Settling in the Great Green North

One of our loyal readers recently asked why I haven’t talked more about my experience moving from France to Vancouver, Canada back in March. Truth is, review samples and other obligations were quick to pile up, and I’ve had to allocate my time wisely.

Scott asked Geoff and me to update our blogs more frequently, however, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to delight you with a Yakov Smirnoff-esque list of differences between my native country and the Great White North (or, to be fair to British Columbia’s surprisingly mild climate and thick pine forests, the Great Green North).

Now, before we begin, I should acknowledge that I’m not much of a Frenchman. I went to high school in Scotland, and I’ve spent the past four years living in a sort of North American bubble under a rooftop in Nantes, France. So, you might say I speak more as an Americanized European than a dyed-in-the-wool Frenchie. Still, a number of things jumped out at me after my arrival in Vancouver.

  • The veneer of politeness. I’ve been told this is more of a Canadian thing than a general North American trend, but wow, people here go out of their way to be nice. Never in Europe has a store clerk asked me how I’m doing today, a cashier told me not to worry about the extra two cents after receiving a $5 bill for a $5.02 item, or a bus driver said “it’s okay, you’ll know next time” after being handed a ticket for the wrong zone.
    I’ve witnessed a similar veneer of politeness in Scotland, but back there, it often seemed to have a hypocritical and patronizing aftertaste. In France, meanwhile, people subscribe to entirely different social norms, making no efforts to conceal their bad mood or to refrain from poking fun at you. There’s something more frank and natural about the French, but it can feel a little abrasive, especially for tourists used to more civil interactions.

  • The grid city layout. We Europeans built our cities over hundreds, sometimes thousands of years, tearing them down and rebuilding them repeatedly in the process, yet generally retaining an antiquated, mostly unplanned street layout. In stark contrast, North American cities like Vancouver were planned and carefully laid out on a grid.

    The grid can make navigation much, much easier, but it has other implications. Instead of talking about street numbers (e.g. 22 rue Jean Jaurès), I can give directions by simply naming the nearest intersection. Instead of nimbly cutting through small, diagonal streets, however, I need to follow the same long street for multiple blocks, waiting for the light to turn at each intersection, and when on foot, sometimes awkwardly following the same pedestrian. I do give Vancouver props for being very walkable, though; some North American cities don’t look like they were designed with pedestrians in mind.

Can you guess which is the European city?

  • The pharmacies. “In my country, drug store sells drugs. In your country, drug store sells sandwich!”
    Okay, let’s not go there. Nevertheless, the North American pharmacy is a concept entirely alien to the average European. On the Old Continent, pharmacies sell drugs, soaps, vitamins, cosmetics, placebos homeopathic tablets, and maybe a handful of other little items on the side. If you want to buy a sandwich, a candy bar, or a light bulb, you have to head to the nearest supermarket or convenience store. Mixing the two just ain’t done. But here? Casual shopping and buying life-saving medication seems to go together like bread and butter.

    I still haven’t fully grasped the benefits of this overlap between supermarkets and drug stores, however. Some grocery items seem to be cheaper at pharmacies, but I’m never quite sure where I should go for what, and I’m sometimes forced to visit both. Too much freedom! Back in Europe, the average-size supermarket serves as your one-stop shop for everything besides prescription drugs.

  • The huge pickup trucks. I must admit, automobiles on the Old Continent seem to have gotten larger over the past decade, and Europeans drive their fair share of SUVs. However, no European vehicle comes quite close to the level of extravagance of the North American pickup truck. Sleek, freshly waxed, and obviously never used to actually, er, pick up anything, the mighty GMC truck roams streets and highways with a loud, baritone roar, its sunglassees-wearing pilot peering over the hood at other cars like Sauron from the mighty black tower of Barad-dûr. It’s an impressive sight.
  • The Sunday shopping. Try going shopping on a Sunday in France. I dare you. Unless you’re in the capital, chances are almost all stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, and restaurants will be closed. Need to get a prescription refilled ASAP? Then you’ll have to call an automated service to find out which pharmacies are staying open that week—it’s usually only a couple, strategically located as far from the city center as possible.
    Over here, puzzlingly enough, businesses don’t mind letting you spend the money you were busy earning the rest of the week. Actually, I believe France’s Sunday lockdowns have to do with some type of local or national legislation. Either way, I hate it, and being able to go out and buy things any day of the week is a refreshing change. (In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t believe France has a particularly large population of orthodox Jews. Just lazy bureaucrats. Lots of ’em.)

