Normal Canadian Things I Find Weird #1

Seriously been struggling with a writing block currently so forgive the ranty quality of the post!
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It’s now approaching the 6 months of living in Ottawa and I’ve started to get used to the vocabulary and the way things go but there are still things that continuously catch me off guard. I was initially planning on writing out one long blog post but I feel that some of the things that perturb me so need a whole post to themselves.

Normal Canadian Things I Find Weird #1 – Toilets

AKA the Washroom. It feels wrong referring to it as anything other than the washroom now. So apart from the name, there are many things about the Canadian washroom that causes the “anxiewees”.
In the UKadia, the bathrooms vary in style but the general overall toilet is a cubicle of its own accord, sometimes being a small room that silences the rest of the world, or its at least a cubicle with almost total privacy.
In France, I don’t know if others have been warned about their public bathrooms, they have what my family refer to as “suicide loos” that often are just a porcelain hole in the ground you have to kinda stand and pray you don’t slip and fall into the poop filled hell that is through the dark gaping vortex below. Hence the aptly given connotation from the family.
I’ve even encountered the weird German toilets that are designed so you basically have to look at what you’ve created before it flushes, something that deserves a whole post of its own I’m sure, but this post unfortunately is not about German toilets today.
Enter the Canadian answer to the humble washroom….

The Name.

Bathroom, Toilet, WC, I can get behind those names for the place designated to the defecation. Washroom is one I am willing to get behind IF it was specifically a place for you to wash. Alas, it is where you do the business and the only washing that happens really is of the hands. There are no showers or baths or bidets, there are sinks and toilets. If it was a washroom then there would be more than a sink. It is a sink room with bonus toilets.

The Cubicle itself.

The doors are almost always shut, regardless of its vacancy status. This leads to the awkward creeping up and pushing on the doors, and praying people know how to lock doors if they are occupied. And if it so happens to be the most awkward of encounters of the door swinging lethargically open and displaying someone who is engrossed in their business, what do you do? What do you say? (I am aware this can happen in multiple scenarios across the pond but this has happened to me the most in Canada.)

On approaching the cubicles, the first thing I notice is the vast gap between bottom of the  door and floor. You can’t see anything but feet and what’s on the floor which is nice, but you also only want to see one pair of feet in the cubicle. Thankfully I’ve not been in the awkward situation when there has been that time where more than one pair has existed in one cubicle, but you never know.
This is not my only qualm with the doors. The second is the height of the doors. A good majority of the time I am taller than the doors. And with the, sides of the cubicle. I want to say I am bordering on the tall scale at 5ft9″ish (on a good day) and many of my friends here are much the same when it comes to vertical measurements… It makes things awkward in a way that you have to keep your eyes forward at all times, just in case you somehow make eye contact at the neighbouring cubicle.
Once you make it to the stage of being in the cubicle, locking the door and then getting ready to do the thing you do, there is one last weird thing about the doors that is consistent to ALL washrooms I have encountered. The centimetre gap on either side of the door. Why is it there?! Is it to make extra sure you will make awkward eye contact in the slit of the cubicle with the people outside? Is it to make you extra anxious about doing the do? As it did (I confess) make me so incredibly aware and embarrassed about the whole public bathroom thing, for at least a couple of months.

The Cleanliness.

Usually you enter a public washroom with a disdain as you know it is going to be a mess. There’s going to be some disgusting stuff and it’s something you have to accept. Every other time I’ve used the facilities there has been a cleaner there. There is always toilet paper and it’s pretty much always clean and I’m definitely okay with that. The sinks are spotless and the soap is never out. You don’t even have to flush most of the time as most of the places I’ve been to are automatic. So spot on Canada. 10/10.

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Honestly did not believe I could write almost 1000 words on bathrooms of all topics! Thanks for sticking with me this long and I hope to get more weird rantyness out there in the near future! As always, have an excellent day!

