I thought it might be interesting to try to record some of the things that have struck us as ‘different’ coming from the UK to Canada whilst these are still fresh. So far, these include:
- The relative ease and speed of the house-buying process – mortgage confirmed and contracts exchanged within 4 days of seeing our house and completion within around a month.
- The fact that it is still the norm in Canada to pay for Banking services (e.g. Cashline/Interac withdrawals, cheque books, etc), though we have chosen to pay a monthly charge which covers these and also provides additional benefits (Royal Bank of Canada’s VIP Account).
- No glass between you and the bank teller and a really friendly, personal level of service.
- Rental hot water tanks.
- Hot air furnaces rather than boilers and radiators, with air conditioning for the summer heat.
- Kettles take longer to boil (110 v 240 volts!) . . .
- . . . but there’s no lime scale furring up the element.
- That you can’t automatically assume the right to park in an off-road space in front of your house (driveway or hardstanding) – these are licensed by the City. And you must always park on the street in the direction of the traffic flow.
- Being able to turn right on a red light (if the road is clear) and rarely, if ever, encountering roundabouts.
- The high cost of motor insurance, though this does include cover for loss of earnings and medical costs, so the policies are not like for like.
- The need for winter tires (though people have different views on this).
- That the prices you see in shops do not include tax – you need to remember that what you pay at the till will be more than you expect!
- That alcohol has to come through the government warehouse and is not sold from supermarket shelves, though there may be an outlet on the same premises.
- Fruit and vegetables come in all shapes, colours and sizes rather than the conformist regularity that dominates the UK supermarket.
- Tins, cartons and packs all tend to be bigger than in the UK, not always helpful when shopping for two!
- Most people buy their milk in bags, dropping the bag into a specifically designed plastic jug – there’s an art to cutting off just the right amount at the corner so the milk doesn’t slop everywhere!
- Streetcars (trams).
- Toronto is big on recycling; as well as garden refuse sacks, we have three bins, one for organics, one for recyclables and one for waste. All these, as well as old furniture, are automatically collected by the City. There are also recycling bins everywhere you go.
- Alongside this, people put things out ahead of time and encourage others to take anything useful. There is also a real trend for ‘repurposing’.
- The light – the more southerly latitude of Toronto (8 degrees south of London, on a par with St Tropez), means that the sun really is more intense. So far, it has also been much sunnier than the UK!
I’m sure we’ll encounter and think of many more!
As an incomer, it’s also very strange not to know what the best brand of anything is nor where to find it at the keenest price! But gradually names like Loblaws (supermarket), Canadian Tire (most things apart from food, including glasses, cookware, paint, electrical items, lights, mats for the car, bicycles, skates), The Bay (department store derived from the Hudson Bay Company), Rona (DIY), The Brick (furniture), begin to fall into place.