  • The delicious high-fructose corn syrup. In the EU, most pops and sweets contain sucrose made from sugar beets. Here in North America, high-fructose corn syrup is king. I’ve heard HFCS’s good name dragged through the mud for allegedly being an ill-tasting, unhealthy sugar substitute, not to mention being the product of oddly assigned government subsidies, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t delicious. Pop seems to taste a little sweeter here, although I should probably go back to not drinking any. For now, Slurpees are my main HFCS consumption vehicle; I can’t get enough of the things, so long as I don’t buy them with a Big Gulp straw by accident.

Sweet, sweet nectar.

  • The almighty banks. Since arriving in Canada, I’ve gotten my first credit card, and I’ve paid my first fee for using an ATM not emblazoned with my bank’s logo. Why? Because neither of those things exist (or are widespread, at least) in France. Back there, I can use my French Visa card, which pulls funds directly from my checking account, in any ATM anywhere in the country without paying any fees whatsoever. North American-style credit cards just aren’t done, either; the closest thing you can get is a debit card that delays transactions until the end of the month. My resulting lack of credit rating forced me to kick and scream to get a credit card here.
    North American banks go much further than nickel and diming their customers, of course. TR is a U.S.-based business, so I still receive paychecks in U.S. dollars—and because of the skewed exchange rates used by Canadian banks, currency conversion costs me about three times as much as it did back in France. Yes, converting U.S. dollars to Euros is apparently cheaper than converting them to Canadian dollars. Who woulda thunk it?

    On the flip side, my bank (TD Canada trust) keeps the sort of hours that would make a French banker faint. I can visit my branch Monday through Friday between 8:00 AM and 4:00-8:00 PM, depending on the day. In France, my bank keeps its doors shut every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoon, plus holidays.

  • The soft metric. Spending my teens in the United Kingdom prepared me for Canada’s odd mish-mash of imperial and metric measurements, but my girlfriend wasn’t quite as ready: she recently asked me, “What does ‘lifting 25 I B S’ mean?” Of course, Canada’s non-metric roots aren’t immediately evident when looking at printed package labels and other signs. The elevator in our apartment building proudly quotes a maximum weight of 1,134 kg. Fruit cans have a volume of 598 ml. And Tootsie Roll bars weigh 85 g. An uneducated European might never know that those strange numbers are simply direct conversions of round imperial figures—2,500 lbs, 14 fl oz, and 3 oz, respectively. That same European might, however, be misled by the per-pound pricing of fruits and vegetables, since those items are sold by the kilogram back home.
  • The huge portions. Everything from restaurant dishes and food packages to shampoo bottles and toothpaste tubes (seriously) seems to be considerably larger here. That’s both good and bad, I’ve found. As a European, the concept of asking to get food wrapped up at the end of a meal is alien to me, and my good manners also urge me to finish my plate before getting up. This can have… uncomfortable consequences.
    Luckily, Vancouverites seem to feed each other less excessively than some other North Americans. I recall eating at a diner in North Carolina during my first trip to the United States six years ago; it was the first time I ever ate to the point of being nauseous. I had ordered a salad.

I’ve encountered plenty more little differences, some of which escape me right now. If anything, however, I’m struck by how alike these two continents are. We have many of the same store chains, brands, and foods; we drive many of the same cars; we speak the same languages; we watch the same movies; laugh at the same jokes, and are warmed and cooled by the same summer and winter. I still relish the small peculiarities, if only because they put into perspective things I might otherwise have taken for granted. But I somehow keep forgetting that I’m half a world away.

Comments closed
    • Dr_b_
    • 9 years ago

    It might seem nice there, but you are living on a huge fault line, and a major volcanic or earthquake type event is due in the near term.

    • irvinenomore
    • 9 years ago

    Cyril,

    Bienvenu au Canada / Welcome to Canada,

    Moved to Toronto from Toulouse 12 years ago myself though I grew up just outside Glasgow, Scotland and went to UofG.

    Recognize everything you say but the corn syrup. As I am fighting the middle age spread I have to avoid that stuff or be prepared for a second round of sit ups.

    Politeness and open friendliness is much more a part of the culture here. So much so that you’re going to be the odd one out if you are not like that. My Canadian wife and her friends find my British reserve “odd”.

    As for Glasgow in particular, and the rest of the UK in general, North Americans will find us unfriendly because there is more of an atmosphere of suspicion towards one another and reserved behavior. This is perhaps because the societies have had more of a history being broken into religious or local groups, sometimes with violent pasts in Europe.

    Have had one home-stay student from Germany stay with us and be bowled over by the politeness sales staff showed him. He did drop several $100 in a high end clothes store however.

    My wife is from BC and is itching to get us out of the big smog and back into the continuous rain of Vancouver, though I am not sure that I didn’t get enough of that in Glasgow.

