There’s no place like home…
There are varying degrees of culture shock that one gets upon moving away from one’s birthplace for the first time. Maybe you moved to Europe for school and you’re learning a new language (or multiple new languages). Perhaps you went to Australia for a year to find yourself (more likely to find beer and people of loose morals of the gender of your choice.) Or perhaps you only moved to Ontario…
As most of you who read this blog know, I recently (temporarily) moved to Waterloo Ontario to take an internship at Research in Motion inc. proud manufacturers of BlackBerry and BlackBerry related products. Is it whiny and lame of me to complain of culture shock moving to southern Ontario from Manitoba? Yeah, probably… but it’s more a combo of wistful homesickness and culture shock anyway.
Waterloo is an incredibly white town, somewhere around 90% of the city is very white, mostly of Germanic descent. The universities thankfully break this up a bit, bringing a more diverse student base, especially of asian backgrounds. As someone from Manitoba however, the absence of any significant aboriginal population is somewhat jarring. I was actually specifically told that I might want to consider not broadcasting the fact that I’m Metis as this area doesn’t have the greatest reputation of friendliness towards first nations people. I’m not entirely surprised as the city is fairly affluent and definitely seems to cultivate a wholesome whitebread image.
The weirdest things have been making me home sick… I’m the first to claim that Winnipeg drivers suck, but at least we’re relatively friendly. People in southern Ontario like to come very close to running down a pedestrian in a parking lot at least once daily, and will NOT come to a stop at crosswalks even if you’re already halfway across. When people pass you on the highway, they will cut back in front of you within 2 feet of your bumper, even if the lane is clear ahead and there is no one on their tale. One of the weirdest things that I still find jarring after two months is the sheer length of light patterns. Pressure plates seem to be non-existent here and many of the intersections near my place have light patterns in excess of 90 seconds.
Culinarily I’ve been having issues too, needless to say I can’t get anything George’s like here (though I’ve been pleased by being reunited with Popeye’s Chicken) and overall ethnic food wise the place doesn’t hold a candle to Winnipeg. The single greatest tragedy is the lack (at least that I’ve been able to find) of any true thai restaurants. Most of the Vietnamese restaurants in town bill themselves as Vietnamese and Thai food, but invariably their Thai dishes consist of a shitty tomato based Pad Thai and various Vietnamese style noodly bowls with “thai chicken” which near as I can tell just means they put extra lime juice or lime leaves in. If you’re especially lucky you might find a lackluster Tom Kha Gai soup. This wouldn’t be a crushing disappointment if it weren’t also very difficult to find Thai ingredients in the limited local asian markets. Proper thai curry pastes are nowhere to be found, much less something like Matsuman, but at least I can make some semi-proper pad thai. What I wouldn’t give to be able to head down to Vientiane tonight though…
You might think I should be thankful for the weather, but to be honest, other than the week of death back in January (Winnipeg: coldest place on the continent… beating out the ARCTIC CIRCLE) temperatures have not been far apart and we’ve gotten an absolute ton of snow that has made the wussy people around here hibernate even more. Even getting someone to go for a drink after work is like pulling teeth. I’m told things will get better here with the coming of summer and the festival season, but all I can say is thank god for movies and the internet. Regardless, summer brings Fringe back home and unless I can swing a trip back it’ll be the first festival that I’ve missed all of in well over a decade.
Matters are not helped by the fact that the famous southern Ontario attitude is alive and well here… Not long after arriving here I was shopping at best buy for a movie and happened to mention that I was new to the city and trying to keep myself occupied until I met some people. His response when he found out I was from Winnipeg. “So I guess things are a little more fast paced here hey? – – – Yeah that’s right buddy…Kitchener (population ~200k) is too fast paced for me, your towering downtown skyline of 3 or 4 buildings over 10 stories tall just blows my little prairie mind. Wake up, even Regina has a bigger downtown core than this dinky little town. I guess merely by being within 2 hours of downtown Toronto I should feel overwhelmed by the I AM CANADA aura that is the GTA.
Sorry, no dice.
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