Living the Canadian Dream

by Beth

On September 1st, I packed up all belongings, and moved some 3500 miles away from my family, boyfriend and friends to spend the third year of my history degree in Canada. The past (almost) three months have been spent trying to settle in and adjust to a brand new city and culture, while trying my hardest at schoolwork and to make friends. To say it’s been intense would be an understatement: Canadians (in Ontario, anyhow) may speak English, but there are some real cultural differences. Here’s (some of) what I’ve learnt so far…

  • Winter? It’s already here, and it’s going to get worse. This week averaged on -2 and I’ve spent a fair amount of the week skidding on ice and staring at the snow. Of course, this weather has phased none of my peers: everyone just layers up, throws on their snuggest coat, and gets on with it. My flatmate’s (sorry, roommate) response to my shivering complaints? ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.’ Time to whip the electric blanket out.
  • Toronto is basically Shoreditch, but clean and sober. Everyone here is a hipster: you’re ‘alternative’ if you aren’t bedecked in a check shirt, skinny jeans and desert boots. And to fuel this American Apparel-wearing, vinyl-listening, Jack Kerouac-reading populace, Toronto is inundated with little independent cafes. Hey, I’m not complaining, I love me some pretentious coffee time.
  • The food. Over here, everyone eats out ALL THE TIME. You cannot walk a few steps without finding some form of food. Food trucks line the campus streets- don’t be surprised if you end up in the library sitting next to someone inhaling a massive box of poutine (the Canadian national dish- basically cheesy chips in gravy) or cartons of noodles. The food is invariably filled with all kinds of oddities too- attempting to do a food shop the other day, I picked up a loaf of your standard brown sliced bread, which had caramel listed in its ingredients? Cray. Don’t get me wrong, you can get good quality fruit and veg etc, but it’s bloody expensive. Oy. It’s a bit overwhelming doing a foodshop sometimes.
  • In order to counteract all this food, it would appear that Canadians are exercise fiends. Everyone goes to the gym, or runs, or does yoga, or plays sport. My flatmate goes to the gym about five times a week- and that is on top of a degree and two jobs. I’ve actually started going to the gym too, but I won’t lie, I find it a real drag. Any tips on how to make exercise fun? Or any actual gym routines for someone who’s idea of torture is the treadmill?
  • Booze is a real no-no here. You can only buy alcohol from a state-run ‘LCBO’, of which there are hardly any around. And prepare to be judge in the street when you’re carrying that brown paper bag of beer home.
  • Oh and also prepare to be judged for using the word ‘toilet’. It’s ‘restroom’, no matter what.
  • People are super-friendly over here. I have had numerous conversations with people on public transport here. During the daytime. Sober. Mental.
  • We have Boris, Torontonians have Rob Ford. The gift that just keeps on giving:

Just a few little sweeping observations about Toronto thus far… I’m going to be writing in greater detail later on about how I’ve dealt with moving here in terms of anxiety and eating later on. But now? I need to go and write an essay/google more Rob Ford gifs.