 

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Café Culture and the Continent

What warms a cold winters day than that of the promise of a hot beverage?
If you’re more comfortable at home with your tea, out and about with your coffee on the go or taking a break from it all in your favourite café, hot drinks are a pinnacle of our culture and we can’t escape it.

The liberalisation of the workplace with more and more jobs becoming work from home, and the increased amount of students, café’s have arisen in great numbers to accommodate this new phenomenon. Only a few decades ago, coffee and tea were classified as exotic drinks, with only the higher tier of society having them as a normal day-to-day beverage. Snap to 2016 and the global brands of Starbucks, Lavazza and Costa dominating the international coffee scene, and the newer chains branching across the UK it’s easy to see that today, coffee and tea are a staple to our culture.

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Café Allongé

As an avid tea and coffee drinker myself I can not complain with the new expansion of hot drinks with new and exciting flavourings and creations appearing almost weekly. Yet i can’t help notice how tea and coffee are no longer valued for their original tastes and pleasures. It’s only when I go back to France I realise how commercialised our British Coffee and Tea tastes have become. Along with the “normalities” of italian coffee, the lattes, cappuccino and americanos, we seem to forget the humble filter coffee and builder’s tea that our projected culture roots us Brits as.

We are now swamped with the choices of extra syrups to cover the coffee flavour, caramel macchiatos, vanilla cappuccinos and various toppings of cinnamon, vanilla and chopped nuts, whipped cream and sauces. Let’s not forget the whole, semi skimmed, skimmed, soya, almond milk that gives “Freedom” to the coffee drinker. Do not get me wrong, I do love a vanilla cappuccino every so often, but the recent years has taken coffee to new extremes, drowning it in hot milk and sugar, taking anything good of the coffee away and replace it with sweet fatness that appeals to everyone and not the real coffee enthusiast.

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Usual French Hot Chocolate

Cafés in Britain are open to everyone in society, with a self-service feel. One forms an orderly line and queues at the counter to request the desired beverage, pays and either stays or leaves. The slow shuffle and wait of these lines is almost chore like, laborious for a once luxury occasion. You receive a cup of the drink and that is that.

On the continent, cafés operate differently. In France particularly you rarely find a chain coffee store as the streets are dotted with bars that function as cafés. It’s easy to compare the two cultures, the French still traditional on waiting tables, bringing over your order usually with a couple of sugars and a sweet treat and then on request “l’addition.” There is no need for queue, it’s instantaneous finding a seating area and being served by the waiter. In most of my café – bar experiences it’s been quicker than any lumbering British Queue.

The coffee culture is different in France, the usual order being coffee at its best as an espresso. Theses are usually quick pick me ups throughout the busy morning. On the opposite end, orders of a grand café or allongé, means that the coffee will last for almost hours on end, an excuse to stay in residence of the café and have a catch up.
At home there is more focus on coffee than tea, with supermarkets stocking more coffee and coffee products than that of tea. Regardless of this, French supermarkets have a remarkable selection of tea, much larger in size and variety than any British supermarkets. Shame on the tea drinking nation we are!

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Espresso

Tea has become increasingly popular over the last few years as well with the demand for flavoured and herbal teas on the rise putting companies like PG tips and typhoo under pressure for more than just black tea. Green tea has been proven to be good for your health, but so has black tea and coffee, but the green tea fad is the one that health bloggers and writers favour.

Tea and coffee as a social lubricant means the demand for all things hot drinks has increased hence the rapid expansion of flavours and establishment for teas and coffees. Both have become a staple personalities, with being a tea drinker a point almost worth writing on your CV.

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Whatever the world of Café’s throws at us next, I’ll be waiting, but for now I think it’s time for us to revisit the basics and get back knowing the proper tea and coffee and appreciating them for what they’ve become. And definitely throw more tea parties. As who doesn’t like a good party?!

Thanks for reading and have a great Holiday Season!

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