    One thing I cannot get used to here, as I drive to commute, is not having a dedicated pedestrian phase for traffic lights. We seem to spend too much time here waiting at the lights as there is someone turning right, someone turning left and even one or two pedestrians traffic grinds to a halt. It doesn’t help that there always seems to be one or two pedestrians who will start to cross after their light goes orange 🙁

    When we first got together we coined a name for what you are experiencing Cyril. Based on what I was going through at that time, and to a lesser extent what my wife was experiencing we agreed on the term “Culture Surprise” as it’s not quite a shock but it still catches you out!

    A la prochain.

    PS Anyone else still remember The Proclaimers

    • Rectal Prolapse
    • 9 years ago

    Just watch Food, Inc. for a reason why Monsanto is evil. 🙂

    (Cyril, you made a good choice staying in Vancouver – it has been rated the best city in the world to live in for many years.)

    • clone
    • 9 years ago

    the major pharmacies in Canada weren’t always so diversely stocked, but competition has since motivated them, they do loss leaders to get ppl in the store hence the reason occasionally you’ll notice very good deals on some grocery items while others are horrid…. it’s not consistent and meant to get you in the store.

    while Vancouver to Quebec Canada do Sunday shopping New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and NewFoundland don’t do Sunday shopping on nearly so large a scale… notably laid back region of Canada that also happens to be inexpensive to live.

    get and maintain a balance over $2000.00 and you should be able to wave your service charges on your account except for the non TD ATM charges.

    yeah the imperial, metric is a mess and even now I tend to convert weather termps to imperial and have always preferred mpg vs liters per 100 km’s.

    Canada is about 7 – 12 years behind the U.S. in it’s food industry practices & prep by restaurants…. their is some regulation that impedes complete adoption but the U.S. routinely bitches and is slowly dropping the barriers.

    beware don’t drink U.S. milk they inject posilac into their cows (growth hormone), it’s been banned in Canada and Europe with good reason and I hope it never gets here… F’ing Monsanto.

      • Irascible
      • 9 years ago

      Your “F’ing Monsanto” comment led me down a rabbit hole full of links and articles. Monsanto certainly deserves the sentiment for a lot of reasons. Mass producing a cow hormone isn’t one of them IMO. More milk means fewer cows. Fewer cows are good for the environment. Cheaper milk is good for the poor.

      The good reason it was banned was concern for cow health and comfort. The occasional irritated udder is bad. Human health has never been at issue, even with the Canadian officials that banned it.

        • clone
        • 9 years ago

        you are correct my F’ing Monsanto comment wasn’t only regarding their growth hormones for cows.

        but instead includes it amongst a litany of other practices and products implemented & produced by the company.

        “fewer cows is good for the environment and cheaper milk is good for the poor”…….. more contaminated milk coming from fewer cows isn’t good for the cows, the poor, or the environment.

          • grantmeaname
          • 9 years ago

          fewer cows is bad for the environment in your world?

            • clone
            • 9 years ago

            cows serve a purpose in every aspect actually and are more beneficial to the environment than man, the problem in the world isn’t a pressing need for fewer cows, it’s one of 2 choices, fewer ppl or less waste….. don’t blame the cows…..lol.

            where my cottage is their is a problem with bears that some whine openly about, the problem is we keep destroying bear habitat forcing confrontations with them….. don’t blame the bears for the problem we created.

    • Storme
    • 9 years ago

    Well, an Aussie here who has extensively travelled to every place mentioned so far in the threads above… luv having a travel consultant for a partner 🙂
    Anyway, curious why there isn’t the usual “Canadian vs American” blowup that is often associated with calling Vancouver a North American city as you referenced a number of times?
    I made the mistake of referring to Vancouver as “American” a few times while there until i almost had it beaten into me that they are different countries.. and yes, its the only time I noticed negative behaviour from Canadians – LOL – other than that they were almost twin cities with Melbourne in Australia – even down to the architecture! (probably why they are “sister cities” when often discussed)
    However, visit LA if you want some of the old’ aggresive chat with people.. I found the city unnecesarily rude (“find your own damn way..”), but NY is quite friendly and helpful (“go down two blocks, turn left and keep walking..”)

      • ChronoReverse
      • 9 years ago

      Because it’s only a statement of fact when one says Vancouver is a North American city =)

      • MadManOriginal
      • 9 years ago

      I’d say it’s because ‘America’ usually refers to the country ‘The United States of America’ whereas ‘North America’ is a continent that includes Canada. Since you Aussies have a nation-bigass island-continent maybe the distinction is easy to overlook from your perspective.

      As for the people in the two cities you mentioned it really just comes down to the individual and a given moment, say whether someone is busy or in a hurry or not. I’d imagine it’s that way almost everywhere.

