In 2012, as my fiance and I were about to get married, we decided to take the biggest leap of our entire existence: make our life-long dream of permanently living abroad come true, and move from France to Canada. Time forward two years (i.e. the time needed to obtain our permanent residences, put our furniture in a container and fly to Canada with our terrified kitty), and here we are, living, working and loving every second of it in Moncton, New Brunswick.
Though moving abroad was not a novelty for me as I lived one year in New Zealand as a student, each country has its special charm and quirks. A couple of months in, from my still-French perspective (you can’t erase 30 years of European upbringing in a blink, right ?), here’s what I love in my new country, and what I miss from home.
How nice and relaxed people are
Maybe this is because we live in a relatively small town (170,000 inh.), but people are so calm and relaxed. We experienced that attitude as tourists in our previous visits to Canada, but had no idea it was not just a show for foreigners. It’s for REAL.
A couple of times when things went kind of wrong (internet router not working, immigration glitch preventing us from getting a Social Insurance Number), I was prepared to go all French on the clerk or attendant, only to find that unlike home, you don’t have to shout to get what you want, and people will apologize, do their best to fix your problem, AND smile at that. And to my great surprise, it’s contagious: They smile, you smile. They say they’re sorry, you say you’re sorry too. It’s like a virtuous circle of rainbows and unicorns.
The dreaded winter, with temperatures going down to minus 40 Celsius, the constant cold and snow… Everyone has been warning us against it, on both sides of the Atlantic. Turns out with the proper gear, it’s really not that cold, and that there are so many things so you actually do outdoors (cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice-skating, you name it) that it’s actually a very fun season. I’m learning ice skating at the free ice rink two blocks from our flat, and the city even gives us free chocolate and marshmallows and concerts on Friday nights. Plus, I’ve seen more snow in the past two months than in the past 10 years.
Vegetarian meals galore
Pretty much every joint, restaurant or eatery has several vegetarian options, even burger joints. On behalf of all vegetarians, thank you, Canada.
The fact that people actually love their country
Canadians seem to express different feelings than what I’m used to — proudly displaying their love and respect for their country, flying flags, and singing the anthem every chance they get. This is very new to me, coming from a country where patriotism is a bad word. Obviously France and I have a conflictual relationship since I left, but this really makes me rethink the way I see my former AND my new country.
Now I get Justin Hammer’s quote in IronMan 2: “I’d love to leave my door unlocked at night, but this ain’t Canada.” We do leave our door unlocked at night, for the first time of our lives.
Virtually doesn’t exist in France. How crazy did I get when it came to celebrating one of my favorite holidays for the first time last October!?
All French are foodies, it’s a cultural fact. Food is our greatest social lubricant, we have business lunch, after-work snacks with coworkers, brunch with relatives, and if there’s no food then it’s wrong. Here people seem less obsessed about food and do not use it as a socializing means (not that I’ve seen in my circles anyway). Which baffles me sometimes… why would my coworkers want to have lunch alone in their cubicles instead of sharing a meal?
We can find great cheese at the local farmer’s market, but we’d have to cough up cost 50 bucks.
On the bright sides, I had never seen so many different frozen pizza varieties.
Cheapo air travel
EasyJEt and RyanAir, how I miss you. Getting around was so much cheaper and easier back then. I know there’s a good reason why low-cost travel doesn’t make it to Canada, but my wanderlust heart bleeds everytime I see friends casually going on a short trip to Portugal, or Scotland, or Hungary, for the price of a good cheese at the farmers market.
Reasonable internet prices
80 bucks for Internet? Seriously, this is twice what we used to pay for a plan which included fiber, TV, residential phone and cellphone. But since the rents and real estate prices are so outrageously cheap, it’s okay after all.
The love list far exceeds the miss list
We learn to live without what we miss (or find a substitute). I can’t make the internet prices go down, but I can certainly make my mom send cheese from home, or save up to fly on vacation. The language barrier is not such a problem since our city is the most bilingual in the bilingual province.
So far our Canadian experience has been bliss. I can’t vouch we’ll stay in Moncton our all lives, but Canada certainly makes newcomers feel welcome.