Normal Canadian Things I Find Weird #3

And so the saga continues. After being introduced to various aspects of coffee in Europe, see back to my Café and the Continent Post, I thought it may be good to share my thoughts on the Canada Coffee culture as its certainly…. different.
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Normal Canadian Things I Find Weird #3 Canadian Coffee Culture

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So I can not say Briony anymore when it comes to ordering coffee at starbucks as no one can spell it so I go for Molly. Which isn’t always heard right…

Ordering Coffee – The Fast Food Coffee

(Not sure if this is just an anxiously awkward me thing or something others have faced as fearful foreigners.) 

Ordering coffee is a simple transaction. This statement has been challenging to me for a few months of being in Canada. Some uniquely Canadian thing, you can not escape from is the Double Double. What is a Double Double? It happens to be a coffee served with 2 cream and 2 sugar. Logical, if you understand the ordering system in this country. I wondered for a while why people would perpetually give me the funny look when I just wanted coffee.

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What I did not know is that in most places in Canada that do the coffee put the milk or cream and sugar in while they make it for you. This is madness. As someone who is used to getting the coffee and faffing about with sugar packets its completely mind blowing. More words to say at the cashier?! Outrageous. 
However, I understand the reasoning behind the order the sugar and milk; it does save the individual the faffing time… yet it is still a concept I need to get used to. And admittedly it does stop the days where you accidentally pour the sugar in the bin, and the paper into your coffee. This does happen more often than I would like to admit…

Roll Up the Rim Season

I mentioned this briefly in my previous post and I don’t understand the hype behind it. It’s all about the chance of winning – winning a doughnut, a coffee of a Honda Civic on a years lease. As I don’t understand it I asked my Canadian friends their thoughts…

“Roll up the rim is a Canadian classic, a Canadian pass time and overall a gamble to begin your day. Even though the coffee may be anywhere from weak coffee like water to week old cigarette butts juice the gamble of getting another coffee or pastry keeps us going.” – Mirre

I am like the wrong person to ask haha I hate Tim Horton’s! Even when I go and its roll up the rim I still get cold drinks. But I think people like it because it is cheap and good (I guess). And People love Roll up cause its like the chance to win on something you would probably buy anyway. It’s like if tampons came with a prize people would be like – This makes buying these more enjoyable hahaha – Maggie

I tried this phenomenon and did not win anything. Plus the whole concept of rim rolling is confusing and not easy to do if you haven’t heard of it before. Where is this hidden message? How do I unravel the secrets of the cup? One should not overthink these things.

The Rival $1 Coffee

So what I noticed while this whole rolling rim shenanigans is going on, across the road in McDonalds, there is a $1 coffee promotion. Coffee for $1. Thats basically 55p. Why would you go in for a roll lot of disappointment when you can have a large $1 coffee that actually tastes nice? Additionally you can collect the stickers on the cups so when the season is over you have copious amounts of free coffee. Thats a win win situation!

Cafeteria Coffee

I’m not sure if this is just an Algonquin College thing, but it kinda blew my mind. So there is a large variety of flavoured coffee. Not like vanilla lattes and caramel macchiatos… Nay, as in its flavoured coffee beans and that is something I’m not used to seeing regularly. I’m sure it exists elsewhere in the world but not as open as this.

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Some fancy coffee art from Bridgehead

*And finally*

French Vanilla

Why do we not have this back in the UK; and when we can get it, why is it so expensive?! I don’t know exactly what is in french vanilla, except for the vanilla of course, but it is pretty much a hot drink that rivals the godly status of hot chocolate on a cold rainy day. I suggest to anyone who like sweet things to go out of their way to try french vanilla as they will not be disappointed.

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I am an avid coffee drinker, and these weird Canadian coffee credentials seem to make the experience smoother and more enjoyable so I don’t think I can complain too much!
Thanks for reading and enjoy the nice weather before 6th winter comes!

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2 Months in

To be truthful it’s been very hard to put into words the transition of Europe to North America, so apologies for the delay, and enjoy this rambling read…
As a Brit moving to Canada didn’t seem that much of a move from the U.K. Oh how I was proven wrong. Of course the normal things of knowing that the British accent is loved were expected but a few things have thrown me slightly.

The best way to describe Ottawa is that someone has taken my memories of England and France and shifted them to the left a couple of inches. Pieces of Architecture from both cultures entwined with the modern city scape make living here easier than I expected.

