Saturday, 15 October 2011

The weird and wonderful

I promised a post about 'Canadianisms' and other assorted things that surprised and confused me, so here it is. And from the moment I first landed in North America there has been much to surprise and confuse me...

Restaurant in Calgary
Let's start with one of the things that is always on my mind: toilets. Or as they say in North America: bathrooms, washrooms or restrooms. People please: if there's no bath, it's not a bathroom, a washroom just sounds as if you wash and a restroom is just ridiculous: if I were to spend an hour lying on the floor resting, security would be gotten and I would end up at the nearest police station! So, toilet it is. And the first thing I noticed as European is that the toilet bowls are full of water. There's enough water in the toilet bowl for a family of ducks to swim around in and there still being enough room for a crocodile! And I had heard about North America being on the prudish side (compared to Europeans), but even I don't want to bare all when I'm using the toilet. You could drive a truck through the gaps between the doors and a toddler wouldn't need to crouch to get underneath the door either!

Once I had arrived in Edmonton and had rented a car, it was difficult to remember which car was mine. Especially if it was parked in a parking lot with a lot of other silver grey Chevrolet Impalas. All facing forwards. Because for some obscure reason (don't ask me please), Alberta numberplates are only found on the back of the car! What's the deal with that? Fortunately I never parked it in a parking lot with a lot of other silver grey Chevrolet Impalas all facing forwards. And I had written down the numberplate. Somewhere!

Now, if I had rented that car in the Netherlands it would have been considered to be a big car. There was enough room for 5 and you could sleep in that boot (albeit a bit curled up). Over in Canada, that car was deemed to be small. Well, perhaps not small, but definitely not big!

3 Ave S meant Third Avenue South of the River Bow
In Europe we're used to streetnames that do make some sense, with the emphasis on some. If you're in Market Street, you are usually somewhere in the center of a town or village, if it's got a funny name of a composer or a colour or a tree or anything like that, it's usually out in the newer suburbs. But in Canada it's completely different, since it's all in a grid. Quite easy though, just count and you will be fine. And I even grasped the house numbering in Edmonton. 10325 88th Avenue (East-West) means it's close to 103rd Street (North-South). Which took me no time at all to figure out (perhaps I should add, I had read about this some time ago)!

West Edmonton Mall
Then of course there are the really shiny apples, the tax not included in the sales price, Hallowe'en (although it was probably a good thing the Christmas stuff wasn't out yet: I would have needed another suitcase), the fixed showerheads and the motorways that aren't really motorways (stopping on the hard shoulder, are you kidding me?) plus a gazillion things I won't find out until I've actually moved there!

Overall though, I quite liked Canada and wouldn't mind moving there...


  1. Oh, you're funny. Canada is a huge country and it isn't all like Alberta. They laid Alberta out in a grid because they could. It isn't like that in British Columbia, which owns the other side of the Rockies, and consists of one mountain range after another all the way to Vancouver Island. Can't do the grid thing in most of BC.
    BC also has plates on both ends of the cars. Dick says Alberta is saving money, and saving gas by making the car that much lighter without the front plate. Duh.
    As for the rooms with the toilets in them, you're lucky you didn't hang around the hoity-toity places where the ladies' room is called the powder room, but you can add that to your list.
    I hope you do get to come back. After a few years, it will all make sense.
    Luv, K

  2. We have powder rooms in UK, too:-)

    one day we were out of state and there were some tourists from somewhere, i couldn't understand them. they were looking at my husbands truck in amazement with how big it was. they just stared...
    my husband explained that from whee they were from did not have such big,gas guzzling vehicles.

  4. Great post. Before June I would not have known what you were talking about but after being in Europe I get this post!!! I very much enjoyed your shower heads in Europe.

  5. Like it or not, they're bathrooms to most of us.

    Alberta may be the only province with one-way license plates, but a lot of American states do that.

    Metallic gray is very popular. We have a black car. The previous ones were blue-green and white in that order.

    The grid pattern is Albertan or at least western. The Prairies were surveyed in a grid pattern because it was quick and easy. I guess the cities or some of them followed suit.

    Apples are one of the few things that aren't taxed -- food in general is not taxed but not candy, restaurants etc are.

  6. I had the same troubles with "restrooms" where of course I didn't rest and the other names in the States. And !! in Los Angeles if you mix up the female and the male toilet you get a fine !!
    In NY the streets had no name either, but in smaller cities they do. I think that must be the same in Canada. Alberta said the son of my friend who is living together with a Canadian/Dutch girl in London is the hole at the end of the world ! He visited her parents there for the first time, lol !

  7. This is funny -- I don't even notice those things anymore and wouldn't have thought to mention them as being different. Most of what you said is the same in the US. A toilet in the US is the actual thing you sit on or hover over ;) and asking for the toilet in America is understood but considered a little, well ... in Dutch they'd say genant. Not really nice, a little embarrassing.

    You'll have fun once you live there!

  8. Well, at least they have toilets. I've been in countries where a hole in the ground and a footprint either side were considered 'restrooms'. With a plastic watering can in stead of toilet paper. Hello! ;-)

  9. No grid system here - makes too much sense. Hope you liked the Impala. (Hubby works in the plant that builds them.)


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