7 Things About Canada That Surprised Me

Moving to another country brings us a lot of new experiences and takeaways. Today, let’s take a look at the things about Canada that surprised me in my first week as an immigrant.

Breathtaking View of British Columbia, Canada
Breathtaking View of British Columbia, Canada

Sunny does not necessarily mean warm.

Canada is a cold country. I guess everybody knows that. So, I prepared myself for the winter weather. But a girl from a tropical country does not know what “cold weather” means without experiencing it. Therefore, the weather still lands on top of my list of things about Canada that surprised me.

On my first week in Canada, I walked to the bank to complete some transactions. I wore a shirt and jeans which were perfect for that sunny day. On my way home, the temperature suddenly dropped. It was still sunny but chilly. It was an agonizing walk. Let’s just say I learned my lesson well.

Lesson(s) Learned:

Do yourself a favor and don’t be like me. Wear layers or bring an extra layer even in the summer.

Walmart - One of the Go-To Shopping Places in Canada
One of the Go-To Shopping Places in Canada

Canada is not a shopper’s heaven.

When I was a newcomer, people gave me endless suggestions on places to explore. One of their best recommendations was Metrotown. They were excited to tell me that it is the biggest mall in British Columbia and one of the biggest malls in Canada.

I went to the mall with tons of excitement. Unfortunately, it didn’t meet my expectations. The mall was nice but it was not as big as I was used to. It didn’t take me long to realize that shopping options are limited and the malls are smaller in Canada compared to the Philippines.

I miss the endless shopping options back home or in Asia that range from bargain night markets to high-end stores. Items sold here somehow lack variety. I even feel that some stores sell similar items but with different tags.

I also miss the huge malls that exhaust me as I walk from end to end. In addition, commuting from one mall to another in Canada makes me miss mall clusters in busy shopping districts back home.

Lesson(s) Learned:

Canada is not a shopper’s paradise. You may need to explore online and offline options for variety and deals. You may even want to look at pre-loved stores to find unique items.

Pre-Covid, some Canadians who live close to the US border even shopped regularly in the States for cheaper and better options.

Total Sales Tax Rates per Province Based on the Retail Council of Canada Website

Quoted prices do not include taxes.

Shopping in Canada may give you a shock at the till. Taxes will be added to the price at the point of sale.

Lesson(s) Learned:

Always incorporate taxes and additional fees into your budget.

Eating Habits and Preferences are Different in Canada and Our Home Countries

Gravy is not always free.

On my second day in Canada, I had to take a quick lunch while running errands. I was curious to know if fried chicken from a certain fast food was the same here and back home. They are similar but not exactly the same. This was not surprising. What shocked me was that I had to pay extra for gravy.

This shouldn’t be a big deal, I know. However, it was an early lesson about Canada.

Lesson(s) Learned:

Ok, this is not only about the cost of gravy. This experience emphasized two things.

First, there is a difference between the eating habits and preferences in Canada and my home country. Filipinos love dipping sauces and condiments to go with their meal. As expected, brands use this knowledge to bundle gravy or any other dipping sauce with the main meal. The fast-food restaurant I was referring to even offers unlimited gravy with fried chicken. They leave a thermos of gravy on the counter for customers to refill their containers on their own. In contrast, dipping sauces are not cornerstones of Canadian cuisine.

In the Philippines, we eat rice a lot. We usually eat rice at every meal with almost anything. So, we eat fried chicken with rice. In Canada, restaurants don’t sell fried chicken with rice.

Second, Canada is expensive. I guess this no longer needs an explanation.

Vancouverites have an unparalleled commitment to health and fitness.

When I was new to Canada, I was amazed to see people jogging while it was raining. Actually, I am still amazed to see this up to this day. I salute people who carry on with their usual outdoor fitness activities in ice-cold weather.

The photos above should be enough proof of this. These show people running when British Columbia experienced record-breaking low temperatures in December 2021.

Lesson(s) Learned:

Vancouver consistently tops surveys of Canada’s fittest locations. This shouldn’t really be surprising since health and fitness enthusiasts here are spoiled with options whether on land, sea, and sky.

Canadians’ Level of Care for Their Pets is One of the Things About Canada that Surprised Me

Canadians love their pets as much as they love their family and friends.

One thing that I immediately noticed when I arrived is that Canadians love and care for their pets a lot. They treat them as their babies and part of their family.

I looked after a friend’s dog for a few days when she went on vacation one time. In that short amount of time, I realized the responsibilities and joys of being a pet owner. This experience also taught me that having a pet is very expensive. Their snacks, personal care products, and haircuts are more expensive than mine!

Lesson(s) Learned:

It is in Canada that I learned the terms fur baby and pet parents. The magnitude of the love for pets is one of the things about Canada that surprised me. It still amazes me up to this day.

View of Canada Place
Canada Place in Vancouver, Canada

Canada’s culture is built on trust.

The day after I landed, I went to the bank to set up my finances. In disbelief, I was able to enter the bank freely. Nobody asked me for my purpose or poked my bags in an attempt to find something dangerous. A few days after, I went to the mall and had the same pleasant experience.

Lesson(s) Learned:

Actually, I am not sure if the absence of numerous guards in public or high-risk spaces is due to the culture of trust alone. I guess it is combined with many factors such as safety records, crime prevention programs, and citizens’ commitment to peace.

Whatever it is, I love the sense of calm that comes with it. This is truly one of the things about Canada that surprised and pleased me.

Magical Moments in the Snow

Migrating to another country is full of adventures. You will come across many things about Canada that will surprise you. In the end, you will have great experiences or valuable learning takeaways.

Enjoy your adventures!

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