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Language barriers

Unlike the conventional language barriers that are common in Europe, the Canadian Language barrier is more like a language hurdle that you can definitely have a laugh about. My usual experience with language barriers is with the complete inability to understand the noises someone is making. Over here it is as if someone wanted to make life more interesting and  just took a few words in the dictionary and switched the definitions and watch the chaos unfurl. As a Brit you could imagine my horror when I was told to come into work with no pants, as pants in Britain are underpants, not what the North Americans refer to as trousers. Again just small changes of words from mobile to cell, pavement to sidewalk and my favorite, courgette to zucchini. One of my favourite phrases of the UKadian night out that I definitely know not to ask is “Can I bum a fag?” This harmless whimsical slang of politely asking to borrow a smoke can be considered  as a bit unruly and may be seen as homophobic and not politically correct.  Many of my british english speaking friends also have encountered awkward language borders, a fun favorite is during classes; “Can I borrow a rubber?” which of course makes sense. a rubber to rub out your pencil. But alas, this does mean condom in the North Americas hence the perplexity and shock one receives from this statement.

“That’s a great British accent you have, how long have you been practicing?”
Oh my dear, if you didn’t figure out I was British from my accent I think we have an issue. My accent accentuates every little consonant to the extent that you may start to feel sorry for the letters being attacked and I have a habit of elision. However I have noticed something horrifying in the way I talk now that would make any elocution teacher shiver. My British Ts have digressed into Ds. (Send BBC Radio 4 care packages.)

But I notice some words I say are definitely different to the majority of people around me.(*Trigger Warning*)
Here is a list of words that I shall no longer say in fear of my own sanity, well being and integrity:

Aluminium
Vitamin
Schedule
Aubergine
Garage
Basil
Oregano
Corriander
Tuna
Yoghurt
Fillet
Route

One day we will be able to talk about you again.

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Shops, Pubs and Public Convenience

Shops are shops wherever you go, like you can buy your groceries in shops and markets all over the world and there is not much of  difference as the idea is ubiquitous. But lets look at our friend Ontario the province that I find myself in. Alcohol is not necessarily sold in supermarkets. There is no chance of going to the corner store to score yourself a bevvy. After living in Wales for the last 4ish years it is a bit of a surprise when you have to plan a trek to the local beer store or LCBO to buy the booze and not just pop down the road to replenish your liquor stocks. Okay, I see the pros for the government of monitoring alcoholism and things but also where is the equivalent meal for one deal you can get from M&S with microwave dauphinois potatoes and a bottle of prosecco?! I don’t think Canada has a M&S or Waitrose equivalent. (Why am I here again?!)

Lets move onto the purchasing of your groceries. I’m not sure If I am just an awkward or a rude person but in my experience of the Great British Shop, you don’t communicate unless its essential. This goes for retail and restaurants as well; there is no idle chatter. In my Canadian experience,  around 98% of the time, no matter the establishment, you’ll get someone saying “Hi” and engaging in conversation. *Panic stations* There is no way I would be prepared for this in the U.K. and usually would result in my abrupt walk away as it is an unspoken rule that this interaction is frowned upon in British society.

I would love to say Pubs are Pubs wherever you go. However, this would be a lie. Although, A bar is a bar wherever you go. If something claims to be a pub outside of Europe then I be prepared to have your idea of pub reformatted. Pubs are restaurants, and everything is on a tab. Pubs serve food always. And you usually pay at the table at the end of the night. And you tip. You tip a lot. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

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The City, The Town and Suburbia

I can’t really compare cities across the world only ones I’ve been to, so the majority European, the likes of London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Paris, Lyon, Caen, Geneva, Salzburg, Riga, Brussels, Eindhoven and many other European Cities, and of course a smattering of cities in North America. And there is definitely a stark contrast between European Cityscape and North American.
I can’t say I hate the differences as they are just that different.

North American cities and towns seem to operate on a grid system. This is super handy to navigate and get around. It makes sense. The roads don’t have weird windy one way systems that make you want to drive off a bridge or lead you to somewhere miles away from where you need to be. The newer towns and cities seem to understand that roadways and sidewalks need to be wider for the regulation of road and foot traffic so there isn’t fear of death. *cough oxford street*.
However. There is a significant road feature that I miss. The humble roundabout. Europeans love it, the Americans don’t know how to use it, the roundabout wins hearts and eases traffic. Okay the last one was a lie, lets look at Milton Keynes and Swindon here for killing the roundabout. Yes, the roundabout is not a feature commonly use in Canada and well, it’s not exactly needed as most interactions are one road crossing another, not a knotty mess of 6+ plus roads crossing each other that seems to be a recurring feature throughout the European countries.

