Culture Shock

It wasn’t apparent I was having culture shock in Canada until after I returned.

Looking back though, the signs were there. Being the only person who didn’t laugh at something a child said, because I was the only person in the house that didn’t speak French. Not having eaten a tajine before. Desperately looking for a vendor at Granville Island who looked like a native English speaker so I wouldn’t have to worry about not being able to understand their accent, or wonder if they were fully understanding what I was trying to tell them. Having an uncomfortable time talking with a friendly Spanish traveler also because of his heavily-accented English. Just being awfully quiet in general, for fear of looking like the stupid American.

Since my return home, I have noticed the following:

  • Canadian drivers are much more polite than even Portland drivers.
    I could ride my bike on Commercial Drive, which is a lot like Hawthorne, and not only were there no aggros, but plenty of car drivers were looking out for my safety! Whoa! I did get honked at once though, on Victoria Drive…by what else? A guy in a ca. 1975 Chevy pickup! The honk was a lot shorter and more polite than when I’ve been honked at in Gresham, for sure.
  • There are way more old trees in Portland than in Vancouver.
    On Wednesday I was sitting in the waiting room of my chiropractor’s office watching the falling rain when I realized that from my limited sightline, I could see at least three trees that were clearly over 50 years old. Vancouver has a lot less of this because the city is so much more dense. The trees they do have are deciduous and not conifer, which is more native to the Pacific Northwest. This is a drawback, as the safety is palpable when you are ensconced in the northwest’s mighty firs.
  • Dang, I eat a lot of processed food.
    Perhaps it’s because I was staying with people who were clearly slow foodists, but I expected to have stomach issues that never happened…until about a day after I got back. The meals I had in Vancouver included homemade awesomeness by my host’s husband, who made things I had never even heard of before, using whatever happened to be lying around the house. Since my return, I’ve noticed just how much of what I put in my mouth comes from a box or a bag. Yeesh!

As soon as I crossed the border back into Washington, the weight was lifted. I knew that although the highway sign said 70, it was okay and even expected to go 75. I could pay attention to the big numbers (miles) instead of squinting to see the little numbers (kilometers). At the border, I had a conversation with the US guard about Voodoo Doughnuts. Like taking a few days to break in a new pair of boots and then putting the old ones back on, I was relieved, and totally comfortable again.


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