don’t have to smell cigarette smoke ;P
    I hear what you’re saying, though. I think it’s a bit different where I am, people are relly opened and friendly to strangers! As for the food aspect, I 100% agree! I feel like North American have really lost the meaning of good food by prioritizing access and convenience over flavor and variety.

    • There are aspects of life I enjoy in Canada, but I do find the country (or at least, Ontario) almost too quiet for my taste. Too orderly, maybe. It’s weird to be “against” a safe environment, isn’t it?!

      • Ah ah pas tellement, ça te ressemble finalement 🙂 c’est ton côté anarchiste non? Anyway, je suis comme Hélène, je me sens libre dans cette vie là. Je pense que, comme les enfants, j’ai besoin de visualiser les barrières pour me sentir libre. Quand il y a trop peu de règles, ça m’immobilise. Cependant, je pense que tu as surtout le goût de l’aventure, tu as envie de vivre quelque chose de différent. It’s time, maybe? Peut être que vous pouvez faire vos boulots ailleurs, au moins pour un temps? Après tout vous êtes déjà en télétravail la majeure partie du temps non?

        • Nah, on reste vraiment à Ottawa 🙂 En fait, c’est vraiment voyager que j’aime, je crois que vivre ailleurs me tannerait aussi au bout d’un moment. Il y a beaucoup de choses que j’apprécie au Canada, surtout au niveau professionnel… Mais la société me tanne un peu, c’est vrai.

        • Bon je disais juste “c’est ton petit côté anarchiste qui parle”, et que comme Helene je ml épanouissais bien dans un pays plus “secure”, comme si j’avais besoin de règles, de connaître les règles, pour me sentir libre. A l’inverse, ne pas avoir de règles à tendance à m’immobiliser. J’ajoutais que, avec vos boulots, vous pourriez peut être tenter l’expérience d’aller vivre en Amérique du Sud qq temps. Voilà, j’ai condensé 🙂

  2. I recently moved to Ottawa from India. I can for sure relate to what you are saying. I wish Food was more diverse here as the people here. We had more number of small and big stand alone restaurants than the big Franchises, back in India. Also, hair cuts and anything to do with parlor were not so expensive. There were beauty parlors for each kind of budget. I always preferred to go to the nearest one as I too was never happy with hair cut, be it from any fancy place. I think in American countries more importance is given to standards than variety or affordability. Having said that, I am really enjoying the brighter side of having moved to a developed country too, particularly how efficient Canadian Government services are. It is a give and take wherever you go!! 🙂

    • Hi, and welcome to Canada! 🙂

      I love your very balanced observations. I’ve never been to India but I imagine it as a paradise for foodies… you must have great street food, too! Any local (i.e. Canadian) food you’ve discovered here and that you enjoy? I’m curious!

      What you are saying about the importance of standards is very well put. Never thought of it like that, but you’re absolutely right!

      And you’re right as well about government services. This matters too, I should see and appreciate the big picture.

  3. How I feel about ‘avoiding’ people depends on my mood… sometimes I just want to go somewhere and be anonymous and have no one try to talk to me, and other times I crave conversation and am open to a friendly chat with a stranger. I guess the best is if we live somewhere where both are options, that there are different kinds of places to go depending on what you’re looking for.

    I have a friend (raised in NJ like me) who is naturally friendly and says hi to strangers if we pass them (while hiking, for example, or in a park). That’s unusual in this part of the country, but when I see her do it, I do think, ‘Hey, that would be nice if we all greeted each other.’ I still don’t though, ha ha.

    • But even if you are quiet and don’t engage other people (which, frankly, is often my case), would you rather be alone in the street or around other people? I find Ottawa way too quiet, too deserted. I like being part of a crowd. See, I like China for that. Arguably, I’d skip rush hour in a Beijing subway, but I like the fact that they are always people around.

  4. Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. What you “hate” points, are what I’m longing in my country. I hate people can smoke everywhere, even though there are children around.
    I hate Jakarta, for its high cost of living, we pay our tax but we didn’t enjoy the tax. too crowded, too many people, roads are not smooth, public transportation system is a mess, etc etc…
    for example school and health care are expensive here (yes, we have to pay for education fee. For my children it occupies like 20% of my salary, it is not free),
    well…not all though. I love my country for its various food especially in small cities and owh, cheap haircut too 😉

    life…

    • I know, I know… I’m sure some aspects of life in country A, B or C would annoy me to. For the record, even as a smoker I don’t particularly enjoy smoky places. I have never smoked indoors! 😉

      The “what is the government doing with our tax money?” is a common one, anywhere in the world… roads are anything but smooth in Ottawa!

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