I always knew that one day or another, I would move to Canada. When I was as young as 4 years of age- or I should better say as far as my memory goes back – I remember telling everyone over and over again that I would one day live in this country. Six months ago, at the age of 22, I finally went and did it: I made the move to Montréal together with my boyfriend. My time here has been a wonderful experience and absolutely met my expectations (see, the 10 things I will miss most about living in Montreal). However, I have also missed Europe and started to appreciate certain things about it more. In this blog, I will name a few of these things. Also, in this blog post I am holding my first giveaway contest! More info about this at the bottom of the page.
The thing I definitely missed most about Europe is it’s vast diversity and the short distances between places. To be able to drive for a few hours and be in a completely different country or region, with it’s own particular culture and history, is something I didn’t give enough credit to before. I was used to being able to go see my friends in London, go to Brussels for a weekend or spend the summer in Paris. After living in Canada, I realise what a great privilege this is. Canada is almost as big as the whole European continent. The distance between its two coasts is larger than the distance between the east coast of Canada and London, England. In Europe, you will find great differences in relatively short distances due to the diverse areas and cities that lie close to one another. For example, between Amsterdam and Paris – similar to the distance between Montréal and Toronto- you can pass through Rotterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Wallonia, Luxembourg and Lille. Each place being very different and worth visiting. You can try different foods, hear different languages, and meet people from different backgrounds, all within a weekend. A popular thing to do among young people is to go ‘inter-railing’. This means that you buy a train ticket that allows you to ‘hop on and hop off’ trains for a certain amount of time within 30 European countries. Due to all these different cities and villages, you can’t really get lost in Europe either (with the exception of the forests in Scandinavia perhaps); if you go for a hike and get off route, you know that when you continue walking, you will at some point come across a populated area again. If you lose your way in a Canadian forest on the other hand, you are in big trouble. This is however also what I appreciate about Canada; it’s vastness. The feeling that the nature extends to infinity and that you can continue to walk endlessly if you would want to. The Netherlands misses proper nature and wildlife. I can’t think of any impressive animals back home, whereas Canadians literally live among bears…
The rich history
Europe breathes history; everything you encounter is permeated by a sense of history. You’ll find the foundations of a Roman bathhouse, an early medieval church, a university dating back to the Renaissance and contemporary (post)modern architecture all within an incredible short distance. In Europe, almost every little town is historical. I lived in Amsterdam, which canals date back to the Golden Age, in Leiden with its remnants of the Roman Empire and in York, an old Viking town. Canada does have some charming historical places such as the old city of Montréal and the centre of Quebec City. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but giggle when Canadians (or Americans) would point out an ‘old’ place of merely a few hundred years old ; )
Canadians are rather proud of their water, and it’s probably quite ‘good’ in the sense that you can drink from the tap and not get ill. However, being a Dutch person – the Dutch are very fond of their water too- I thought the Canadian drinking water tasted incredibly chlorinated. It took me a long time to get used to it. The first two months I only drank tea and all my European visitors only bought water from the supermarket. Coincidentally, I met a Canadian who worked in the ‘water-business’ and I asked him to compare the Canadian and Dutch water. Indeed, he said that the Canadian water had more chlorine inside, but not enough to make you feel sick. He advised me to buy a filter that would erase the taste. This worked in terms of taste, however, the shower water still made my hair and skin incredibly dry. At some point I had a little panic attack thinking I’d had to completely shave my head and start growing it again in Europe! I had to buy many hair products to make my hair look somewhat okay.
Affordable food and alcohol
Canada is a lot more expensive than I initially thought. Not in terms of rent or going out to a restaurant, but in terms of buying food at a supermarket. Specifically meats and veggies are rather expensive. In the Netherlands, I would eat as healthily as possible and as a snack I usually had blueberries and nuts. However, these types of foods are unaffordable here, a bag of nuts is easily ten bucks…
Even worse is the price of alcohol. It’s sold primarily in a state-owned corporation called the SAQ. Alcohol is taxed so much, that the cheapest bottle of wine is around 15$. In the Netherlands, you can easily buy three cheap bottles of wine for that amount of money. A glass of wine on a terrace is around 8$. To be honest, it is possible to find cheaper places, but you have to make an effort to find them.
Awareness of healthy eating
The trend of eating super foods and being aware of what you put into your body, hasn’t really had it’s breakthrough here yet. In the Netherlands, I had an almost sugar-free diet. Which wasn’t hard, as there were plenty of healthy and tasty options in every regular supermarket. For example, every supermarket has a super food section, gluten and dairy free-products section and a diabetic section with lots of sugar free products. Also, most cafés have soya or almond-milk options for in your coffee. I missed the vegan, vegetarian, paleo options and restaurants in Canada. Even in Montréal, which is one of the trendiest cities, you have to go to the few specialized vitamin stores to find good health products.
More than a European thing, this is a Dutch thing: I missed my bike! Although the public transport system in Montréal is quite good – it’s easy to get by in the city either through metro or bus -, I wasn’t too keen on travelling this way. Especially because it was too crowded and there was never a chance of finding a seat on the bus ride from my home to my internship. One of the things I love the most about the Netherlands is that everyone just hops on their bikes all of the time and isn’t reliable on public transport. There are more bikes than people actually!
I would probably have said weather if it had been any other year. Everyone told me beforehand that Canadian winters are really tough and a whole new experience. I was quite looking forward to a snowy Canadian winter, and expected to be ice-skating every day from the first of November. I was hoping to go skiing and built snowmen. However, this winter has been really warm. Our Christmas was far from white at around 10 degrees. The same week, we experienced 15 degrees as well. My colleagues told me that this has never happened in their lives, as December is usually around -20 degrees and January/February can get up to -40. I really wonder what -40 degrees is like. Someone told me that I should put my hand in a freezer for a while, and then decide whether I really want to experience a proper Canadian Winter. Yesterday was our coldest day so far, at -12 degrees. I dressed up as warm as I possibly could, but still did not feel protected from the cold. Our car was completely snowed-in and it took us at least fifteen minutes to dig it out. I am a little scared of what’s to come during my last weeks here in Canada…
And last but not least, my family, friends and the loves of my life: my cats.
I love to go for city walks: sometimes with a tour-guide, but at other times on my own pace. For my next trip to NYC I already planned to go on walking tours around Greenwich Village, Soho, Little Italy and China Town! GPSmyCity makes apps that feature self-guided city walks in over 470 cities around the world. It includes a map of the city, points out interesting places, and some tours also provide audio narration. This makes your travels a lot easier =)
Therefore, I am distributing 20 promo codes of one of their full-version city walk apps to be given away to one of my blog readers (of the city by your choice!). Each such code allows a free download of the app, which normally costs US$4.99 at the App Store. You just need to do one thing:
- Comment on this article by telling me about the number 1 European City you would like to visit next. Don’t forget to tell me why, because I might get inspired!
p,s, the contest runs for 4 weeks.