I have recently moved back to Canada after more than seven years in the UK. It means I have spent more of my adult life abroad than I have in my home country.
The sense of openness and the friendliness of the people is one of the first things that will hit you. But it’s the small things that you took for granted when you lived here that seem to really stand out and seem a bit … foreign.
A friend’s Facebook status update is a case in point. On return to Canada from a lengthy tour of Europe, she wrote: “OK, why is there so much water in the toilets here?” (Fresh water is a scarce resource in Europe, so toilets are designed to flush using much less water. In comparison, many Canadian toilets use what seems like buckets of water). It’s hard not to think it’s a big waste.
A trip to the supermarket is another curious thing. Wandering around our local Thrifty’s on Vancouver Island, I had a real sense of being in a foreign place. There were vegetables I didn’t recognize and an entire freezer devoted to yam fries, a culinary treat that hadn’t really taken off last time I was in BC. Canadian appetites seem to have grown and matured in just seven years.
But it is so nice to be reacquainted with some great Canadiana too. Snow-capped mountains, chicken alfredo, Stanley Park, dill pickle chips, CBC Radio, perogies and dinner on the patio. There is much to love.
To be a proud Canadian, however, you cannot ignore the things that are not working. There is marked poverty on reservations, labour disputes, divisive politics and really rather expensive wine – even the stuff that is made here. There is much to improve too.