Slowly Becoming Canadian The Podcast – Episode 05 – On the road again

SBC - Episode 05 - On the road

My guest Michael (in Vancouver, BC) and I (in Halifax, NS) go coast to coast and talk about driving across Canada. We discuss bad roads, sleeping in your car, road trip food and music, survival technics and scary diners. Oh, and the world’s largest chainsaw and the world’s largest lobster. Literally.

Listen to the episode on iTunes (just look for Slowly Becoming Canadian on the iTunes Store) or on Souncloud:

Do you speak Nova Scotian?

Have a look at these expressions. If, like me, Nova Scotian is not your mother tongue, take notes.



“Traffic on the highway was crazy “

What you think: Traffic on the highway WAS crazy, cars were bumper to bumper and it took 45 minutes to drive 10km.

What Nova Scotians mean: “The 102 was really busy! I had to pass three cars on my way from Truro to the city [read Halifax, because it’s the only city in the province] and people were driving sooo fast [cruise control stuck on 119km/h]. There was so much traffic that a guy who was trying to merge had to completely stop on the ramp [more because he didn’t KNOW how to merge]. I wanted to get home so badly that I didn’t even take the time to stop at the Tim Horton’s at Exit 9.”

The 102, incredibly busy as usual

The 102, incredibly busy as usual


 “There are sales at the liquor store!”

What you think: What do they mean by “the liquor store”? Just go to the supermarket or the corner store! And you know you can get 26 beer for 12 euros ($18), right?

What Nova Scotians mean: “2-4 are $1 off!! Aaaand you also get 3 airmiles! So, not only do you get some of Sir Alexander Keith’s love for ONLY $41 but you also get a LOT closer to your next holiday destination. Sweet!”

Wine doesn't need to be on sale in France to be affordable

Wine doesn’t need to be on sale in France  to be affordable



“I’m going to Maine” 

What you think: They are going to visit a place that just looks like a giant forest. They are probably going to stay in a beautiful giant house on a beach and watch the sunset over the ocean,  at least that is what you have seen in movies. You are also a little worried for them: you suspect that the whole state is haunted and that everybody there is crazy because you read a lot of Stephen King novels.

What Nova Scotians mean: “I’m actually only going to Bangor for a couple days. I’m going to shop the whole time, with some friends who, like me, think Target USA is waaayy better than Target Canada. I know it’s August and I could go to a sunnier destination but I’ll get all my Christmas shopping done! I’ll have to pretend everything I have in my luggage is old and remove all the tags when I come back to Canada but  all the tags will already be removed when it’s time to wrap the presents! Plus, I wouldn’t mind getting some cheap booze, there haven’t been any sales at the liquor store for a while…    



“It’s such a nice day”

What you think: It’s sunny and at least 25 degrees and not a single cloud in the sky. It’s such a perfect summer day to put some shorts and sunglasses on, go for a swim and enjoy a drink or an ice cream on a patio!

What Nova Scotians mean: The sky is not that grey, it’s 10 degrees and it hasn’t rained for four hours. It’s such a perfect summer day to put some shorts and sunglasses on, go for a swim and enjoy a drink or an ice-cream on a patio!



“Tatamagouche”, “Antigonish”, “Shubenacadie” or “Mushaboom”

What you think:  You really, really have no idea what they are saying. This person must be drunk because they are seriously sluring some words.

What Nova Scotians mean: You’re refering to lovely places in your favorite province and you don’t know why this Come From Away is looking so confused. You even made an effort to say the entire name, usually you just say Tata, the Nish or Shubie.



Some of these (OK, all of these) are a little cliché and I’ve never completely misunderstood someone who used them. They are just part of the little cultural differences that make me love Nova Scotia even more.

Oh, and if you knew that there is no Tim Horton’s at Exit 9 between Halifax and Truro, you definitely are a true Nova Scotian.


If you speak Nova Scotian you might be able to help me with this: Who’s Buddy and why does everybody know him?

Ok, you speak Nova Scotian, but do you know Nova Scotia better than a Come From Away? Take this quiz and find out.

