It’s a bit snowy out there

I thought I knew what winter was, until this past weekend when I experienced a real blizzard.
Canada, you ARE winter!

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A Great Canadian Tradition: Going Down South

My first winter here, I quickly learned about one of the greatest Canadian traditions. No, I am not talking about giving a child their first pair of skates or closing the cottage for the winter. I am talking about “going down South”, which means escaping winter for a week or two by jumping on a plane to places like Cuba, the Dominican Republic or Jamaica. Now, if you’re retired or have a little bit of money, it could also mean heading to Florida for a while (but for no more than 182 days because you don’t want to lose your universal healthcare). Anyway, in an attempt to enjoy a true Canadian experience I went to Cuba for a week 4 years ago. If you’re soon going on a truly deserved vacation under the sun, here are a few tips (this is based on a one-time experience, so it’s probably not super accurate).

1- Remember the name of the place you’re going to. Not just the place, the name of your resort too. Sure, this could be useful when you get lost on one of the fun and exciting excursions you can’t wait to tell your friends about, but that’s not the main reason. When you tell people you went down South, their first question is “Where did you go?”, and by that they mean “where in Cuba/Dominican Republic/Jamaica and which resort?” because chances are they know it. If you don’t remember, just make up a Spanish name like “Princessa  de  la Playa”. Don’t worry, it’ll always sound fancy and believable enough.

2- There is only one Spanish sentence you need to memorize: “Una cerveza/piña colada/margarita por favor.” Most people who work at resorts speak English so you won’t really need it, but it will make you feel good for trying and your drink will taste even better. After a few drinks you’ll be convinced you’re bilingual anyway. Of course this doesn’t apply if you’re going to Jamaica. If you start speaking Spanish there, people might assume you smoked a little too much of the local green specialty.

3- Pick a resort that is known to be liked by Quebecquers because, let’s face it, they know how to take it to the next level. First of all, speedoes and thongs (for women AND men) seem to be popular which always makes hanging out at the pool entertaining. And if they all party like the ones who were at my resort, you’re up for a few late nights that involve a lot of drinking and swearing.

4- Do not post too many pictures of your trip on Facebook or Instagram.  Remember that some of your friends are still in Canada where it is most likely freezing. They will “like” your pictures but secretly be jealous and even hate you. Remember when Bob came back to work and couldn’t stop talking about how he just drank all day, laid on the beach and did nothing? Did you enjoy that? Exactly.

There, these are my tips for you to have a successful trip “down South.” Don’t forget to enjoy every minute of it, because chances are, when you land back in Canada your memories will be the only thing that can keep you warm.

Who’s Buddy and why does everybody know him?

I have been living in Nova Scotia for a while now and I think I am well adapted. However, there are still a couple of things that I am not used to; “Buddy” is one of them. If you are not from around here, you might wonder who Buddy is. At least I did when I first moved here.

People here use “buddy” in two different ways. The first one, the one I kind of knew about  before getting here, is the equivalent of “friend”, as in “He and I are buddies”.  However, I hadn’t realized you could call someone “buddy” whether or not you knew them. I come from France – a country that some might consider a little snobby – where people who don’t know each other wouldn’t dare not use “vous” [the formal form of “you”]. That’s why the first time a friendly barista gave me my coffee and said “here you go buddy”, I got very … puzzled. Had I forgotten that we were friends? Did I know him? Had I ever interacted with him? Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t insulted or anything; I was genuinely confused because I wasn’t used to it. And there is a little part of me, that snobby French part I guess, that still cringes when someone I don’t know calls me “buddy”.

en-france-et-en-ns

The second way people use “Buddy” was even more confusing to me. I kept hearing people talking about Buddy. Buddy did this, Buddy said that. I lived in a small town at that time, so the first couple times Buddy was mentioned I just assumed he knew a lot of people. Quickly, because I am a very smart person, I figured out there were just a lot of men called Buddy… Until a few weeks later, when I had a problem with the copy machine at the building I used to work in. I asked someone how to fix it and they told me to ask “Buddy, down the hall”.  I went down the hall, looked at the names on all the doors and couldn’t find Buddy’s office. So I went back to see Murray who told me to look for Buddy and thus began a very surreal conversation:

– I couldn’t find Buddy’s office.