      • axeman
      • 9 years ago

      One should be specific when talking about the _Canadian_ Vancouver, since there is another Vancouver in Washington state.

    • timbits
    • 9 years ago

    you’re new to canada and don’t mention tim horton’s?

      • BoBzeBuilder
      • 9 years ago

      Tim Horton’s overrated. It’s the Canadian McDonald’s.

        • timbits
        • 9 years ago

        oh whoops, i momentarily forgot… this is the internet, everything is overrated

    • SomeOtherGeek
    • 9 years ago

    Cyril,

    I have to ask this. I hope it is not too late.

    But, how did you go by moving your cargo? I mean, in the states, we can just get a moving van, no biggie. For you moving over seas! I can’t even imagine… Did you have to give up a lot to move only what you needed or did you move everything? Either way, I’m sure it was not cheap.

    Still, welcome to the Great Green North!

      • Cyril
      • 9 years ago

      We threw out most of our stuff and hired an international moving company based here in Vancouver for the rest. They have a UK-based partner that did the actual pick-up. Crossing over takes 8-10 weeks, though, so we still haven’t received anything yet.

    • oldDummy
    • 9 years ago

    Visited Vancouver for a short time before we went on a Alaska cruise.
    First impression:
    Beautiful, Clean city.
    Lasting impression:
    Scotch was plentiful, would consider living there.

    While in our hotel my wife and I noticed seaplanes taking off and landing. After some investigation found out there was a shuttle service to a local Island noted for their flowers [Victoria]. We took the shuttle and had a great day. Spent some time at a local bar/eatery renowned for their oysters, Nellies . Never knew there were so many types of oysters and did my best to sample all of them. The Glenlivet was tasty as well.
    Vancouver is rated one of the best places to live in the world.
    Enjoy!

    • NarwhaleAu
    • 9 years ago

    I would have thought the North American sense of humour is different from the EU – it is certainly different between the USA and Australia. Not a huge amount, but enough that I may be laughing when my American friends are not, and vice versa.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 9 years ago

    Do you miss the baguettes and wine already? LOL just kidding. Thanks for the update and info Cyril

    • Jambe
    • 9 years ago

    How do you get a Canadian to apologize?

    Step on their foot…

    😐

    Nice read, Cyril. And welcome to this sprawling continent.

    • DaveBaumann
    • 9 years ago

    “Instead of talking about street numbers (e.g. 22 rue Jean Jaurès), I can give directions by simply naming the nearest intersection.”

    You’ll know you’ve become a real Canadian when you start navigating via Tim Hortons…!

    • SomeOtherGeek
    • 9 years ago

    Hey Cyril, thanks! Was a great read. I laughed and um’ed on a lot of what you said.

    Yea, everything is double sized here and then they have biggie size! Oh man! Now, all you have to do is make a trip to Montana and check out a fast food place – a small in MT is a large here in NY! 😉 But the people are awesome there, so it pays off. I have a habit of saying hi to everyone and wave at people around the neighborhood.

    I took a trip to Germany about 20 years ago and I was shocked at how clean the roads and walkways were! No gum or cigarette butts. Just seemed to be more pride. Waitress waiting for you to burp to see if dinner was good. I was only there for one week, but it did show some differences.

    I hope you years are good to you and all.

    • willyolio
    • 9 years ago

    you’re in vancouver? nice! having grown up here, i honestly can’t imagine myself living anywhere else. i enjoy visiting other cities, but there’s so much vancouver offers that i don’t want to leave. shame about the ridiculously high housing prices, though.

    also, since the weather’s improving, take the time to go to stanley park and a walk around the seawall. i honestly can’t think of another city with such a huge park right beside the downtown core. if you have the time, try biking along the coast all the way from science world, along the south side of false creek to see all the beaches. the further west you go, the less crowded they are, generally.

    kitsalano gets packed in the summer, jericho less so, spanish banks are pretty empty. going the other way, english bay keeps you near the downtown restaurants, and second and third beach are inside stanley park.

    i think this has a lot to do with why vancouver, despite having the huge meal portions and a rather “standard” north american diet, suffers from less obesity than the rest of north america.

    • Evil_Sheep
    • 9 years ago

    Mr. Kowaliski — I’m a Vancouverite who’s spent some time living in France so I can see the other angle of things. Let’s just say that after all the conveniences of North America, living in France was a giant pain in the butt.

    A couple of pieces of advice from a Vancouverite:

    -Don’t grocery shop at the drugstores, they tend to be seriously overpriced.

    -The big box stores are the cheapest, but you have to be willing to take the trip. However there is a Costco hidden downtown at the Stadium skytrain station, and a Superstore (affiliate?) on the other end of downtown on Denman St, hiding in a little mall which nobody knows about (it’s called No-Frills.) They are both super-cheap. Also, there are lots of small Chinese convenience stores everywhere whose prices are unbeatable.

