oh-canada-the-good-the-bad-and-the-coffee

Oh Canada! The Good, The Bad & The Coffee

OH CANADA! It’s been six months.

Well, 5 months, 18 days and some odd number of hours.

As of today, July 1, 2015, also known as Canada Day, that’s how long it’s been since we last stepped foot on Canadian soil…and yes, we do miss that Canadian soil!

Oh, Canada Day, the anniversary of Canada’s confederation, a time when we’d normally be celebrating at some ribfest (literally a festival of BBQ ribs), cottage, or campground, enjoying some Canadian beer and a fireworks display. Sigh. Canada does know how to throw a great party!

Instead, we’re in South Korea, home of ‘Gangnam Style’, not a Canadian flag in sight (no seriously, there’s a street dubbed “flag street” with every flag you can think of… except Canada!), holed up in a pretty fantastic apartment watching a cuddly cat of questionable origins as part of our first housesit.

Would we change a thing? Absolutely not. So while we’re not catching the next flight home – much to the dismay of our family – we are taking this day to reminisce about the country we call home and reflect on all the things we miss about it as well as those things we just couldn’t wait to see in our rear-view mirror!

What We Miss About Canada

Food, Glorious Food!

salt and vinegar pringles japan

Oh yes, we’re having an amazing culinary experience while travelling. We love trying new food and discovering the dishes and flavours of each place we visit, and most places have some international restaurants in case we need a change, but we sometimes think back to what it’s like back home where you can find a restaurant that serves virtually any type of cuisine you could want. If not, you’re almost guaranteed to be able to find the ingredients you need to make those dishes.

The choices and options are endless when it comes to food in Canada and we find ourselves missing the ability to walk into a grocery store or market and pick out whatever we are craving. Some things we’ve specifically noticed that are missing are: oatmeal/oats, milk (in many places it just doesn’t taste the same), meats (often many cuts are just too expensive), fruits and vegetables (it is hard, or expensive, to find fruits and vegetables indigenous to other countries), and good ol’ Canadian maple syrup.

What You Want, Baby I Got It!

Think of something you want to buy. it can be anything at all. Got it? Chances are you’ll be able to easily find it at some store Canada. The convenience we took for granted is sorely missing in many countries we’ve visited and it’s not just the food, as we mentioned above. Sure, there’s an almost unnecessary abundance of STUFF, something that has hit home the more we travel and realize how little of that stuff we actually need, but it often makes things that much easier and efficient when you can just run out and grab what you are looking for.

Over-the-counter medication, clothing in our sizes, and so many, many things are harder to locate, if you can locate them at all. One thing we noticed in particular is stick deodorant. It seems that men’s deodorant only comes as aerosol or roll-on and the few women’s stick deodorants we’ve found include bleach, a common ingredient in women’s skin care products in Asian countries.

Time Is Money!

Speaking of the efficiency of having everything you need at your fingertips, we also miss the general appreciation of expediency and efficiency. People just tend to MOVE faster back home and seem to look for ways to get things done, and get them done fast!

From the cashiers at the store to the people on the street, there’s an underlying ‘in-and-out’ mentality that we definitely notice has been missing during our recent travels – especially when we’re waiting in a line that’s moving at the speed of molasses to purchase a tube of, what we hope is toothpaste, and attempting to maintain our position in line as several people endeavour to claim a spot in front of us.

A big one on our radar is clothes dryers. Perhaps it is energy saving, but there seems to be very few people that actually use clothes dryers – even when they own one – instead opting to hang their clothes. Now, we used to hang most of our clothing ourselves when we lived in Canada but in humid climates and during rainy season, it takes DAYS to dry!

The Canadian Addiction

tim hortons canada

 

Always Fresh – Always Tim Hortons! For most Canadians, these words create a sensory-memory onslaught: the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the sight of honey crullers, vanilla dips, and maple dips all lined up, the taste of that Timbit you just had to have…for all our Canadian friends out there, we’ll go the nostalgic route and picture this particular Timbit as a dutchie…

It’s all part of a long relationship we Canadians have with a coffee and donut franchise called Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons AKA Timmy’s AKA great, reasonably priced coffee is something that we’ve bonded over with other Canadians abroad.

