People often ask me ‘what it’s like to move to Canada?’ and ‘is is any different to Ireland?’ and to them I respond with ‘yes, it is very different but it’s also very similar.’
The thing about moving to Korea was I expected things to be different. It’s a different language, different culture, different food, different hierarchy and social structure but with Canada, I had expected it to be pretty much the same as Ireland. Only colder, obviously. And with more snow. A lot more snow. I cannot stress enough how much snow I think we’re going to get. It’s like all the snow in the world…you know, I’ll stop there, there’s a high chance this post may just turn into you witnessing me freak out about the snow.
Some of the differences I have discovered so far:
1. Three Ring Binders
Why does it need three rings? In Ireland we have two. And our hole punching devices are smaller. Here they’re ginormous and heavy and expensive.
2. Cars Not Trying To Kill Me
This isn’t so much an Irish thing as a Korean thing but the cars stop here. Lemme tell you a story, my first two weeks here, I never went anywhere without The Canadian One. Then we both got jobs, but his started the week before mine. On his first day at work, I decided to venture to the local Sobeys in search of food. I came to a crossing that had two small turning lanes. To describe it in more detail for those who are thinking, ‘what?!’, there was a tiny turning road, small island of pavement, main road, small island of pavement and then another tiny turning road.
I stood and waited by the first tiny turning road for the lights to change for me to cross. A car slowed down. I didn’t cross. He kept driving. Another slowed then drove on, then another, then another and still I didn’t cross. I noticed all the cars were backing up into a small traffic jam when one of the guys in a pick-up truck rolls down his window and yells out: “Why don’t you cross now? Go on.”
He stopped and I crossed.
I didn’t realize the cars just stop for me all by themselves without any light situation happening.
Also, while we’re talking about the lights, a red hand and a white man are confusing.
3. The Language
For some reason, at work, people just don’t understand my name sometimes:
Me: “Hi, thank you for calling ***, my name is Jenny, how can I help you?”
Me: “No, Jenny.”
Me: “Thank you for calling ***. My name is Jenny, how can I help?”
Man: “Hello Sandy.”
Woman: “What’s your name? Debbie?”
Woman: “I had a friend named Debbie.”
Me: “…That’s nice…”
There also differences in words I use versus words Canadians use:
Me: “We need clingfilm.”
The Canadian One: “What?”
Me: “Clingfilm. Like…it’s…you know, the plastic stuff, we put it on food, it sticks…clingfilm!!”
Him: “Ohhhh, Saran Wrap.”
Me: “That’s stupid. Mine makes more sense.”
Me, while discussing vegetables with The Canadian One: “You know we don’t call snow peas snow peas in Ireland. We call them mangetout.”
There are others, like:
Black Sacks v Garbage Bags
Crazy Golf v Mini Golf
A Dollar v A Loonie
Two Dollars v A Toonie
ANY Fizzy Drink – Pop
Calgary v Cowtown
Beanie v Toque (I just flat out refuse to say that…)
Two Creams, Two Sugars at Tim Hortons v Double Double
Bathroom v Washroom
Zed v Zee
Police v Mountie (but not ALL police are called Mounties, just the actual Mounties, all the others are just called the police…)
Petrol v Gas
Ladybird v Ladybug
Me: “Louie is hunting a ladybird!”
The Canadian One: “You mean a ladybug? Was that a mistake or do you really call it that?”
Me: “It’s a ladybird!”
The Canadian One: “Ours makes more sense.”
Electricity v Hydro (this one took me a while to figure out but I managed to avoid asking anyone, I just kinda got it from context)
Canadian Revenue Agency was another one I didn’t get.
Lady: “I’d like to pay my CRA bill.”
Me: “I don’t know what that is. What’s CRA?”
Lady: “Like, my taxes.”
Me :”Ohhh, I’m not Canadian, sorry, I didn’t know what that was.”
Lady: “Ohhhh, I would be like the IRS in America.”
Me: “I’m not American.”
Lady: “Well, I’m sure they have something like that where you’re from.”
And then she went on to explain in more detail about the CRA. I didn’t have the heart to tell her in Ireland we don’t submit our taxes like they do here. It’s a whole new concept for me. I once had the British government send me a cheque to Ireland for $12 because they owed me tax. I had no idea. In Ireland and the UK, it’s automatic. We don’t touch it. It’s all done for us. Here, well, here I’m gonna have to hire someone cos really, I just have no idea what I’m doing. I’m not even sure when the tax year ends!
4. The Phone Number Situation
When I first started work, three weeks after getting to Canada, I didn’t realize that to call out of my own city, I needed to dial long distance. Neither, it turns out, did my trainer realize it would be important to teach me this information.
Me, while trying to dial a number on the screen: “How do you dial not Calgary?”
My Trainer: “Dial 9.”
Me: “I know but how do I dial the number?”
Her: “You press 9 then the number.”
Me: “No, not Calgary.”