    -Besides the sushi which I’m sure you’ve discovered, another unbeatable value is Stepho’s, a Greek place on Davie. The etiquette here is you order one plate (the roast lamb is tops) for $10 which you eat as much as you can then take home for tomorrow’s dinner as well. I think the prices (and menu) have been unchanged for the last 15 years. The only downside is a 30-45 min wait most nights…the takeout option lets you skip the line though.

    -You can get free banking (no monthly fees, no transaction fees) through the credit unions, at least through Coastcapital (on Georgia and Thurlow downtown.) You might be able to nab a better USD rate too. As the credit unions are unionized, using another credit union ATM won’t cost you anything either.

    -There are plenty of currency exchanges downtown which offer way better rates than the banks on USD-CAD cash conversion (less than 0.5 cent spread.) But you need cash.

    • mattthemuppet
    • 9 years ago

    it’s always funny to read other peoples experiences with moving country 🙂

    for me the biggest differences are how sweet everything is and how Americans put peanuts in to /[

    • bthylafh
    • 9 years ago

    The Scots I dealt with were almost all polite and friendly, even in Glasgow. The exceptions seemed to be folks who dealt with foreigners for a living, oddly – Customs, tourist information, and one waiter in a trendy Glaswegian restaurant.

    • SnowboardingTobi
    • 9 years ago

    I was just in Vancouver about 3 weeks back for a few days. Love that place! Made me want to move there.

    Took all sorts of pics around the bay, convention center area, Gastown, Stanley Park, the aquarium, Butchart Gardens, Shannon Falls, and Capilano Suspension Bridge.

    • odizzido
    • 9 years ago

    TD is a terrible bank. They charge you for everything. Bank of Montreal is where it’s at.

      • OffBa1ance
      • 9 years ago

      +1 Moved to Van start of 2009, BMO doesn’t require deposits for credit cards and they are generally more flexible for newcomers than other banks

      • demani
      • 9 years ago

      Funny- here in the states TD is awesome: ATM fee refunds, free coin counting (i.e. no skimming), and they have late and weekend hours (almost all are open on Saturday, and some are open on Sunday as well). I think a lot of that is because the branches here were a buyout, and they kept the features that everyone liked about the former brand (after all, there is a bank on nearly every block).

        • Sargent Duck
        • 9 years ago

        Just wait for it.

        The fees are coming. They’re just trying to establish a foothold in the American market.

      • willyolio
      • 9 years ago

      agreed. i had a TD bank account for a while… but with a limited number of ATM transactions, low interest on savings accounts, etc… it just sucks.

      and their idea of a “high-interest” savings account is 0.75% if you maintain a $5000 minimum. i get 1% on a $1000 minimum balance. no-brainer.

      right now i’m using PC financial, which is fairly good despite not having any actual branches (pretty much online-only service) but it suits my needs perfectly. no fees for their chequing or savings accounts, unlimited transactions… yeah.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 9 years ago

        No one has good interest rates at this time. The 0.25% spread and lower minimum is certainly a no brainer but 1% is still kind of ass in general.

          • willyolio
          • 9 years ago

          yeah, but only a few years ago i was getting about 2% on that same account, TD was still offering only 1%, and still with a higher minimum balance.

      • BoBzeBuilder
      • 9 years ago

      Not unless you get their TD Emerald Visa card.

      • PetMiceRnice
      • 9 years ago

      I was originally a Canada Trust customer (since 1987) but stuck with TD Canada Trust after the takeover. So far I’ve done pretty good with them. I maintain a balance of at least $1000 in my chequing account at all times and therefore never pay a service charge. I’ve had no issues with their credit cards or unsecured line of credit, although I think they could be charging me a lower interest rate. I think their savings accounts could be paying more too, but perhaps this in part has to do with their generous hours compared to other banks.

    • sacremon
    • 9 years ago

    Not sure why you would think Orthodox Judaism and businesses closed on Sunday would have anything to do with each other. If the businesses were closed on Saturday (the Jewish sabbath) then I could see some connection. With businesses closed on Sunday, I would assume a connection with Christianity, particularly Catholicism.

      • bthylafh
      • 9 years ago

      Or fundamentalist Protestantism/Puritanism. Kansas is still getting rid of its blue laws, and most areas have always been majority Protestant since the area was open to white settlement.

    • MarkD
    • 9 years ago

    I enjoyed this immensely. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no one best place, just places that are different in different ways.

    There could be a worst place, but it would have to be some place I’ve never been.

      • no51
      • 9 years ago

      Detroit?