Onto the Suburbs. The place for commuting? I’m not quite sure why suburbs exist and how they exist and quite frankly they frighten me. Subdivisions are like council house estates in the UKadia but they seem to lack the integrated public conveniences and park space, just a twisted residential lattice with shopping centres located around it. It is definitely something I have not come across before in the Europes and something I’m not keen on trying out. I think I’ve watched too many suburban horror films.

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That’s what I make of my moving experience so far – Thanks for the read, leave me a star, a comment or a share and I’ll repay the favour.

 

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Small Corner of Europe

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Something that is really prominent about my childhood memories are the holidays to France. From when I can remember France has been a major part of my growing up from day trips to Calais, to weekends in Paris. It wasn’t until I was 7 or 8 that we started holidays in French cottages, or Gites, that is a big part of my life and now my parents’ lives. The first place I can fully remember was next to a big Château in the Southern regions of France. I can’t remember the exact location but remember watching the Hoopoes chatting to each other on the power lines. I remember the house being a pile of unsorted rooms, with a porch that should have been a room but the wall just wasn’t there, being open to sun, but protected from the rain. The bedrooms were corridors to reach other rooms which I associate with the traditional “french vibe”. Obviously this was a 7-8 year old creating and reinforcing stereotypes in her head but nonetheless I did and still do love the French culture.

Our holidays took us around France and I have fond memories of cycling around Mount Ventou, Provence’s fields of lavender and seas of sunflowers, La Rochelle’s stunning blues of the sea and Île Noirmoutier, Hidden monasteries in dense forests, to name but a few. Each place had it’s only character that added to my Continental fascination as well as adding to my French vocabulary. (If somehow Mrs Tominey is reading this, I can conjugate Etre and Avoir now….)

 I could go on and on – probably write a book on my french holidays growing up and the shenanigans my family and I got up to, but thats not what I’m meaning to write about today. (You can see from the very questionable pictures above, I didn’t take many photos back then and the quality isn’t great…)

Save the images of cobbled streets, small narrow roads aligned with shops, cafés and bakeries. Think of the squares that open out that are hemmed in by restaurants and cafes, the square littered with small market stands, and artisans selling their profession. For me this is the artisan quarter of Paris by Montmartre. This is where I remember eating chips with my Mum, throwing them up in the air for small sparrows to catch, overlooking the city sprawled out below. Or the copious times my Mother and I visited Bruges, huddled up in winter in the main square with a hot chocolate, after walking around the many wooden stalls of the Christmas market. It’s very old buildings and street ways that don’t particularly make much sense but brought together is my traditional view of Europe.

Keep that image we will get back to it. 

If you have ever visited America, its very quick to understand that their perception of old is not in the same realm as European old. In Europe we have towns dating back thousands of years with buildings dating back hundreds. I grew up in a house originally built in the 17th century. European old is old old. American old is 1800s, maybe 1700s at a push. We can’t mock them for this, as technically speaking, they are Europeans too. And although we don’t see the exact copy of continent to continent, there is still small corners of Europe.

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Even after being told by friends, I did not believe that there would be anything like my small French towns in North America, and well I was proved wrong. You can see influences in certain buildings, as I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting to find myself transported back across the Atlantic to a weird combination of French and Germanic streets and squares. Montreal did this.

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Being so far from “home” it did make me feel a bit homesick for my childhood holidays with my family. Additionally it made me realise how much stress my parents must be under in their big move to Normandy fulltime. It’s funny how much memories can make you realise your future. Studying the past does help the present. (Something like that…)

Back to Montreal!
I only had the pleasure to visit the place for a day, and that was enough for me. (Nothing to do with falling over on Mount Royal in the morning…) The mash up of old and new just made it a bit crazy for my European brain, and to fully appreciate the place I would definitely need more time and more confidence in my french. (I’ll come to that in a later post I am sure.) 

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From super modern metropolis, with colourful walls, high rises and concrete, to just round the corner that takes you back to Europe. Pretty strange for me, but it’s just another one of those places that makes you stop and think.

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In my last post I talked about Places I will Miss – the small bits of England that I know aren’t going anywhere but I hold dear to me, mainly due to fond memories and friends. If anything moving somewhere else is just going to expand my feelings and memories and urge me to go to places, I as a small person would never have thought about outside the confines of Europe. That is exciting.

I will always have a fond place for my french holidays with my parents and I hope I can continue the French tradition, especially in helping with the final move to Normandy. Fingers crossed, this time next year I’ll have more French fancies to share!

