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!
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
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
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
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
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
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!