    • smackrabbit
    • 9 years ago

    With regard to the drug store selling everything, back when most areas of the US had Blue Laws (religious based laws that outlawed certain things, such as in North Carolina car dealerships still need to be closed on Sunday, and no alcohol can be sold before Noon), drug stores were often exempt from these are were allowed to be open, since people might need medicine.

    Well, since they might be the only thing open, they would start to stock more and more items that people would buy on Sunday, and during the rest of the week. I imagine in France where everything is closed on Sunday, drug store or anything else, this wouldn’t happen (and we planned around this on our visit there the other year), but that’s some of the logic behind it here. I’m not sure if Canada had/has Blue Laws as well, or if these were just multi-national store chains that spread the same habits up north.

    • Aphasia
    • 9 years ago

    Thank you for a very nice read.. and i lol’ed at the photo of the slurpee. Because today was the first day i tasted one, we went by a 7-eleven after lunch and got ourself a coffee slurpee, and yes, it included brainfreeze.

    Guess 7-eleven is quite alike in many ways no matter if you are in sweden, canada or any other country.

    • wizardz
    • 9 years ago

    Bienvenu au Canada / Welcome to Canada.

    thanks for the read,

    you should really come to Montreal to visit one day, the Old Port area is very “frenchesque” (if that’s even a word!).

    since i’ve never been to Vancouver, it’s really nice to see that it’s not really different from here 😛

      • adisor19
      • 9 years ago

      I second that. Montreal and Quebec City have very nice parts that are worth a visit.

      Adi

    • brute
    • 9 years ago

    interesting read for sure.

    i agree that americans do eat a bit too much, and everyone is so worried about political correctness to properly stigmatize being huge.

    why did you decide on vancouver of all the cities in NA?

    • stym
    • 9 years ago

    As another -[

      • demani
      • 9 years ago

      What about NYC? You got a problem? Why don’t you come over and say it my face 😉

      Actually, I’ve found that NYC is a pretty decent city; the people aren’t usually so rude as much as self-involved. It’s usually pretty easy to find someone to help with directions or to recommend a good place to eat nearby. I think the tunnel-vision comes from living on top of everyone else, and the ability to be outside and still not see the sun.

      But I absolutely loved Vancouver. Eminently livable and the whole pacific northwest just has beautiful grandeur that makes just looking outside gorgeous. One of my top three cities to live in (though Pittsburgh is on that list so my tastes may be a little odd).

    • Vaughn
    • 9 years ago

    Vancouver is awesome its my favourite city in Canada, I try to go there alteast once a year. I live in Ontario….The sunsets from Stanley park are amazing in the summer!

    • MadManOriginal
    • 9 years ago

    One thing regarding city layouts: remember you’re on the west coast where city development is much newer than other parts of NA. Sure, some east coast cities have pure grid layouts and some old west coast ones have irregular layouts but if you want to see non-grid cities go to the northeast USA.

      • demani
      • 9 years ago

      yeah- the West Village in NYC is ridiculous. W4th and W11th /[

      • PenGun
      • 9 years ago

      Drove truck there for years. Here’s a hint:

      “The northwest is an odd place to live”

      Streets are odd numbered on the north and west sides, so you know right from the address about where the place is.

    • Xylker
    • 9 years ago

    my /[

    • Dposcorp
    • 9 years ago

    Excellent Blog post. Well done young man.

    • adisor19
    • 9 years ago

    “The delicious high-fructose corn syrup”

    Oh God, i can not believe you prefer the taste of HFCS instead of beet sugar. I dread HFCS, the sweetness is unbearable and it overpowers and changes the real flavour of the soft drink. Coke just ain’t coke anymore 🙁

    Adi

      • 5150
      • 9 years ago

      Mt Dew is infinitely better with HFCS.

        • SomeOtherGeek
        • 9 years ago

        Mt Dew is the bestest drink in the whole! It is the only energy drink worth tasting.

        • FuturePastNow
        • 9 years ago

        Man, I thought Mountain Dew Throwback was the shiznit.

      • eitje
      • 9 years ago

      Weird. I would have expected you to prefer apple juice.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 9 years ago

        Lol. Or kool-aid 😉 hey, it’s got real sugar!

          • JediWombat
          • 9 years ago

          Pepsi Throwback, uses real sugar, no syrup. I love the taste.

      • hoboroadie
      • 9 years ago

      I reckon it’s personal taste. I abhor the nasty HFCS after-taste clinging in my mouth, particularly when it is misapplied to a product such as pizza sauce, &c. I have been shunning it for years, however very few people in my acquaintance can discern any difference from dextrose. BTW, as a native Californian, I was struck myself by the demeanor improvement across the border. (We have a bit of salmon sanctuary in the Skeena watershed. Great Green North indeed.)

