Schrodinger’s language

It’s been a fair few weeks since I last blogged about my Canadian adventure.  The mission when we got to Canada was threefold:

  1. Find a job
  2. Get an apartment in a condominium downtown (Learning an entirely new multi-syllabled vocabulary)
  3. Meet more lovely Canadians

I am happy to say there has been success on all fronts.

“Panty Hose Gate” interview turn out to be successful and I have started my very fun and interesting new job.

After having spent the first couple of months feeling like I need to learn new terms about every day life, I now need to learn the business lingo.  

Adjusting for the 5%* of things I say that no one, not even my husband, understands, it transpires that c.10-20% of what I say is what I will call a “Britishism”.

For example, I have been happily using the word “Cheers”, causing apparent confusion as to my meaning.  I imagine using the phrases “Bob’s your uncle” or “lovely, tell your mum” may also turn out to be somewhat unusual.

However, the dilemma is that until a phrase is uttered, I have no possible way to know if a given phrase is internationally recognised or not. It exists in this apocryphal cat-like state of understood and not understood until spoken.

My only option is to say it, gestictulate to convey my meaning and hope I can still get away with coming across as quaint.

*NB: the percentages here may or may not be accurate. I have been taught by my dear father to never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Try not to dwell on the implication that someone that lives by this philosophy does an analytical job.

Size Matters

Those who know me well, will know that sometimes life with me can be a little chaotic.

At the last minute we decided to stay in Toronto in an airbnb for a few days, as our new found social life had lots of fun planned for us.

I also had an interview on the Wednesday. More on that another time, but it did require me to look smart.

So, I needed to buy some tights. Certain that Shoppers Drug Mart would have the goods and not too worried about getting them I left this task to the last minute.

I then discovered I had forgotten my hairbrush.

Hair wet and tangled.

Nervous for interview.

30min before I needed to leave.

Oh…

My husband looks at me in dismay as he predicts what is about to happen.

Chris? Could you…

The task I dispatch him on seems a simple one. Please can I get 1 hairbrush and 1 pair of nude tights in large.

I get a phone call. There are no tights. I have what I think are tights but they are called pantys or panty hoes…

What size are you? Large. There is no large. There is a letter…Are you a B or C? Errrrr…

Debate ensues about whether “A” would be bigger or smaller than “B”, how many letters there are and what the relative size might be between these two letters.

But we are in lovely friendly Canada and when a Canadian person sees a distressed husband trying to figure out the panty hoes aisle, they don’t stand and laugh. They come and help. How tall is your wife? Yae tall. Is she slim? Ok, she’ll be a C.

I witness this down the other end of the phone silently thanking Canada for being awesome and my husband for not divorcing me on grounds of stress inducement.

Adrenaline suitably pumping, hair dry, legs covered. It was interview time.

The friendly superpower

I am a social creature.

I was nervous about how many people I would have to interact with when I got here.  Would I only ever see my husband and in laws?

I needn’t have worried!

I’m super lucky – having a ready made network of people over here through Chris’s family and friends is so helpful and they have all been very welcoming to me.

What I wasn’t expecting is that complete randomers would be so willing to talk to me!  Call it the accent, call it the culture, whatever is driving this is like a superpower.  I mean, no one would ever describe me as shy…and I must admit that at least two of my random chats started with me having a sing and boogie down the cheese aisle to Christmas music…

But, I know more about the lives of some of the cashiers and their children at my local grocery store than I do about acquaintances I have known for years in the UK.  A fellow customer at my local nail salon is a former librarian and really enjoyed the Philip Pulman novels and is now going to try out Terry Pratchett on my recommendation.  Canadians are just so friendly!

None of the random people I have met yet are going to be life long friends – we cross paths for just an instant then went on our way.

But it does give me hope – finding new friends in this country will be an easier adventure than I first thought!

Brrrrrrrrrrr

This week I have learnt the meaning of the word “winter”. Also, polar vortex. However, I must say, the Canadians do cold well.

It’s been a week of firsts over here; first actually warm coat, first drive in snow, first realisation that existing with snow is entirely possible as long as you don’t mind…

  1. Having hat hair (learning the word touque in the process – beanie to you and I)
  2. Wearing less blusher (otherwise you look positively scarlet by the time you get back inside)
  3. Looking like a burglar in a balaclava
  4. Being woken up at 5am by the sound of the creation of snow mountains by the lovely ploughmen, to whom we are extremely grateful
  5. Forking out $1000CAD on snow tyres (a must)

It then becomes a somewhat familiar experience: being aghast at the insanity of some drivers going too fast, being aghast at the insanity of some drivers going too slow, watching from a safe distance as these two play out simultaneously – reminiscent of the M25 in torrential rain.

