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?