Eleven months ago, I left Canada to chase my wanderlust and get a degree while I was at it. I have since lived in three countries, including my current short stint in Singapore, and travelled to many more. While I enjoy embracing new cultures, I often catch myself saying, “If I were in Canada, this would be different.”
There are also moments of “I wish I was in Canada for this.” That includes Stanley Cup playoffs, friends’ birthdays and other milestones, and the Canada Day long weekend. For the last two years I have been road-tripping to Ottawa to celebrate Canada’s birthday, and also fume over the hooliganism of our young, intoxicated, underage Canadians.
The most I can do this year is rock a red and white outfit (which also happen to be the colours for Singapore’s National Day in August) and actively miss Canada.
After almost a year of living abroad, here are the five things I miss most about Canada:
1 – Tim Hortons
Whether it’s with classmates before lecture or coworkers before the big 10am meeting, lining up for Timmys is an integral part of our daily routines. Yes, it’s not the best coffee in the world. In fact, it’s quite awful and many of us can’t figure out why we are so addicted to it. But, I haven’t found any other coffee chain in the world that is cheap, addictive and part of a national identity.
2 – Poutine and Caesars
Whenever I have to explain what poutine is, I get the weirdest reaction from people. At best I’ll get a sceptical “fries, gravy and cheese curds mashed together… yeah… that sounds interesting!” BUT, IT’S SO GOOD! World: you don’t know what you are missing out on.
Similarly, when you tell people that our unofficial national drink is a Bloody Mary-esque creation made with Clamato (clam juice broth), hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, people seem to think you have really bad taste. But, these amazing culinary concoctions have single-handedly delivered so many good times in Canada.
3 – Really, really nice people
I feel like I always knew this but didn’t fully appreciate it: Canadians are ridiculously nice! We hold open doors, we help strangers carry heavy bags, and we are even courteous on the road (if anyone in Canada doesn’t believe me because they were stuck on the 401 for an hour yesterday, then try Singapore). In 2006, Toronto ranked number three on the Most Courteous City list and Singapore was fifth… from the bottom. Singapore even had a National Courtesy Campaign to encourage people to be nicer and kinder to each other. It’s currently known as the Singapore Kindness Movement.
4 – The grid system
Navigating in Canada is so easy. You have your north-south streets and your east-west streets and they intersect. Simple! Since we have the luxury of being a relatively new nation, modern urban planning was put into place to achieve this. Other places in the world may have historic cobblestone streets and Latin quarters, but random street patterns aren’t an urban explorer’s friend. And don’t even get me started on Canberra’s trillion roundabouts! (Stop signs FTW)
5 – The great Canadian outdoors
Lakes, hiking trails, national parks, rolling hills, mountains… damnnnn, Canada is beautiful! Salt water is great, but taking a dip in a chilly fresh water lake is the ultimate refreshing experience. And when temperature drops below the freezing point, we don’t always buddle up in front of a fireplace with a can of Molson Canadian (PS: Have you seen this amazing Molson campaign?); we layer up, strap on our skis and hit the slopes. Winter is just another reason to drink more hot chocolate and Timmys.
So… there you have it: things that make me want to jump on a place and head back to Toronto ASAP. (Friends and family – obviously you are what I miss the most in Canada, but you don’t get a blog post about it to feed your egos, or worse, make you emotional)
Happy Canada Day, y’all!
Other ex-pats/travellers: what do you miss most about Canada when you are away from home?