    • NeronetFi
    • 9 years ago

    Awesome Read Cyril.

    If you want to experience politeness and friendliness from strangers in the US you have to go to the south central U.S. I never understood what people meant by southern hospitality until I moved the north east. I miss it.

      • Veerappan
      • 9 years ago

      I’ve definitely noticed that it changes based on location. I’m from the mid-west US (Wisconsin), but I moved out to the Boston area about 2.5 years ago. The difference was night and day.

      Back home, people are nice, helpful, and friendly. Much like Cyril described. Out here, I get the impression that everyone is in a permanent bad mood and only looking out for themselves.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 9 years ago

        Where were you in Wisconsin? I’m wondering how much of it is the general big city attitude versus a regional thing.

          • Veerappan
          • 9 years ago

          Grew up in a small town (~1500-2000 people), lived in Madison for a few years after college. College was in a town of about 15-20k people.

          A lot of it is probably small town vs big city, but people in Madison (~500k+) were still a whole lot friendlier/happier.

        • DaveSylvia
        • 9 years ago

        Being from Boston myself, I can definitely attest to the attitude difference there compared to other areas (though not too different from New York or Chicago).

        I would say each person has their own reasons for ignoring the basic pleasantries. Anything from snobbyness, impatience, stress, and even a tendency to distrust others. Not sure where it comes from but I have noticed that the rude behavior decreases during the summer and increases during the winter.

          • mcnels1
          • 9 years ago

          I’m surprised you lump Chicago together with NYC. I’m originally from NYC and I find the people in Chicago much friendlier. I’d rate friendliness in Philadelphia, where I currently live, and Boston as similar to NYC.

    • Sargent Duck
    • 9 years ago

    Excellent write-up, I’ve been waiting for this since you moved.

    As #8 pointed out, I’d also recommend the PC bank. Been with them for over 10 years. It’s all internet based banking and best of all NO FEES! Deposit/withdrawl from any CIBC/PC atm. Oh, and PC points are great. Anytime you get free groceries is a win.

    Keep us updated.

    • dpaus
    • 9 years ago

    I travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada, less so in Europe (although I lived there for a few years). If you think the French are “direct”, I can only assume you never visited Germany 🙂

    I live in Toronto now, and the thing that strikes me most when I visit Vancouver is the polarization of the politics. I once sat through a dinner party that included a South African, and everyone at the table decried the very concept of apartheid, and the inherent failure of humanity to deal with discrimination. Then someone mentioned that the local Petro-Canada gas station had recently put up French signs beside the English ones, and the room erupted in vitriol for “THOSE DAMN *[

      • DrDillyBar
      • 9 years ago

      Thus my late teens in Seattle. 😉

      • internetsandman
      • 9 years ago

      I’m not sure exactly how real that last paragraph was, but it gave me quite the chuckle nonetheless. I’ve always found the canadian politeness to be the norm, so it’d be quite weird for me to go somewhere else and be treated indifferently or coldly, especially since the general consensus seems to be that Canadians are loved by quite a lot of international groups

      • travbrad
      • 9 years ago

      It depends which part of the U.S. you go to as well. Here in Minnesota people are generally pretty friendly, but I guess we’re close to Canada so maybe it rubbed off.

      When I’ve traveled to other places in the U.S. people were noticeably less friendly (although maybe I’m just biased). There are pricks everywhere of course, I’m not suggesting EVERYONE here is nice.

        • Sargent Duck
        • 9 years ago

        My parents live in Pennsylvania. On my trips down there I’ve found the people there to be pretty friendly as well. Of course, my sample size is pretty small.

        • glynor
        • 9 years ago

        I’ve found that it absolutely is regional, but people here are generally a bit friendlier, so long as you avoid the large cities. Where I live now in Maine, all of those things that Cyril listed can be seen easily on a daily basis. Same goes for where I grew up in central Pennsylvania, though probably to a lesser degree.

        Generally, I find the midwest and the south (particularly the interior south) have some of the warmest, friendliest, and most inviting people anywhere in the country. The two coasts (especially the more populated areas) tend to be just the opposite.

        Personally? I think it is mostly the effect of traffic in the daily commute more than anything. When I moved up here to Maine, it didn’t take long before I felt that daily road rage slip away. Now, when I go down south, I feel like a deer in headlights.

      • ludi
      • 9 years ago

      Sounds like you’ve been on the east coast too much. Population density seems to be inversely correlated with politeness, and most of the Midwestern-US on westward tends to be easier-going on that stuff, unless you happen to be in a really big city.

    • Jigar
    • 9 years ago

    Loved reading it… Thanks for the good time.