Surprisingly, we’ve found that some of the most die-hard Timmy’s fans were actually NOT Canadian. We met an American soldier based in Japan and a Japanese citizen that had briefly lived in Canada who actually have friends ship them coffee from Tim Hortons in Canada. We’ve met a slew of others from around the world who have travelled to Canada and who raved about their coffee and donuts! And don’t let us get started on Roll Up The Rim!

24 Hour… Everything!

This one ties into the concept of convenience and is a wholly unnecessary, but totally appreciated, luxury. While convenience stores are generally 24/7 everywhere you go, we really miss being able to find 24 hour establishments like grocery stores, drugstores, Tim Hortons (oh yes it is!) and restaurants. Whether we’re up late and looking for a caffeine hit, in need of something in the middle of the night, or just feel like doing some twilight shopping, there’s usually a place you can go.

The Great Outdoors

banff canada landscape

Road trips, camping, cottaging and just spending time outdoors and exploring the amazing sights of the country are all things we love to do, and love to do in Canada. We’ve had some amazing road trips, including a long weekend where we drove to New Brunswick, a great day-long wine tasting excursion to Niagara-on-the-Lake, and a (what-a-coincidence) Canada Day long weekend camping trip.

Yes, we see so much of other countries now and we’ve even done road trips overseas, but there is so much to see and do, no matter where you live in the country, and getting out and participating in summer activities involving nature and the outdoors in Canada is something we really do miss. Nature is everywhere and the idea of a concrete jungle is not something that is readily applied to any city in Canada.

Do You Understand The Words That Are Coming Out Of My Mouth?

While we’re quoting Jackie Chan (one of Carolann’s favourite actors) with this heading, we often feel this phrase screaming through our heads when we try to convey a message. It’s not so much the English language that we miss, but the ability to communicate, read, understand, and navigate easily without pantomime and hand signals, without google translate or having to draw pictures.

It can get tiring having to strain your ears to hear the odd word or phrase you may understand or to use both words and charades to communicate. Don’t get us wrong, we love learning new languages and have met so many people who try so hard to help us despite the language barrier, but sometimes we do miss being able to relax and just let the conversation flow.

Is There A Doctor In The House?

Many of us Canadians complain about our health care and sure, in the past, we’d participate in a healthy dose of health-care reform dialogue ourselves. There are the long wait times for procedures and hospital admission, a lack of beds in hospitals, and a lack of completely comprehensive coverage, to name a few. But now that we are full-time travellers and without the ability to hop into a doctor’s office when we need, we really notice the benefits of Canadian health care coverage.

Now, we have to factor in the cost of a doctor’s visit, any required tests, and any prescriptions we need to fill, as not everything is covered by our travel insurance. We also still need to wait in line. So, while we may have complained in the past, we definitely feel nothing but longing for the coverage we have back home.

We Are Family!

While last on this list, it is DEFINITELY not least. The hardest part about being away from Canada is being away from our loved ones. We have a saying: While we miss everyone terribly, it’s especially hard to leave the old and the young. We’ve got young toddlers and children in our family who are growing so fast, but instead of ‘before our eyes’ it’s ‘before our Skype app’ and we’ve got older family who we worry about, especially as health problems increase with age.

We miss them and we love them, and we are so fortunate they understand our need to travel and to forge a different path in life.

Things we definitely DON’T miss about Canada

canada-55981_1280

There’s A Slow, Slow Train Comin’

We definitely don’t miss the transit options back home. Travelling overseas has enabled us to experience truly accessible and extensive transit systems and the ease at which many countries facilitate travel within, and between, cities. With only expensive, slow train travel across country, limited subway systems and few, albeit growing, inter-connected bus systems, navigating from one place to another in Canada can get tricky and expensive.

Winter Is Coming

winter landscape

Nope, we don’t miss the changing seasons, or playing in the snow, or donning our winter coats and furry hats and mitts. The beauty of the leaves changing colour in fall?  Sure it makes for a pretty picture, but blink once and those leaves have fallen to the ground, and the trees are standing barren, as snowflakes start making their way down to bury those leaves in an ice-cold chilly grave. That’s what we think about winter.

Life In The Fast Lane

Sure, Canada is convenient and efficient but with that also comes the sense of urgency and stress of getting where you need to go… now! Part of the reason we left was to get away from that ongoing rat race and constant struggle to maximize, find and not waste, time. This battle seems to cast one heck of a shadow on happiness and we find ourselves calmer and more content to be away from it all.

Money, Money, Money!

