Ten things I’ve learnt about Canada in ten days

English Literature student Molly Dowrick writes about first impressions of her study abroad year at Trent University Peterborough in Ontario, Canada. 

  1. Canadians are friendly – super friendly

Not only do I know everyone in my section of residence, but I know most people on my floor and in my building! Canadians talk to everyone and I felt so welcomed as soon as I arrived!

Student ambassadors, known as “Orientation/O-Week leaders” are particularly friendly and happy all the time, helping me with suitcases and finding my lectures. I have no idea where they get all this energy, enthusiasm and pep from but it’s pretty inspiring!

  1. Canadians have a weird perception of distance

As a Brit that lived a 5 minute walk from my secondary school and a 10 minute walk from my university in Swansea, living “close to uni” is just that – a 10 minute walk. Nope. “Close to uni” in Canada is actually more like a 15 minute bus trip plus a ten minute walk. Peterborough has a population of 135,000 people but the city is so spread out: it takes two buses (and about 45 minutes) to get to the “mall” in downtown Peterborough and, apparently, that’s “not far”!

Canada is huge! Britain is smaller than the province of Ontario and Canada is made up of 10 provinces and 3 territories, so Canadians have this bizarre perception of distance and will happily drive hours to go somewhere for dinner/drinks etc. Meanwhile, as a Brit, I’m used to everything being on my doorstep.

3. The Canadian National Anthem sounds like a Disney song

Seriously. Either a Disney song or a carousel song at a county fair, I can’t decide which.

  1. Canadian food is yummy

Canadians are particularly proud of their ‘poutine’: chunky chips (french fries), with bits of cheese and thick gravy. It’s glorious, particularly instead of a kebab or chicken nuggets after a night out. Ketchup crisps are strangely tasty and Tim Horton’s sell lovely doughnuts and pastries. I’m also pretty excited to try a ‘beaver tail’: a pastry doughnut thing – watch this space for my verdict!

  1. Bathrooms here are weird

Firstly, they’re called “washrooms”. Secondly, public washrooms have weird gaps around the toilet doors and it’s just really odd. Thirdly, there is a bizarre amount of water in the loo bowl, it’s just weird.

  1. Both Canadians and Brits use weird words

My floor mates were giggling for about half an hour when I said I had to “pop to the loo”, while trainers are called “runners” and trousers are “pants” here. I also have to keep rephrasing my speech when I say ‘I’m knackered’, because no one knows what I mean.

  1. There are maple leaves everywhere

Not only do Peterborough and Canada generally (admittedly I haven’t explored very far in a week and a half) have Canadian flags on flag poles and in shop windows all over the place, maple leaves are used in advertising all the time. The McDonalds logo here even has a maple leaf on it.

  1. Canadians apologise all the time

It’s almost amusing how cute this is. Canadians apologise for anything and everything, even if something isn’t their fault. And if it is their fault, they’ll apologise over and over again!

  1. It’s not always cold

It’s September and it’s still summer here. It’s been 30˚ – 34˚ for the last five days and it’s really humid. I was not expecting this! It’s too hot!

  1. Frosh week is mental

We’ve had cheer offs, sing-songs, campfires, swims in the river, walks through the woodland, an incredible mud fight, a varsity rugby game and some nights of drinking and getting to know each other. Canada is incredible already and I’m so glad I decided to do a year abroad.

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