First impressions

Trip Start Jan 09, 2004
Trip End Jul 14, 2004

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Flag of Canada  ,
Monday, January 19, 2004

I've been in the country more than a week now, so I've reached the stage where I've got a few perceptions of Canada. I've finally got my university timetable sorted out, and am really enthusiastic about some of my subjects. I might have even lined up a job as a volleyball umpire, if I can take that dormant year twelve accreditation and put it to use. I'm up at Canmore again this weekend for a party, having a great relaxing time in the mountains. Not that I have actually had any contact with the mountains firsthand so far, I'll save that for next weekend when I'm going that bit further to Banff, hopefully I'll get to Lake Louise for Australia Day. The Canadians have an expression for Australians in Lake Louise, we're called Jafa's - "Just Another F**king Australian". The Canadians have the same self-depreciating humour as us Australians, and I've been told there's no harm meant. Apparently Banff is the place most riddled with Australians in Canada, Whistler excepted. So at least if I ever do get lonely it's just a couple of hours drive away!

Here are some of my random impressions of Canada:

- Canadians are incredibly polite. They all say thank you to bus drivers, and hold the door open for the next person to go through behind them.

- Canadian cheddar cheese is dyed a horrible orange colour.

- Tomatoes are woeful. You pay through the nose for these pale or fluorescent orange things that have been on the truck from Mexico for three weeks.

- Canadian beer is even stronger than Aussie beer, from what I've seen.

- I am impressed by Canada's attitude towards the United States. Whereas Australia, on the other side of the world, sucks up to the US big time, Canadians just above the border are acutely aware that American culture is a waste of space. Imagine the US as the cool kid at school, and Canada as the little brother. The kids at school, like Australia, see the US's tough and cool image and want to emulate it. Canada sees the US at home preening itself for five hours a day, and knows how much of an idiot the US really is, so isn't impressed at all.

- About half of Canada's cable channels are straight from the US, including advertisements, which can be very confusing.

- There are a lot of prescription drug ads on television, and they have to advertise all the possible side effects as well. So there are ads with all these happy people dancing around, but the narrator's going "Take napabristomine - it may cause diarrhoea, blood clots, bipolar disorder and olfactory discharge. Necrophiliacs, pregnant women and people with high blood pressure should not take napabristomine." By the end of the advertisement I'm wondering why they bother to pay for TV advertising in the first place, because anyone whose initial interest may have been peaked would surely have been put off big time!

- Canada has all the US cultural imports including masses of junk food, and fast food outlets. The North American obesity epidemic is no surprise when you look at what's on offer. There are free upsizes and buy one get one frees on so much junk you'd find it cheaper to feed yourself and the homeless than just pay for what you actually want. It's actually a lot cheaper, as well as convenient, to eat fast food rather than healthy food in Canada, given the import costs on fresh food.

- Canadians are practical. Compared to when I was living in Italy everyone is happy to be daggy rather than suffer the pains of style. People carry backpacks rather than satchels, and carry layers and layers around with them most of the time rather than be cold when they go outside.

Calgary specifically is quite a good place for me to be, over and above the proximity to Banff and hey, they paid me to come here. As my French teacher pointed out - "Il ne pleut jamais Calgary" - it never rains in Calgary. I have heard it's actually one of the sunniest places in Canada, irrespective of the sub-zero temperatures. It's either clear skies or snow - and I haven't seen any snow so far. A friend said when he was in London and it was about -2 degrees Celsius he was the coldest he'd ever been, despite hailing from -30 temperatures in Calgary. You don't actually get wet, even when walking through the snow, so although the air is cold if you wear a few layers it's no problem. I like the Chinook as well. The Chinook is a wind that comes down from the Rocky Mountains, and due to pressure differences actually warms the place up significantly. We're experiencing a Chinook right now, which is why I haven't had to deal with the cold yet. Being an eternal optimist, when I'm freezing to death I like knowing a warm wind might be just around the corner, coming to blow my troubles away!
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