    • KamikaseRider
    • 9 years ago

    Nice post Cyril. Reading it made me want to visit Vancouver.

    Although I live in a country where most people are very polite (Brazil), it’s always good to know that there are other countries like us in the world.

    I’ve been to France, Italy, USA, Argentina even Cuba, but I still haven’t found quite the same politeness as here in Brazil. Apparently Canada it’s the place where I can find it.

      • DrDillyBar
      • 9 years ago

      I was in Rio in ’04. Very nice.

    • ludi
    • 9 years ago

    The trick to restaurants in these parts is to force portion control upon yourself. Divide the plate into normal serving portions and surplus, and then refuse to eat the surplus. Box it instead. This will not only prevent you from getting fat, it will also leave you with an easy lunch at work the next day — just microwave and serve. Pretty much every restaurant under the North American sun has take-out boxes, you might as well get the use out of them.

    • DrDillyBar
    • 9 years ago

    mmMMmm, Slurpee. 🙂

    • Anonymous Coward
    • 9 years ago

    Thats a great list. I never noticed the difference in sweeteners. The pickup truck description was awesome.

    My list of USA vs Denmark differences would have to include bakeries prominently. Americans have bread bakeries, donut shops, a bakery-zone in the supermarket, maybe a restaurant-bakery, but Danes have real small business bakeries.

    Also bicycles, Copenhagen has an insane number of bicycles along with proper areas to ride them in.

      • ludi
      • 9 years ago

      “Real” small-business bakeries exist in my neck of the woods as well, but they’re usually run by Mexicans, so you better have a taste for some genuine south-of-the-border baked goods.

        • Anonymous Coward
        • 9 years ago

        Awesome. The problem with making big statements about the US is that its never true for everywhere.

        I would guess that Mexican bakeries could be good, since their other food is not calorie light. I prefer lots of creme with just enough sweetness. Mmmm.

          • redavni
          • 9 years ago

          Mexican bakeries suck.

    • ChronoReverse
    • 9 years ago

    Glad to hear you’re finding us polite. I actually don’t notice it too much but when I think about it…

    As for credit cards, debit cards and banking accounts, you should get an account based on what your needs are instead of taking what’s sold to you. For instance, PC Financial (go to the Superstore, one on Grandview Highway and Rupert while the other is on Marine Drive. There’s also one in Richmond on No 3 Road and one in Metrotown Mall Burnaby) accounts are usually free of all charges (it’s backed by CIBC).

    Speaking of Superstore, these places have pretty much everything including a pharmacy lol. You might also want to consider getting a Costco membership for getting stuff in “semi-bulk”.

    Anyway, I think this will be a pretty good summer so you should hang outdoors and enjoy the view =)

    • Phaleron
    • 9 years ago

    What we need is an event where we Vancouverites can welcome you to the city properly!

      • Jon
      • 9 years ago

      Heck I’ll drive out from Calgary for a TR meetup.

      • willyolio
      • 9 years ago

      via the grouse grind.

    • internetsandman
    • 9 years ago

    Welcome to Vancouver (again)! I once went on holiday to London, England, and I noticed a lot of the same differences you pointed out (only in reverse, of course). It was interesting to read from the perspective of a European coming here. This was a great read =)

    • Meadows
    • 9 years ago

    g{

      • Skrying
      • 9 years ago

      Your best post in months.

        • Meadows
        • 9 years ago

        Come on, I couldn’t have been that bad.

          • bjm
          • 9 years ago

          Or maybe your post was just that good?

          …the glass is half-full, my friend.

      • DrDillyBar
      • 9 years ago

      +1, hahaha

      • YellaChicken
      • 9 years ago

      ROFL! Well played sir.

      I reckon you’d be closer to Glaswegian tho, if you ever want to meet a group of people as scathing and sarcastic as you are, go to Glasgow sometime.

    • esterhasz
    • 9 years ago

    oh my, if I could buy stock for your behind, I would. there’s some major growth in the future I fear…

    • Nitrodist
    • 9 years ago

    If you have over $5000 in your chequing account, you can get those ATM/ABM fees eliminated with a ‘Select Service’ account. If you don’t have over $5000 in that account, it costs your $25.00/m for the service, however.

    §[< http://www.tdcanadatrust.com/accounts/select.jsp<]§

    • Blazex
    • 9 years ago

    Vancouver was fun(i went to look at Emily Carr University), i just recently went back in March, i have also visited Montreal and Quebec(a few years back) back in ’06 and they seemed a lot more European in comparison. stayed 3 days in VC and walked around most of the town and rented a small vehicle and checked up a little of North Vancouver 🙂

    • Skrying
    • 9 years ago

    Thanks for the read, Cyril! Enjoyed it thoroughly.

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