Canadiana

Thursday, 10 January 2013


We've been living abroad for a mere 2.5 years now and I feel like every time we step foot back on Canadian soil, we see our home in a different light.  Usually, it's more appreciative, occasionally it's a little more critical and often, it's funny.

In any case, here are some observations...

-As I sat in the car while my sister in law ran into the bank, I gazed across the street at the grocery store parking lot watching people come and go as they prepare for the holidays at home when it became blatantly obvious to me that we (West/Central Canadians) do not dress appropriately for winter weather.  For the entire week surrounding Christmas, the temperatures plunged below -20 and often even below -30.  This is normal where I come from.  What is not normal is how many people sauntered from their car to the grocery store in a long sleeve cotton shirt.  In Stavanger when it's -2, people have winter parkas, scarves, hats, boots and mittens on.  In Saskatchewan when it's -20, we wear a winter jacket...sometimes.

-Canada lives for hockey.  It's practically the only thing that gets us through winter.  Imagine the sorrow that filled our country when the NHL went on lockout.  The mood was visibly sombre - so much so that we resorted to NFL on the TV in our homes and restaurants.  People were angry.  People were sad.  It dominated many conversations and was covered every, single night on the news.  What's the current political situation in Syria? Who knows but the lockout has entered day 106.  (Just as we were leaving the country, a deal was finally negotiated and after 113 days, players began returning to their teams.  This nightmare is finally over.)

-Have you ever counted how many times a Canadian says 'Sorry?'  Next time you find yourself in our vast country, sit back and listen.  We apologize when someone else bumps into us.  We mouth 'Sorry' in the car if we accidentally cut someone off even though we know they won't see it.  I apologize to the waitress for dropping a coin and she apologizes right back for not catching it and then I apologize again as I struggle to find it on the floor and she apologizes as she helps me.  It's a never ending cycle.

-On a similar note - we also say 'Thank you' a lot.  As Joe and I sat on the city bus in Vancouver, we marvelled at the number of people that would call out a friendly "Thank You" to the driver as they exited the rear of the bus.

-Joe and I are not used to winter anymore.  After 2 years sans winter in Gabon and now the measly thing they call winter in Stavanger, we've lost our touch with winter driving conditions.  On any given day between October and April, the roads are treacherous, dangerous and shouldn't be driven on but we do it anyway and it hardly slows us down.  Black ice, blowing snow, freezing temperatures, drifts collecting here and there, large trucks blinding us for several seconds as it kicks up said snow - one would think that would be reason enough to stay off the roads but no, we embark on a 5 hour long road trip and we continue to drive 100 km/hour.  Our tires spin out and we pump the gas; we start to slide and we pump the breaks; the car turns sideways and we steer our way out of it. No big deal.

-Our airports are HUGE and practically vacant.  I've spent a lot of time in airports and I can rant and rave about any one of them but I just can't deny that our airports are a breath of fresh air.  We have a lot of space in Canada - so much so that we can expand our airports for kilometres if need-be.  We don't need to bus passengers to an airplane 10 minutes away from the gate because we can have a billion gates.  On top of that, we have all of this space AND hardly any people.  Our entire population is 35 million and our country is the second largest in the world.  Flying out of Vancouver, arguably one of our busier airports, at the end of the holiday season one would prepare for chaos yet the international departure lounge felt nearly empty.  I could have done cartwheels from one end to the other and never bumped a soul.


What do you notice when you go home after being abroad?

19 comments:

  1. haha all of these observations are so true, especially the "sorry" and "thank you". I say sorry ALL THE TIME! Less so here in Malta simply because many are rude and push their way through or don't move at all when you are trying to get by and they easily could step to the side- but that's another conversation lol. I got a msg the other night from my husband, HOCKEY'S BACK ON! haha.

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    1. My husband was so disappointed that we were going to be home for 3 weeks yet unable to watch NHL. Thank goodness for the World Juniors (despite our poor performance.)

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  2. Bang on with the Sorry's and Thank You's - my American friends make fun of me for it all the time!

