It’s been almost 6 years and I’m a few days away from Canadian citizenship**, and yet there are things that still weird me out somewhat or puzzle me in my daily life here in the Great White North. In no particular order, these are some of the things I’ve remarked on, adapted to, but never quite fully accepted:
1. The large gap between the door and the door frame in public toilets (or rather, washrooms, as they are called here). I’m not quite sure why you’d want people to be able to see in. As I already have a bit of a thing about public washrooms (stage fright, I reckon), this makes it even more awkward. On the bathroom note, people seem to find the word ‘loo’ very amusing here, but I still maintain that you’re not washing yourself, nor taking a rest (like in the US), so what’s wrong with the old loo?
2. An annual obsession with leaf blowers. I am sure I’ve mentioned this before in my blog, but I still do not understand the manic obsession that overtakes the neighbourhood around this time of year. The loud whine of leaf blowers disturbs the peaceful fall morning. And WHY? As far as I can tell, this tic mostly afflicts the male of the species. I’ve watched many a man spend hours blowing bits of leaf around the pavement, into the road, into the gutter… i.e. everywhere except into a pile that can be raked up and taken away. I’ve yet to understand this, nor appreciate it at 7am on a Saturday morning. I do, however, think it may have something to do with the fact that they look like jet packs and it’s some kind of male fantasy thing happening.
3. Power sockets with no switches. I know the voltage here is lower than in SA, but the whole bung a plug into the old outlet thing with no control over the power still freaks me out a little. That and having one right next to the basin. I often think about this as I dry my hair. One slip, one bit of water and it’s tickets.
4. The lack of consistency in adopting the metric system, and other measurements. It is very confusing living in a place that seems to be a hybrid of British and American systems for things. Weights are in pounds, but then very often, depending on where something is from in a shop, the price might be listed in pounds, but the product information on the bag is in kilos. Heights are in feet, but all other measurements tend to be in metres; distances are in kms; temperatures in farenheit on ovens, but centigrade for weather. And don’t even get me started on the various systems used for clothing sizes… For someone like me who is mathematically challenged, all of this is infinitely confusing.
5. The never-ending list of words that are different. Examples: boot/trunk; pavement/sidewalk; grill/broil; biscuit/cookie; toque/beanie; robot/stoplight or traffic light; rocket/arugala etc. And then there are things that have the same names, but are different in use or form. For example, cottage cheese. Here it tends to be almost more yoghurt like and is eaten with fruit, not as a sandwich or cracker topping. While I’m struggling to think of more at the moment, and hope to expand this list whenever I can, I have written other posts about some of these.
6. The lack of lights in certain rooms. I still find it weird that a lot of houses will not have an overhead light, but instead a power outlet that is connected to the light switch. What this means is that you have to install a lamp and then you control it from the light switch. This just seems pointless and impractical.The light switches are also usually opposite to those in SA, directionally speaking.
7. The strange nature of closets and cupboards. In most homes in SA, you either have built-in cupboards (or BICs, usually with drawers and hanging space), or large wardrobes. Here, most places will have BICs in a cabinetry form in the kitchen, but bedroom and storage cupboards will be built like a tiny little room – with a doorway and then often just a rail. In many places I’ve been to or lived here, these don’t have doors. It seems highly impractical to take up that much space in a room without really being very useful or private. Also, it appears that everything is referred to as a closet, other than kitchen cupboards, for example.
And so on.
Perhaps the nice thing about still being aware of these differences is the fact that I still feel I am maintaining my identity as a South African, while adapting to living here. What keeps a place interesting, to me, is the quirks it has.
It’s ultimately all about trying to figure out where my own quirks fit in, though, isn’t it?
** Crisis averted, BTW – apparently I am ok to keep my SA citizenship because I am acquiring my 2nd citizenship by marriage – woohooo!