Purchasing the equipment to survive this experience is expensive, but worthwhile. Leather boots that are warm and with grip are a good idea – proceed with caution in heels. The harshness of the salty ground can be a little rough on your nice new shoes, so treat them with love and the appropriate spray.

The choice of coat is tough.  I have no desire to look like the Michelin man (fine fellow, though I am sure he is), but equally all parts of me wish to be warm.  Calvin Klein is a fashionable option and as “reasonable” as these costs get. But my heavy duty option is likely to be northface, which simply reminds me of walking in the peak district.

All in all a little investment in the kit, including (stifles giggles) long johns, makes surviving the cold entirely possible. It then allows childlike wonder at the beauty of the soft coating of snow and the Narnia like effect of a lamppost lighting the way.  What will I discover next in this new land?

The Cup Game

As we approach Christmas, tradition becomes quite important – its only my second Christmas in Canada and my first as a permanent resident, so I am still feeling around the traditions and (due to my foodie nature) the food associated with it.  How much can you bring your own traditions, and how radical will they be?

We moved into my in-laws house, and they have been really welcoming to my ideas – roast potatoes (Side note: I took my brother’s advice – the red potatoes were a success!)  will now feature in Christmas dinner as well as Christmas pudding as a dessert, with custard of course!

Christmas pudding is not common here – pudding is a confusing word, for one thing. It means custandy dessert here. Recent comments on my blog have helped find the ingredients, but I certainly don’t expect to find something as “obscure” as brandy butter. Raisins might be sultanas or might be raisins…you have to check the fine print (literally!). Then there is the measurements.

Cups, or volumetric measurement, to me, feels imprecise in a discipline where precision is paramount.  Not just this, but all my favourite recipes (I am a BBC foodaholic) are in grams. Converting to cups requires excessive googling; to the extent that my lovely Google Pixel started to look somewhat floury by the end of the day.  Luckily my Father in Law came to the rescue with an excellent digital scale.

It’s amazing how the little things can make a normally familiar task, more unusual! But it doesn’t follow that that is unpleasant – working differently can sometimes bring the challenge back in to your favourite hobby. And I do love a challenge!

Spud u like

I was expecting to be tired. Travelling is tiring because it’s monotonous. Being somewhere new is tiring because your brain is having to try so hard just to keep up.

Luckily, because I have been living in a house I know from previous trips, I have not been tired when at home.

However, the unfamiliarity of every day activity such as shopping is starting to get to me

Take the simple potato.
I am a connoisseur of the roast potato. It must be glass like. It must be fluffy. It must be as close as humanly possible to the roast potatoes my mother makes.

The selection of potato is extremely important in this process. King Edward’s are the best. Closely followed by Maris Piper.

Neither of these exist in Canada; instead I have a choice of white, yellow or red. I stand there aghast at this choice. And I ask (as is my daily ritual now) “What is a white potato?” to the general populace. I make my choice. Yellow. King Edwards are mostly yellow.
The result is not the same. They have to be overcooked to be anything resembling glass like, although they managed fluffy admirably.

I must continue the search. Next choice – red.

What is Arugula?

cropped-question-mark-hd-wallpaper15.jpgSince moving to Canada 3 days ago, the phrase “what is…?” has rolled off my tongue a lot more than it used to. Bizarrely, amongst all the emotional turmoil, it’s this one small fact that bothers me the most. It’s quite likely that this is because I used to be a know-it-all (nooooo, never….I hear you cry!), the askee of the “what is…?” question, not the asker.  But it can’t be helped. What on earth is Arugula? In a vain hope that this blog might be useful to other expats that will go through a similar transition, and for posterity when I am older and have forgotten again, I will document my discoveries, learnings and emotional rollercoaster as I learn to be a Canadian.

For the uninitiated – arugula is rocket, as in the peppery salad leaf. On reflection, I am curious as to how arugula in the UK managed to have the same name as the way to propel yourself to the skies, but I will leave those of you who are etymologically curious to go find that out.