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  3. Love this. The sorry and thank you thing is so true! And I heard rumours that restaurant bars were playing Wipeout when the lockout was on...what is the world coming to! lol

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  4. i love posts like this :) it is so fun to read about your homeland after being away from it for a while.

    americans, like canadians, apologize for anything and everything. and i STILL do it. all the way over here. 'sorry' is my way of saying 'excuse me' among many other things. it's really strange :)

    and yes, after working in canada for three years w/ my last job, i can confirm yall do love some hockey. 'love' is hardly the appropriate word.

    and i totally laugh about the dressing inappropriately thing. i have never dressed for the weather until moving here. and often, in ohio, it is colder than norway. but in the winter you could still find me in flip flops there if i was running to the mall. people here would look at me like i was crazy if i did such a thing!

    the main things I noticed that was different when I was home after living abroad for nearly two years is: 1) i felt like americans just seriously dont smoke (the ones that do hide it or someone will say something). 2) too many choices...it overwhelmed me. 3) people are SOOO friendly that it almost brought tears to my eyes. 4) younger kids are much more disciplined than in norway 5) beer is cheap. but sooo horrible in the US (but the US really does have the best microbreweries in the world). 6) there is sun in the US. 7) it was so hectic that i almost missed norway's boringness. ;) 8) my life would be much better if i could take a trader joe's or whole foods franchise to norway.

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  5. Ha ha ha, this really made me laugh it's sooo true. I love the inappropriate dress dress part, as soon as it's above freezing we leave our coats behind because it feels so warm! We were in Florida last week which was a balmy 20C, so we were walking around disney in shorts and t-shirts early one morning when it was only about 15C and a disney employee asked us where we were from, when my husband replied Canada she nodded knowingly and said 'ahhhhh that explains why you're dressed like that' we couldn't stop laughing, we thought it was lovely and warm!

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  6. I haven't yet been home since coming to Spain, but I look forward to seeing the States (mainly Indiana and the Cincinnati area) in a new light. Happy to see that you had a good time at home and are trying to settle back in abroad.

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  7. It's so funny what we notice only when we spend time away. I just sadly noticed how obese kids were back in the states! oh...and how many canned items we have. The last one was mostly out of jealousy though because we can't get half of that stuff back in Korea.

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  8. I love these, but my favorite is the amount Canadians say sorry. Even though I live close to Canada, this is a fact I never knew. And then suddenly I found myself with new Canadian friends abroad and it was just sorry all day everyday. hahaha.

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    1. The majority of us have no idea we're doing it but I'm certainly much more aware of it now!

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  9. hey, there are worse things than being too polite! :P

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  10. Thanks for sharing! This is such an interesting post.

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  11. The inappropriate weather is so true but to be fair in Ontario, well Toronto area -10 is super cold to us. When I was in Uni (at Guelph) students would wear birkinstocks well into winter and only givie them up when snow arrived! Crazy hippies.

    Since my boyfriend is British I think I look at home a bit differently possibly than I would if I returned on my own. Toronto isn't perfect but compared to where I do live the quality of life is just so much better. Something I point out to him when ever we visit.

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  12. Haha I feel all of this!! I never used to wear a jacket until at least -10....after living in Australia, I wear a hoodie at +20! I spend the first week of every visit home amused by the accent! I never thought we had one until I lived abroad. We DO say sorry alot! Also, when I was home, I was not comfortable at all driving if there was snow but years ago that wouldn't have been an issue!
    I love going home now because you notice so many things you didn't before! Glad to see I'm not the only one!
    P.s. I'm so pissed they sorted the lockout AFTER I left! I always plan to go home during hockey season and was livid when they had a lockout. Damn. Maybe next season!

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  13. Great post Jay. So true. After living in Canada for a few years I will tell anyone who will listen that you rarely meet a Canadian you don't like, and maybe part of that is the politeness. It's just a nice place to be. When we went back to Australia I was struck by how easy everything was, easy enough to get the simple things done (and indeed easy to part with money too!). Australia has long been called the lucky country and I always felt that was really trite. But the distance from home has proven the truth in the statement. Hope you have a great 2013 and look forward to reading more.

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  14. The last time I was home in NY, the thing I noticed the most was how crazy friendly people were when you went into stores: "Hey, how are you doing, have a great day..." I hadn't realized it before, but I guess people are more business-like here, ask if they can help you, and that's it.

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  15. haha this is a great post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! And it is true, every time we come home after a long period out of country we see it differently (and maybe appreciate some things more..)

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