My friend Nell, after living in Germany for 3 years and Denmark for 1, is braving the world of ‘hockey wife in retirement’ and showing me how it’s done as a PERMANENT expat in her husband’s native Canada. This Yooper of Scandanavian descent (the most authentic kind of Yooper) is doing it so well, and giving me tips for our imminent departure from the life we now know. Enjoy!
Lane asked me to write a guest post about my expat life in Canada. I was honored (honoured in Canadian) to submit a post for her witty and interesting blog.
For starters, let me explain who I am. I am a woman, who is from Lane’s hometown. We’ve known each other since Kindergarten. Seriously, I’ve got the newspaper clipping in which we are both dressed up like Indians for a Thanksgiving play. (Hey, it was the 80’s, when we didn’t know we weren’t being PC). 20 years later, we both married Canadian hockey players from the same team, over the same weekend back in 2006 and our lives paralleled each other ever since. I’ve recently moved to my husband’s hometown in Western Canada after 5 years of our own version of the traveling circus.
First thing first, Canada seems like a rip off to a gal used to American prices. Sure, they’ve got National Health Care, beyond reasonable costs for university (College for Americans), maternity leave benefits that would make U.S. mothers RUN to nearest border, city-run free playgroups, and new schools and roads being built at record speeds. However, with the Loonie soaring above the dollar*, books are still 10 USD or 14.50 in CA. Bunko! However, after Jcrew seemingly doubled their prices upon entering the Canadian markets just for the heck of it, Canadians took action. I have read in the newspaper that changes are coming for Canadian consumers, so don’t despair. Another great perk about living in an English speaking country-you can read the newspapers without google translate.
No matter, how many strange grocery stores I have been into (Anyone ever been inside an Aldi in Germany?) and seen writing of all sorts of languages, nothing takes me by surprise then seeing a box of Deux pelletees Raisin Bran appear in my cupboard. You see, since Canada is consider bi-lingual (French and English) everything is typically written in English on one side and French on the other. Sometimes, at first glance in my cupboard it feels like my mind is playing a trick on me.
In the name of getting to know the city I now live in, I have taken advantage of all sorts of festivals and happenings. While attending Heritage Days at a gorgeous 130 hectares (what?!?! Argh, the metric systems strikes again that’s roughly 231 acres) park in my new home’s river valley, I realized that I’m in melting pot with no other Scandohoovians.
Inside the massive festival, representing 85 cultures, we first hit up the German tent for some beer, pretzels and a good oompa band. Imagine our dismay when beer was not served. Our almost 2 year old son did dance himself tired to the oompa band while I impressed them by knowing all the words to every song. Anyone who knows me would not be impressed. They would expect it. After the German tent, we headed over to eat some Turkish Donair and find the Finnish tent. Nope, no Finnish tent, my father-in-law replied when I asked him to find where it was on the large, fold-out map. How about Sweden, close enough, I shrugged. He shook his head. As I scanned this list of countries represented from over his shoulders, I felt sad. Not a single Scandinavian country was represented. Now, to be fair, I am from a town where 90% of the people are likely to have hailed from some frozen Viking tundra. And in the effort of full disclosure, I just moved from Denmark where I have never felt more at home, besides the grey, raining weather. I was more than bummed to find out that all the countries were lumped into one pathetic tent called “Scando World”.
Nevertheless, other than a few cultural differences, life in Canada is quite similar to life in the Midwest of the United States. We don’t play my favorite pub game in which everyone goes around telling what an animal says in their language. Go ahead, ask a Russian what a rooster says. It doesn’t sound a thing like Cock-a-doodle-do. I don’t get asked how we celebrate Christmas. (Yes, Canada opens their gifts on the morning of the 25th, too.)
What I have found in Canada, is some of the friendliest, most helpful people on the planet. I have found it wonderful to live near family, even if it’s not my own. I have found the sheer amount of parks and nature to rival anywhere in the world. I have witnessed absolute tolerance for other cultures. I read the newspaper in astonishment at the number of job postings there are every.single.day. And good jobs, too. Not just slinging coffee at Timmy Ho’s.
Canadians are genuinely interested in how this small town, Midwestern gal ended up in a large city in Western Canada and are all too happy to hear that the story involves hockey.
*author’s note- At press time, the Loonie was indeed soaring above the USD. But much like a 2 year old, the stockmarket and dollar values are happy one minute and throwing a tantrum the next.