Thanks for reading and have a Great Day.

If you feel like it, leave a comment about your favourite childhood holiday/memories as I would love to hear from you! 

Places to Miss

The last few years have seen me be uncharacteristically sad over summer time. Last year I was stuck in a situation I hope no one replicates, and this year, through no fault of anyone else, I have been struggling. However there is solace to my sadness. In the saddest of my feelings I have met the and lived with the best of people, as I mentioned in a previous post, and I have experienced things that have led me to be a better person. One of my very good friends invited me and plus one up to the Lake District for a grown up holiday of walks and cream tea. It was a break I very much was needing as everything seems to be accelerating at 210% when I’m only capable of 60% at the moment.

Things I learnt from my time in Aberystwyth last summer is that you can get tired of a pretty place. But only if you are there for too long. You see, for me, the landscape doesn’t change much. The sea is always the sea, albeit the green, blue or grey and the hills will always have their shape. Buildings come and go, but relatively the place is the same. I can watch the sun go down over the sea night after night, reclaim some little solace to wake up in the morning to be faced with a pretty place I am trapped in. Stepping away from it I can admire the beauty the town has to offer, as a place, a solid – rather than the people that broke the place for me. From this however I became a cynic with a pretty view. Yes the rolling hills look nice. Oh, wow. You can see for miles. Nothing became exciting. The main reason I shied away from landscape photography as there wasn’t hidden beauty.

This has all changed. Realising that I can move away and find opportunity for me elsewhere has changed everything. Triggering this of course was the aforementioned weekend away in the Northern part of the Lake District.

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I took a drive. Not an easy one, a hard one full of sharp single track hairpins and steep slopes. The views were worth it. The clouds were worth it. The iconic grey misery that sweeps Britain as the stereotype is something that I will miss. Grey, hanging mist, dreary drizzle patting against a window, while you can drink a cup of earl grey is something quintessentially I associate with my time stuck in the Great British Indoors.

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I’ll miss these treasured little places that I shared with friends. But there is always the solace that landscapes and places don’t change that much so maybe in a few years time I can come back again, revisit and revitalise this. Being a landscape cynic made me an unhappy person and that is not something I can accept.

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Heres a little vid I made

Lead up to a Big Announcement…

The idea of getting on a plane on my own, making a transfer in an unknown place and then landing somewhere knew scared the hell out of me. The whole thing is alien to me and the fact that I did a responsible adult thing like other people without being awkward or being super duper nervous, impresses me greatly. (This is coming from the person who doesn’t like entering buildings if the door is shut. Yep. That bad.)

First thing I notice off a plane is the weather. Obviously being British, I am programmed with the unspoken law of commenting on the weather, regardless of location. By the time the plane touched down in Saint John, Newfoundland, it was a little underwhelming to be greeted with the standard grey mists and 8 degree temperature of a Great British Spring. Especially after leaving the brilliant blue of the week long English summer. Although, this gave me a solid excuse to stay in the airport for the 2ish hour lay over and hide with a coffee and questionable tuna sandwich. Due to the size of the airport, being lost was no longer major worry as there were, at maximum, five gates. The only worry I had was somehow placing myself on a flight not to Ottawa but to somewhere else, as that is something that would happen to me. That and not understanding what people are saying to me as I am not exactly deft with accents and end up just nodding when not understanding what people are saying. Like when I went to Newcastle. (That’s a whole other story of  Just Why Briony)

11 hours and 47 minutes later I arrived in Ottawa. The flights were not eventful, the head air host had a sense of humour that was questionable at times, but overall made the flights a little less stressful. Going through security, I was stopped. Everytime. I think random was set to Briony on the trip – safe to say I am no longer awkward with pat downs and swabs. (Not entirely sure if that is worrying or not..)

Ottawa is not what you would expect of a capital city. It isn’t a big urban sprawl, but it’s not a town. A mixture of quiet streets and main road ways make Ottawa a quiet but lively city. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t seen anything like it before. As a European, I am used to the European cities and towns that have no logical system of roadways and buildings. I am used to the unbearable crowds of London, coupled with the heavy air and stale smell of traffic. Maybe the lack of tall buildings and terraced houses allows the air to flow, or the lack of tourists makes it a more open, fresher and revitalising environment to be in.

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So what does this have with a big announcement? I spent just under a fortnight in Ottawa and it revived my dream of studying out there. So since I got back I’ve been busy seeing if my applications still stand, and if I am able to go out and study there.

Looks like I’m moving abroad….