Yet, In Canada, I Was Happy To…

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Mao hat with Canada flag above my desk, Ottawa, March 2017

Because humans are completely illogical and very contradictory creatures and because I’m definitely 100% human, despite my anarchist mini-rant about all the things I missed after our return to Canada, there are some aspects of Canadian life I’m rediscovering with pleasure.

No, not snow. Really, Canada—yesterday’s massive snowstorm was completely unnecessary.

Meanwhile, in Canada, I was happy to…

… find ATMs that actually dispense money.

On the road, withdrawing money feels like playing the lottery. Only a few selected ATMs and banks accept foreign cards and in South America, ATMs are often out of cash. Besides, a fee is charged every time you withdraw money and it adds up quickly.

In Ottawa, I have access to so many different payment methods that it’s no wonder we are all in debt. Credit card, debit card, cash… oh, look, I can buy a Coke just waving my debit card over the terminal! I can get cashback! My purchase is rounded down so that we don’t have to carry pennies!

… be able to make coherent sentences in a language I master.

Even though my grammar isn’t perfect, I can communicate in Spanish just fine and people seem to understand me easily as well. If I don’t know a specific word, I can guess it from context or use a paraphrase when asking a question.

However, Portuguese is a whole different ball game. I spent our month in Brazil getting the accent right (apparently, I have a Spanish accent) and trying to get my message across, much to locals’ annoyance since they don’t see why speaking Portuguese is so complicated.

Here is a typical linguistic dilemma. One night, we needed a sheet because inexplicably, despite the 40ºC weather in Rio de Janeiro, the bed had been made with a thick duvet. I walked to the reception, boa noite’d the employee and froze when I realized I had no idea how to say “sheet” in Portuguese. I tried Portunhol using the Spanish word for bedsheet—”sábana”—but it brought a blank stare. I went over all the options I knew—”drap” in French, “sheet” in English, “bèi dān” in Chinese… Nope, turned out it’s “lençol”—and trust me, miming a bedsheet is hard.

… Get a little bit of privacy.

“Wow that was a long pee-pee mommy, good job!”

“Mommy, why do you have hair on your legs?”

“Mommy, why did you get mad at daddy, yesterday?”

“Mommy, what do you have, here? Ask daddy to put some cream, okay?”

“Mommy, what are you putting on your eyes?”

“Mommy, why do you have breasts? Do I have breasts?”

Enough said.

… eat Chinese food and spicy food in general

I’m kindly suggesting governments of South American countries to create a new immigration category to fast-track applications from anyone willing to bring spicy food to the continent—Indians and Chinese from Sichuan are welcome to apply.

During our trip, I was hot when eating because it was 40ºC but I never once felt that lovely burning feeling in my mouth. In Chile—despite the name of the country!—, Argentina and Uruguay, food was lovely but bland. It’s cheesy, it’s buttery, it’s sweet or salty but it’s never sour or spicy. Flavours were a little bit subtle in Brazil but again, nothing spicy. At one point, Feng was so desperate for something hot that he bit into a red chili pepper—apparently, the local variety is so mild Mark ended up eating it.

First place we went to in Toronto when we landed? Chinatown. And we’ve both been cooking Chinese food with a lot of flavour since we came back.

… enjoy domestic appliances that work

There are three basic non-negotiable things we need from a hotel room: a shower, an Internet connection and two or three beds. Bonus points are given for a fridge, air con, a balcony, a microwave and cable TV that keeps Mark entertained.

We rarely had a hotel room where everything worked just fine. Sometimes we had no water pressure (São Paulo), sometimes the balcony door wouldn’t lock (Santiago), sometimes we had an old-fashioned gas oven instead of a microwave (Paraná), etc. Basically, every place had a minor flaw.

At home, everything works just fine, and if it doesn’t, we can fix it. For instance, we needed a new shower head. Feng and I went to Walmart, bought one, installed it. There, done. As simple as that.

… get full control of my computer

We travel with a laptop and a tablet. We share the laptop, Mark has full ownership of the tablet.

January and February were quiet months for us so we had a much lighter workload but we still had to work. Usually, our respective schedules don’t conflict… until they do. I remember one night in Rio where we both had work to do and we were taking turns in the middle of the night. “Are you done?” “Almost.” “I have a deadline!” “Hold on a second.” “Did you set the keyboard to ‘US English’ again?”

At home, we each have our own workspace and no window ever has to be closed without warning. Phew.