– Who’s Buddy?

[Because English was still tricky for me at that point, I understood “Whose buddy?”]

-No, no, Buddy who takes care of the copy machine…

– You mean Steve?

– Who is Steve?

– Steve, Buddy that takes care of the machine.

 

That’s when it clicked. Buddy is nobody. Actually Buddy is everybody. And everybody knows Buddy.

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Buddy knows Nova Scotia very well. Do you? Take this quiz and find out.

If you say “Buddy” a lot you probably speak Nova Scotian. Click here to check

 

5 little differences between Canada and France I totally got used to

1. Stores are open every day. Some supermarkets are even open 24/7. I don’t think I’ll ever need to buy a couple of red onions at 3a.m., but it’s nice to have the option.

2. Carrying a coffee and/or water bottle everywhere. I actually got used to it too much. I now have a real collection of travel mugs and water bottles: for tea, for coffee, for water, plastic ones, metal ones… I probably could open a shop, but don’t count on me to be open on Sundays.

3. Watching American TV shows and movies in English. In France, everything is dubbed so it’s not unusual to see the actor’s lips moving even if the VoiceOver is done “talking”. It is kind of like when you tune out that boring acquaintance of yours.

4. Huge cars. Back in France, I used to drive a Nissan Micra. That car was so small it could fit in the box of most pickup trucks you see here. The last time I rented a car, the guy wanted to give me a Fiat 500. I refused because I was scared people on the highway wouldn’t notice me and would just drive over the car.

5. Tax not included in prices. In Canada you always have to do the math to make sure you have enough money to pay. That’s if you don’t want to end up asking the next person in line for a quarter to pay for your BigMac Meal, like yours truly. I got so used to adding 15% to all prices that the last time I went back to France I felt like I was saving money every time I was paying for something

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5 petites différences entre le Canada et la France auxquelles je me suis complètement habitué:

1. Les magasins ouverts tous les jours. Certains supermarchés sont même ouverts 24h/24. Je ne pense pas que j’aurais un jour besoin d’acheter deux ou trois notions rouges à trois heures du matin, mais j’aime juste le fait que ce soit une option.

2. Toujours se balader avec un café ou une bouteille d’eau à la main. Je m’y suis même trop habitué. J’ai accumulé une véritable collection de tasses à café de voyage et de gourdes: certaines pour le thé, certaines pour le café, certaines pour les deux, pour l’eau, en métal ou en plastique… Je pourrais probablement ouvrir un magasin. Mais ne comptez pas sur moi pour ouvrir le dimanche.

3. Regarder les films et séries américaines en anglais. En France, tout est doublé et ce n’est pas inhabituel de voir les lèvres de l’acteur bouger alors que le doubleur a fini de “parler”. C’est un peu comme quand quelqu’un s’ennuyant te parle et que tu n’écoutes plus du tout ce qu’il dit.

4. Les grosses voitures. En France, je conduisais une Nissan Micra. Ma voiture était si petite comparée à celles d’ici qu’elle tiendrait dans la boîte arrière de la plupart des camions pickup qu’on voit ici. La dernière fois que j’ai loué une voiture, le gars a voulu me donner une Fiat 500. J’ai refusé parce que j’avais trop peur que les autres voitures sur l’autoroute ne me voient pas et roulent par dessus la mienne.

5. La taxe directement incluse dans les prix. Au Canada, la taxe n’est pas incluse dans les prix affichés et il faut toujours faire le calcul dans sa tête pour être sûr d’avoir assez d’argent sur soi. En tous cas si vous ne voulez pas avoir à demander 25 cents à la personne derrière vous pour payer pour votre menu BigMac, comme moi. Je me suis tellement habitué à ajouter 15% à tous les prix que, la dernière fois que je suis allé en France, j’avais l’impression d’économiser de l’argent à chaque fois que je payais pour quelque chose.