My first trip to Canada has begun and I’ll be spending 7 months in this mountainous and maple-loving country. I can only assume riding bears, joining the local ice hockey team and wrapping myself in maple bacon to stay warm will become commonplace.
So far, I must admit that there’s significantly less culture shock involved in Canada compared to my past two ventures in Korea and Japan. Mark and I easily caught a bus to our new home in Pemberton, about 35 minutes out of Whistler, and have been settling in nicely along with our Kiwi friend Jeremy. We can see snow-capped mountains from our street (pictured) and are yet to have any near-death experiences with the locals (although crossing the road in a right-hand drive country is a challenge). Best of all, our upstairs tenants are getting a cat so I won’t have to take in a horde of strays.
Yet Canada comes with its own special brand of weird. Here are 10 things that have struck me as odd in the past 10 days:
1. Dogs everywhere. When I visited the local government building in Pemberton there was not a human to greet me but a large staffy x labrador by the name of Rainbow with both paws up on the front desk. Whistler must be the woof woof capital of the world. Every second shop I walk into there’s a big ol’ dog lying in the doorway, looking up at me with a lopsided grin. Most belong to the shop owners but you can freely walk into most places with your hound in tow. It’s awesome!
2. Bear-proof bins. There’s nothing to make you feel safe like seeing bear-proof bins on every corner. And they’re not just for funsies – these parts of Canada must have bear-proof bins by law. But it turns out they’re also Little Cat-proof because I could not figure them out the first time. You have to stick your hand in a hole and push a plate for them to open.
3. Illogical sized coins. Want to really confuse a newcomer? Make your 5 cent coins bigger than your 10 cent coins. But who are we to talk? Australians have a tiny two dollar coin and a massive 50 cent coin. Surely arranging our coins in order of size and value would just be too much to ask.
4. Classic Canada fashion. I cannot handle the amount of flannel going on in this town. Then there are the big work boots, blue jeans, baseball caps and enough leafy camo to make you think you’re being hunted. It’s just classic Canadian logger fashion and I stand out like a sore thumb in my tight black jeans and big white coat with fur hood that I picked up in Seoul. And as much as I’d like to get into the local fashion trends, you all know I’d look even more like a lesbian in flannel (which is not necessarily a bad thing).
5. Shitty fruit and vege. I’m talking freakishly small avocados and carrots as long and spindly as a stick insect. Try and grate those bad boys and you’ll end up grating through your fingertips with no carrot left.
6. Eh? Yes, Canadians really do finish their sentences with ‘Eh?’ (pronounced ‘ay’) a lot. And I giggle every damn time. For example, “That’s a pretty big moose, eh?”
“Maple syrup goes well with potatoes, eh?”
“This flannel makes me look like a lesbian, eh?”
7. Loonies and toonies. This is the name they give to their one dollar and two dollar coins. Why? Because Canada. That’s why.
8. France 2.0. When you just get off a 13 hour flight, vaguely delirious and dehydrated, hoping that you have landed in the right place, it is not helpful if Customs starts speaking to you in French. Once I established that I was in fact in Canada, I noticed that everything is in French – signs, menus, ingredient lists and maple-bacon-blanket packages alike.
9. Doll-ARE. Far out I cannot stand the way Canadians (and Americans) pronounce the humble word ‘dollar’. They’re way too heavy on the r’s. Us Australians don’t know what an ‘r’ is, so our sentences end up like: “Fouh dollahs foh a beeh? Mate, yah must be joking yah big galah.”
10. American food. Canada may share a lot of its language with the French, but it gets its food from America. How exactly do I know what constitutes American food, you might ask? Well, it’s a little known fact that I lived in Hawaii for 3 years and started school on that little slice of paradise. So landing in Canada has been strangely reminiscent of my childhood. Lucky Charms for breakfast? Cinnamon Toast Crunch for second breakfast? Pop-tarts and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for lunch? Hershey’s kisses topped with Goldfish biscuits for dinner? Ah, back to the typical American diet.
No doubt I’ll have some brilliant experiences in Canada. I intend to heli-board on huge mountains, see Whistler village lit up for Christmas, trek through snowy forests, explore natural hot springs, swim in freezing blue lakes and make friends with at least a dozen bears.
Keep adventurous, eh?