I didn’t actually realize I was going to a different country. I mean…I get that I needed my passport and had to go through customs, but let’s be honest…Canada isn’t really supposed to be another country, it’s more like America’s sibling to the North…with a better-looking leader and lots of geese.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when I landed in Vancouver and realized that contrary to popular belief, not only is Canada not American, Canadians do not actually even speak the same language as Americans, instead, they have their own strange language that only they understand…and they also speak French. In fact, when I went to the information desk at the airport, I was greeted with a “Bon soir, Madame,” and I was so flustered that I responded in English…but with a French accent…no seriously. I found myself pursing my lips and trying to sound like I belonged to any of the made-up kingdoms that the Hallmark Channel movies use as I asked for directions to the car rental.
Also, once the lovely French lady gave me directions to the car rental, I had to find directions to the restroom…which is apparently called a washroom…so it took me awhile to find…except for the fact that my French accent is so amazing that I was able to realize that the “Toilette” was actually the “Toilet” and therefore the washroom was actually the restroom…I also just found the correct stick figures, which is the bilingual sign to get everyone around the world to the right place.
Here are additional words that come directly from the Canadian dictionary
“Petrol” – which is what I was supposed to fill my rental car with before returning it…but instead, I got nervous and just let the rental place fill it up themselves for $22.50/gallon (but that’s Canadian, so it’s probably a good deal.)
“Poutine” – a snack with fries and cheese curds and gravy…which seemed weird…but then I realized that last week I made shepherd’s pie…which is basically the same thing…minus the ground beef…and the vegetables. Actually…poutine is still wierd.
“Eh,” – the equivalent to “Cool?” “Huh?” “Maybe?” and every other 1-syllable response that a Canadian might want to use to indicate something positive…or negative…or even neutral. It’s slightly confusing, and closely related to the American version of “Huh.” Which can be positive…or negative…or even neutral but also remains slightly confusing.
On top of having their own language…Canadians don’t know how to measure time, distance, speed, or temperature…which can be a bit daunting if you happen to be in a rental car driving to a location that you don’t know how to find at 23:00 (Seriously. What time even is that??) My first actual Canadian driving experience included trying to set the cruise control and checking the speedometer to try to find a good speed…and realizing that I was going 100km/hour…which seemed to be the going rate of everyone else, so it was probably legal…probably. On top of that the signs say things like “Exit in 1200 M” which was no help at all in knowing whether I should move into the right lane within five minutes or five seconds…and I kept trying to do the following math:
If a 5K run equals 3-ish miles…then 1200 meters is a quarter of that…which is more than 1 mile…right? Or not? Oh…it’s not… *swerves right to take the exit.*
The beauty of that scenario is that Canadians are also very polite…so although I cut of half of the Vancouver population at one time or another while driving this week, they were all very kind, and no one even honked their horn or threw a hand gesture. It was lovely.
In all, my trip to Canada was fantastic. I didn’t understand half of what anyone was saying…and I was continuously unaware of what speed I should be driving, how far away I was from anything and what I should wear outdoors (let it be known that 5 Canadian degrees is not the same as 5 American degrees). But the people were fantastic, and aside from the the fact that I kept waking up at 3 in the morning because of the time change, I would go back in a heartbeat. I’m willing to face the washrooms and fill up with petrol…and I just might start throwing in an “Eh,” here and there to practice for my next trip…because the one thing that I know for sure is that I will miss this lovely sibling to the North, even if they do use kilometers and eat gravy…I mean…there are worse things than kilometers and gravy…and if it comes with a smile and a wave…I’m in!
O, Canada…I will miss you.
From a content, but still-quite-jet-lagged (eh?) Small Town Girl