Updated: Jul 16
Moose. Mounties. Maple syrup. See also: Tim Hortons, patios, “thanks lots” and an absolute excess of poutine. Oh, Canada.
My partner and I uprooted ourselves from our wee Scottish home and moved to Toronto all of three weeks ago. It’s my first time living across the pond. Here a few things I’ve picked up on that are a little different.
1. Canada has seasons. Like, actual seasons.
Remember learning about seasons in primary school? You’d carve a piece of paper into four pieces with your chewed up 2B pencil, draw a tree, badly, in the middle, then Crayola the varying states of leafiness onto each quarter. Cracking fun. The only downside being that in Scotland, we have less seasons, and more...stages of damp. Rainy season (January to December), snowy season (September to May – you think I’m joking) and various degrees of moist in between.
Here in Canada, though, we’re going through something called Summer (it’s like breathing soup and stupidly hot), and I've been told that Autumn (aka Fall – because LEAF FALL DOWN), is rather pretty, and Winter is, well... they made a show about it.
So if anyone needs me between November and whenever the wall comes down, I’ll be sleeping on a radiator, eating TimBits for additional insulation.
2. Your British-isms will need to be translated.
Asking for a coffee ‘to sit in’ will be met with alarm. The sweet lady behind the counter gazed at me in confused horror, and said she didn’t have a cup big enough. I have now learned to say ‘for here’, when indicating that I’d like to enjoy my java in the cafe. Not, literally, in the cup.
(Although if anyone would like to send me a coffee cup big enough to sit in, it'd be gratefully received).
3. Cottaging does not mean what you think it means.
I went to a CrossFit class in my first week here in a bid to meet some nice people (I did) and see if I was fit (I’m not). I met a lovely dog and did a workout that made me want to cry and be sick all at the same time, and as I was limping up the stairs (basement gyms on leg day, how dare you) to get onto the sidewalk (aka THE WALK ON SIDE OF ROAD) and lug my blubbering muscles home, a chipper fellow gym-goer and actually-fit-person tagged along for company.
It dawned on me later that he might have tagged along because he thought he’d need to call an ambulance; either way, it was a kind gesture. He regaled me with enthusiastic chat about the city’s patio culture, the perks of a fantastic multicultural society, and the joys of cottaging.
It turns out that here, in bonny Toronto, cottaging means that one gathers up ones chums, dogs, burgers and beers on a Friday night, and drives aggressively (Canada doesn’t need an army – they have hockey teams and the entire nation will scare you shitless from behind the wheel) to their cabin on the nearest peaceful lakeside, where everyone gets hammered and possibly also eaten alive by mosquitoes.
4. People are very, very nice, and your sense of humour will make you seem like a big weirdo.
This one’s probably just for personal reference, although, to the appalled woman that whispered ‘you’re so funny...’ as I cracked too many nervous jokes – I'm sorry.
5. People’s faces are painted on an alarming amount of groceries as advertising.
Technically, I think the blame for this one rests with America, who, obviously due to the proximity of nations, export lots of their goods up north, and vice versa.
However – it remains true that PAINTINGS, not photos, of strange people’s faces loom out of innocent looking packages in the supermarket, and they are everywhere.
Their eyes follow you. Uncle Bob’s eyes silently will you to purchase hominy grits and apple cider vinegar, and Orville Redenbacher judges as you sneak an inferior brand of popcorn into your basket. It’s terrifying.
As far as settling in goes, Toronto has been a treat. Whilst it's true that I haven’t actually seen any moose or Mounties yet, I am certain it’s only a matter of time, eh, Canada?