How about you? What do you rediscover with pleasure when you come home after a trip abroad?


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. My BED! My very own bed! That’s my major pleasure when I come home after a long trip. No bed is more comfy (except maybe the one I had in San Antonio, TX, in a 4 stars hotel thanks to a discount deal. I’ll admit if I was to travel like that every time, I might not miss my bed that much).
    Cooking, as well. With my own ingredients and stuff, and not on a camping stove!

    • My own bed… yes, I like it. That said, I miss these hotel beds with nice ironed sheets, perfectly made. I didn’t always get one of these “perfect beds” but when I did, oh, bliisssss! That said, you are often camping and roughing it, so I understand your point about bed.

  2. I rediscover my love for my large bathroom and spacious rainfall shower! As well as the fact that I can scatter my toiletries all over the room (well, not quite, but I definitely have lots of space) instead of all of it being in a small bag and some even in a 1 ziplock plastic bag.

    I also rediscover my love for my bed, and the accompanying privacy. Even if I travel together with my spouse, a private room in a hotel is still too sterile sometimes, and feels foreign. Though some boutique hotels and B&Bs have bedrooms that are warm, comfy, cozy, and sexy.

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I rediscover my love for my kitchen! I don’t think I need to explain this further. 🙂

    • I do love our kitchen, and the ability to cook in general! I like our bathroom too but it’s annoying to clean.

      Some hotel rooms feel foreign but other are super cozy. Besides, we don’t spend much time in them, so I’m okay with that “foreign” feeling.

      Do you like your place in Berlin? Sounds like a nice place 🙂

      • It is a nice place, indeed. It’s in a building built in 1908, very tall ceilings, and located in an inner courtyard and not facing the street, so it’s really quiet. The neighborhood is also a quiet one, not a “hipster and cool” neighborhood so not a lot of foot traffic, but mostly locals and people who raise children. Plenty of greenery, farmers markets, and restaurants good for a romantic evening.

        • was asking because housing in Europe can be a bit of a challenge. In France, many apartments are old (not “nice old” but “gee, someone should really check out the plumbing and electrical” kind of old) and expensive. Were you lucky or is housing easier in Germany?

          Tall ceilings are awesome. Feels like living in a palace.

          • I’m not sure if it was an issue of luck or not, but Berlin does have its own set of housing problems.

            Dwellings can be alt-bau (pre-war buildings), neu-bau (postwar buildings built from 1950s to 1980s), and neu-neu-bau (modern glass buildings, think Toronto’s condos). Alt-baus tend to be well-restored, unless you’re in a grungy neighborhood. Then again, in parts of Berlin, grungy is cool sometimes.

            The problems here tend to be more about shortage, not about maintenance. Berlin is a “cool” city, so plenty of units become short-term rentals for tourists, or become renovated into fancy lofts for the tech industry people with lots of money. So original residents become priced-out and forced to move outside the city. Hence AirBnb has had issues with the law here; I think they cannot rent out long-term apartments anymore due to this issue.

          • I was reading the article you shared via Twitter and gentrification does sound like a big issue. French often say that about Paris, they complain that “Paris devient un musée”, which means that it’s so expensive to live in Paris that only rich people and wealthy foreigners can afford an apartment there.

  3. Welcome, welcome!

    I was actually enjoying the snow for last two days, if it’s gonna be cold then better have snow with it; we lost all the snow four weeks ago, but then in a fortnight the cold came back and everything was just icy, I almost skated to the office doors from the parking lot.

    • I was shocked at how much snow we got! I wasn’t expecting it. I’d rather have snow than ice, though. Like you said, “skating” around with skates sucks 😉

  4. Space! We recently returned home from a short trip with the 4-month-old and it was sooooo nice to put him to bed far away from us. Also, heating we can control easily! And the speed with which I can get ready in the morning knowing that all my toiletries are in their usual spots.

    • I get that “I NEED SPACE!” feeling after we stay at my parents in France, because as you know, French apartments are tiny. Our place in Ottawa isn’t big by North American standards but it looks huge after a small apartment with regular residents + us! When traveling, space isn’t a huge deal since we are always outside.

  5. Had to laugh at your desire for privacy 😉
    I love coming back to my bed, my house, my kitchen! And since I often end up going places without the Scotsman and Freddie, of course seeing them!
    We do a lot of camping in the woods in the summer, and without fail I’m always happy to see proper toilets and a shower 😉

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