Canada can get expensive and we definitely do not miss the price we pay to live in an urban or suburban area. We’re living abroad cheaper, from place to place, than we did when we were at home.  Everything – from accommodations, dining out, groceries (even though some things are more expensive depending on where you go) and transportation – is often cheaper.

Brrr.. It’s Cold In Here

Did we mention this already? Winter sports are popular in Canada, but give us a pair of water skis over the downhill kind any day. Granted, Carolann was never much into winter sports…at all, and Macrae spent the last few winters in Canada hibernating rather than playing in the outdoors. Even still, we’re more inclined to take to sunny beaches and warmer climates over anything that can be considered cold weather.

Here’s A Tip

piggy bank and change

Many places around the world do not participate in this practice – Canada, however is not one of them. Tipping is considered the norm and is typically anywhere from 10-20%, depending on the type of service and independent of just how well that service is performed. While traditionally, a tip was to reward an individual for a ‘job well done’ or going ‘above and beyond’, it is now just assumed.

We don’t mind tipping, but it’s nice to not feel obligated to do so in many of the countries we visit. In fact, there are even some countries that consider tipping an insult as they believe it is their job to provide exceptional service.

We Don’t Need No Stinking Taxes!

Although in Canada, taxes are added at the cash register, taxes are included in the price shown in most other places, so you’ll seldom be surprised at just how much something costs. We definitely don’t miss having to do the math to figure out exactly what our total will be.

Did we mention Winter?

 

What do you miss most (or least) when you leave your home country? Comment below and let us know!

 

 

34 replies
  1. Carl Wright
    Carl Wright says:

    I really enjoyed reading this about the good and the bad of Canada. Outside of Canada, have only been to US and New Zealand. Was very intrigued that a lot of other countries do not practice tipping. It has been 11 years since I have been off Canadian soil. When I spent 7 months in New Zealand in 1988-1989, I really missed a white Christmas.
    Thank you this great post. Greetings from Canada, sunny and 21C.
    Happy Canada day!!! 🙂
    ~Carl~

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      For the first while of no tipping, it felt very odd to us. I think it’ll now feel odd when we go somewhere and we have to calculate tips again! Nice to hear there’s warm weather back home!

      Reply
  2. Rhonda Krause
    Rhonda Krause says:

    I’m from Edmonton so I really enjoyed this post. I’ve never lived abroad, but some of the things you’ve mentioned are things I miss/don’t miss when travelling. I’m with you on the tipping. It really bothers me how it’s expected and no longer a sign of appreciation. Not only is it expected, there’s a certain amount that’s expected. Good grief! Anyways, great post!

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      It’s hard when you want to reward someone for going above and beyond but realize that you’re already going to have to leave a 15% tip anyway… Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Reply
  3. Louise
    Louise says:

    Hee hee – we had good friends who lived in France for about half a decade and when they got married there instead of traditional gifts they sent a list home to Canada to all the guests coming of everything they couldn’t get in France that they missed 🙂 It was fun to collect it all for them.

    As for me – I too, would not miss winter.

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      That’s brilliant! We’ll have to remember that! We always get excited when we find random items in random shops that we typically can’t find anywhere else. Being able to create a list for people to collect and bring us would be amazing!

      Reply
  4. Dana
    Dana says:

    I feel the same way – about the US. I miss family, shops open all day, everyday and understanding what everyone around me is saying.

    Canada is similar to the US in that taxes are added to the end. I do love that elsewhere, the price on the sticker is the price I pay at the register.

    I need to try Tim Hortons when we finally visit Canada, but would love some Chick fil a from the states 🙂

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      It’s a lot easier to budget when you don’t have to factor in taxes after the fact in most places! Definitely head to a Tims when you get to Canada and we’ll make our way to a Chick-fil-a when we’re next in the US!

      Reply
  5. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family
    Bethaney - Flashpacker Family says:

    We’ve been in Canada for a little over a month. We’ve travelled around Ontario a bit and now we’re in Montreal for the summer. Canada certainly has a lot going for it but in some ways it’s a little harder to travel here than in the US. I don’t know what it is exactly! I haven’t been able to put my finger on it yet.

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      It would be interesting to know what it is that makes it more difficult. For us, it always seems like the things to see and do are really spread out with limited access unless you have a car, unlike the places we would visit in the US that seemed to be more tourist-hubs, but we also lived in residential areas of Canada and had vehicles when visiting the US, so that may be why. Let us know if you pinpoint the reason!

      Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      That’s exactly the urgent feeling we get when we are home too long! Let us know if you settle on Canada and if you have any questions, we’d be happy to answer as best we can!

      Reply
  6. Jennifer @ Made all the Difference Travel Blog
    Jennifer @ Made all the Difference Travel Blog says:

    I can totally relate to a bunch of these things. After living abroad, I hate having to tip. I hate how it used to be waiters and now everyone seems to expect a tip. You are being paid to do a job. It also annoys me how there is a prevailing opinion in the restaurant industry that 20% is the new standard.

    I did miss having 24-hour stores but just made me plan ahead more.

    Reply
  7. Michele TravelwithMrsT
    Michele TravelwithMrsT says:

    I just spent the 4th of July yesterday in our new temporary home of the Netherlands! I sympathesize with lack of 24-hr convenience–most stores close at 5pm here, though grocery stores usually stay open until 7, 8 or 10 pm.

    Reply
  8. Jen
    Jen says:

    Fun read! I grew up in Maine not far from Canada. For all the things I love about it, the freezing cold winter keeps me away. BRRR!

    Reply
  9. Inma
    Inma says:

    So much love for Canada here after 4 Summers working there! Can relate to so many things… thanks for bringing me memories of Tim Hortons, the great Canadian outdoors and many others!

    Reply
  10. Mags
    Mags says:

    I’ve never been to Canada, but most of these things are exactly what I miss about the States when I’m gone. Especially the 24 hour access to everything! That’s a hard one to get used to.

    Reply
  11. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    As a Canadian, the thing I miss most when I’m traveling away from home is the tap water. The boring, ordinary, 100% safe tap water – safe for drinking, safe for washing your hands. When I’m in a country where you can’t drink the tap water, I always remember how lucky I am back home. Sometimes you can take the little things for granted.

    I also miss Tim Hortons’ when I travel overseas. Every good Canadian roadtrip for me starts with a Tim’s French vanilla and a bagel (note to visitors: ask for it double toasted). I miss it when I’m gone!

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      Safe drinking water is a great one. We are incredibly fortunate to come from a country like Canada and it can be very easy to take things like that for granted. Also, the double toasted bagel tip is GREAT!!

      Reply
  12. Sophie
    Sophie says:

    Hahaha! This is great. It’s true that when you move abroad for the first time you think about how great it is abroad with the difference in food etc and then as time goes on you realise all the things you miss about home too. There are definitely good and bad points to living abroad!

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      The differences do become very clear after a while! We try and find a balance between the good and bad wherever we are… but there was just no balancing out that Canadian winter!!

      Reply
  13. Gemma Two Scots Abroad
    Gemma Two Scots Abroad says:

    Greetings from B.C! Craig and I arrived in Canada on the 2nd so missed any type of celebration but we are very happy to be here. Funny you mention food, we’ve just spent three weeks in the food prison that is Cuba. So thankful to be in Canada with choice! No more white bread.

    We will experience a winter this year as our tourist visas last until Jan but we are looking forward to hitting the slopes.

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      Have a great time in Canada – it’s a great time of year to be in BC! You may be fortunate enough to miss the worst of the winter if you leave in early January (at least, it USUALLY is worse by the end of Jan to beginning of March). We look forward to following your travels and let us know if you have any questions we can help with!

      Reply
  14. Wendy Deyell
    Wendy Deyell says:

    This was a great Canadian ‘fix’ — thanks!! I miss home, even though I’ve been living in Belgium for 17 years, love it and have become a citizen (dual, as I would NEVER give up my Canadian passport!). I haven’t been back for going on two years and I really miss watching my niece and nephews growing up. At least I can get maple syrup here… although it’s lower quality in the supermarket, Quebecois producers come to the Brussels Christmas market every year and I stock up 🙂 If you’re ever heading to Brussels, look me up. I’d love to take you wandering in my adopted home. Great reading you!

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      Glad to bring a bit of home to you! We will definitely look you up! Belgium is high on our list of places to spend a good length of time exploring! It’s one of Carolann’s favourite countries and she’s always wanted to live there so I’m sure she’ll want to see as much as she can!

      Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      We’ve yet to try Australian coffee but we always hear about how great it is so we’ll say that you can get some pretty good coffee in Canada, but we’re not too sure how it’ll compare! Tim’s is a franchise that people either love or never drink.

      Reply

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