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Nova Scotia : One of my favorite places

Nova Scotia : One of my favorite places

On the road again

Canada is a developed country, it is part of the G8, the articulated arm on the International Space Station is Canadian, you can get 186 TV channels anywhere in the country. So, why every time I drive my car I feel like I am on a secondary road in Bagdad? Seriously, I have driven quite a bit in this country, in several provinces, and I have never found a perfect section of pavement which was more than 50 meter-long. During my first year in Canada, I didn’t have a car; I was one of the crazy people in town who used a bike for transportation. That is probably why it was impossible to find neither a bike path in the town nor a driver willing to share THEIR ROAD with a biker. In one year, I was hit by two cars, I almost crashed into a deer, and I had to bike in the rain, on icy roads, in the snow or by -21 °. However, this was easy compared to what I had to do to prevent my front wheel from getting caught in giant potholes or to getting airborne because of one of the numerous bumps you can find on the roads.

When you talk to a Canadian about this problem, you always get the same answer: the roads don’t last because winter conditions are so extreme. Ok, I understand that, but then tell me how Scandinavian countries or even some parts of Russia (Russia!) can have roads in better shape. In France, when the Road Department repave a road you can see six people doing the work of two, but at least the road looks good and it remains ‘in good shape’ for a few years. Two years ago, they redid the private road where my office was just before the winter. For one month, before the first snow, I enjoyed biking on a perfect Formula 1-like pavement. When the snow and the ice melted, the road looked like the surface of the moon again. The following fall, they didn’t even try to repave it, they removed all the tar and replaced it with gravel…

And that is not a small town problem only. I lived in Ottawa for two years, the capital city, and every time I drove on a particular section of one of its biggest avenues, I prayed for the shocks or the axles of my car not to go to the spare parts heaven. I think I will just get a Ski-Doo… OH CANADA!


Le Canada est un pays développé, il fait partie du G8, le bras articulé utilisé par la Station Spatiale Internationale est canadien, n’importe où dans le pays vous pouvez avoir 186 chaînes de télévision. Alors pourquoi chaque fois que je prends ma voiture j’ai l’impression d’être sur une route secondaire à Bagdad ? Sérieusement, j’ai déjà fait pas mal de bornes à travers plusieurs provinces du pays et je n’ai jamais trouvé de segment de route intact long de plus de 50 mètres. Ma première année au Canada, je n’avais pas de voiture, je faisais partie des quatre ou cinq illuminés de la ville à utiliser le vélo comme mode de transport quotidien. C’est probablement pourquoi il était impossible d’y trouver une piste cyclable, ou un automobiliste habitué à devoir partager SA route avec un cycliste.  En un an, j’ai été percuté deux fois par une voiture, j’ai failli entrer en collision avec une biche, j’ai dû pédaler sous la pluie, sous la grêle, dans la neige, ou par -21°. Mais tout ça, ce n’était rien comparé aux efforts surhumains que je devais faire pour ne pas laisser la roue avant de mon vélo se faire prendre dans un nid de poule géant ou pour ne pas décoller du sol en passant sur l’une des innombrables bosses qui jonchent les routes.

Lorsque vous parlez de ce problème à un canadien, vous obtenez toujours la même réponse : les hivers extrêmes font que les routes ne durent pas. Alors, moi je veux bien, mais qu’on m’explique comment font les pays scandinaves, ou même certaines parties de la Russie (la Russie !), pour avoir des routes en meilleur état. En France, quand la DDE refait une route, on peut voir six personnes faire le travail de deux, mais au moins le tronçon refait est bien fait et il reste en bon état pour pas mal de temps. Il y a deux ans, la rue privée où se situait mon travail a été refaite avant l’hiver. Pendant le mois qui a précédé les premières neiges, j’ai pu profiter tous les jours d’un revêtement digne d’un circuit de Formule 1. Au sortir de l’hiver, quand la neige et le gel ont fondu, l’asphalte ressemblait à la surface de la lune. L’automne suivant, ils ne se sont même pas donné la peine de le refaire, ils ont cassé et enlevé le goudron et l’ont remplacé par du gravier…

Et ce n’est pas un problème qui se limite aux petites bourgades. J’ai habité deux ans dans la capitale Ottawa et chaque fois que je conduisais sur une certaine portion d’une des plus grandes avenues, je priais pour que les amortisseurs ou les essieux de ma voiture ne rejoignent pas le paradis des pièces détachées. Je pense que je vais juste m’acheter une moto-neige… OH CANADA !