My Trainer looks confused.
Me: “How do I dial this number? 416?”
Her: “You dial 9 then 1 then the number…”
Her: “OOhhhhh yeah, you’re not from Canada. For long distance, you dial 1…sorry! I forget you’re not from here!”
I read out a number to a customer. After I hang up the phone, my trainer comes up to me.
Her, really awkwardly: “In Canada or North America rather, when we read out a phone number, we usually read it 3 numbers, 3 then 4. To sound more Canadian…you…should read it out like that.”
Me, later to The Canadian One: “Do Canadian’s really read out numbers 3-3-4?”
Him: “Yes. Why, how were you reading it out?”
Me: “In blocks of two.”
5. Some People Have No Idea Where I’m From
Woman: “You don’t sound like you’re from PEI.”
Me: “No, I’m Irish.”
Me: “From Ireland.”
Me: “The country.”
Me: “I’m from Ireland.”
Girl: “Oh, Texas?”
6. The Obsession with Tim Hortons
I don’t get it. I. Just. Don’t. Get. It.
7. People Are Really Nice
I’d heard, before moving here, that people were really nice in Canada. Really friendly and open. When I got here and realised that was true, I immediately became suspicious that the nice people were secretly out to get me. So far so good but I’m still on-guard.
8. People On Public Transport Are Weird All Around The World
It doesn’t matter where I’ve been to, what mode of transportation I’m on, or what language anyone is speaking, there will always be at least one person on every train/plane/bus that is just plain freaky.
Like the Korean man that does yoga on my train in the mornings.
The Vietnamese man that gets on and yells at other commuters for the full three stops it takes for him to get to his destination. Every. Day.
The woman who sat near me, opened a can of spaghetti (and not a pull-ring type either), pulled out a metal fork and ate it all.
The man who sat opposite me while he and his wife shared a yogurt with their fingers and then threw the empty carton on the floor.
A man who sat next to a guy in front of me with a hot dog and told him how much he liked his (the other passenger’s) hot dog.
The guy who sat in front of me, turned in his seat and stared directly at me for the entire 10 minute train ride.
The time The Canadian One had to get off the train and fill in a witness statement about a punch-up he witnessed between a group of kids and an old man who started on them.
I find I’m more willing to complain a lot more to companies about their behavior here. Maybe it’s because I expect more of a customer service experience from them or maybe it’s because they just don’t do what they say they will and when I know I’m right I make sure I tell them!
For example, last week, I read that if we bought 100 Aviva Strips for The Canadian One’s diabetic monitor, we’d get 150 Airmile points and a free monitor…and I would in turn be able to use those points to claim my free year’s subscription to Reader’s Digest, my ultimate goal.
Off he went with his Airmiles card, Safeway card and shopping list.
He returns with 21 Airmiles, no monitor and 100 Aviva Strips.
The following day, I send him back down to show them the flyer and claim our points.
They tell him he needs to BUY the monitor AND the strips to get the points.
BUY the monitor?
BUY the FREE monitor?!
I called their customer service HQ after failing to come to an agreement with the store’s customer service.
Customer service HQ called the store, then called me back to tell me it was on a different brand. I responded with “No no, that is also a promotion. MY promotion I’M referring to is underneath that promotion on the same page.” The guy called the store again then called me back to tell me I was correct and I’ve to go back down to the store and claim my free monitor and 150 points.
Off The Canadian One went and back he came triumphant with 161 Airmile points and a free monitor.
Other examples of companies that annoyed me:
Brita – who sent me a $10 voucher as the Brita jug we bought was faulty and kept spilling water everywhere.
P&G – who sent me a free razor and other assorted goodies after my experience of buying a faulty razor from them that I couldn’t return to the store.
10. Points Cards mean Free Sh*t
In Korea, they love love LOVE their points cards but they’re all in Korean and we couldn’t take advantage of them. Here, however, I’m all over this points card situation. I collect Airmiles, Starbucks stars, Plum Rewards, Shopper’s Optimum points, Sobey’s points, whatever it is that Safeway have a card for and Scene points. I like free stuff and Canada is the LAND of free stuff.
As a side note, The Canadian One says my job is also all about free stuff and is kinda like a Kindergarten. We get Ice Cream Days when we have bad weeks, they give us free coffee throughout the day (a new initiative), points when were are good that we can use to buy things with from a catalogue (The Canadian One tells me it’s akin to giving stars to young children), we have things like Pizza Friday or BBQ Day, we go on field trips to mini golf and get prizes for just showing up (a $25 gift card for a mall!) and there’s a person who dresses as a fluffy bear and hands out gifts each month.
Ok, when you look at it like that, he may be correct…but I still stand by my ‘cling film’ word. As The Canadian One says, sometimes words in British English are just more literal…and make a lot more sense.
The Canadian One, having proofread this article: “A punch-up? Is that a fight? You should add that to your list too.”