The Slowly Becoming Canadian Podcast – Episode 21 – Small town business

The podcast is back in Amherst, NS (literally, this time) to talk with Mikhial Mansour about owning and growing a small business in a small town.
We discuss why he decided to move back to his hometown, what it’s like to run a business that’s almost a hundred years old in a place where everybody knows you, and how to bring it into the digital age. Also, we talk about the hilarious videos they shoot in the store (@mansoursmenswear on Instagram and Facebook).

Listen to the episode Apple Podcast, Soundcloud, Stitcher or right here:

 

 

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What is this thing you call summer?

Oh my God, what is this?! What is happening? There is a big bright light in the sky and I am warm. I must be dying. I’m sorry, what? What did you say it was? Spring? Oh ok, it’s just that it was supposed to start 8 weeks ago so I thought it was just not going to happen this year. That’s great though, it means summer is coming! It also means I – and you too, if like me you’ve been hibernating for months – need to get ready.

 

Summer check list:

1 – Get some DEET. No, get a lot of it! A couple times every summer I get very close to needing a blood transfusion to survive the constant attacks from mosquitoes/black flies/horse flies/evil flying creatures from Hell. So I have to choose between spraying we-are-not-sure-how-toxic-this-product-is insect repellant all over my body and risking  not surviving the summer. Or to simply look like that:

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2 – Get some sunscreen: There is an average of 48 hours of sun per month of summer in Nova Scotia, which is not a lot. However, it’s enough for you to burn or get a weird farmer’s or fisherman’s tan so apply generously. And put a hat on, a Moosehead one or even a Habs, a Bruins or a Leafs one. I’m kidding, don’t wear a Leafs hat. (I don’t really have anything against the Leafs, I’m just slowly becoming Canadian, so I’m dissing them like everyone else.)

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3 – Get ready to drink: Between BBQs, patios, weddings, playoffs, and regular evenings, you will see your alcohol intake go up a lot. That’s OK, you’re helping the economy. Plus now, you get Air Miles at the NSLC, so really, you’re just making smart economic decisions. Just don’t forget to have at least one Keith’s at some point. It’s the law in Nova Scotia.

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4 – Get ready for the election: In October, the country will vote for its leader. In the meantime, you will be exposed to a lot of arguments, lawn signs, heated conversations and cheap jokes about haircuts. To help you make your choice you can always count on the televised debates and your colleague or relative that has an opinion on everything and knows for sure who you should vote for. According to Elections Canada, 12.2% of Canadians are not at all interested in politics. If that’s your case and you get caught in a conversation about the elections, just say “First, we really should do something about the Senate!”. 86% of Canadians want to either abolish or reform it, so chances are people will agree with you, and hopefully,  the conversation topic will change.

 

Mostly, get ready for some fun! But before fully enjoying the summer, make sure  you are done shovelling all the snow that got dumped on Nova Scotia this winter.

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Photo taken May 18th, 2015

 

 Check if you speak Nova Scotian

 

Fishing in Nova Scotia – Spoiler: I almost died

One day, my wife’s father decided to take me fishing. I guess he was getting worried hearing me talk about my baking, cooking, knitting (yes, knitting) and other not so Canadian manly activities. I thought, I’ve fished with my grandfather before; I’ll be OK. Well…

Everything started when after parking his truck near a small river, he handed me pieces of a fishing rod and told me to “put it together and set the line”.

“- Sure! Umm… how?

– How what?

– Well, how do I set it? My grandfather used to do it for me.”

After rolling his eyes and sighing at my uselessness, he prepared my fishing rod and handed it to me with a big fat earthworm.

“- Unless you don’t know how to hook it…”

– Oh no, I know how to do that!”

So I took my rod, my worm and headed to the spot he pointed.

Once I was out of his sight, I started my fight with the worm. Because of course, I lied. I had fished before, but I had only used maggots (not worms that were bigger than my middle finger). After struggling for a few minutes, I managed to get that big slimy thing on the little hook.

A few cast-offs and false alarms later, I saw him coming towards me carrying two big trout.

“- How are you making out?

– Not as well as you apparently!

– Oh, I was just lucky. That part of the river overthere seems to be better anyway, come.”

So, I settled in my new spot just 10 feet away from him. The pressure was rising now that he could see what I was doing. I concentrated, cast-off, and of course, my line ended up in a tree behind me. It was so tangled that I had to cut it and set up a new one. This time I managed to do it myself and impress him a little. My ego got a little boost and I felt remotivated. I was going to catch a lot of fish and show him that I could feed his daughter if a nuclear disaster sent us back to the stone age. I was going to be the Elvis of fishing.

Well, that was before hell broke loose and released its worst creatures on me: black flies. Being from Europe I had never heard of these monsters before my first summer here. When black flies bite you, unlike mosquitoes, they don’t inject anything into the bite. Two consequences : it’s not itchy (so you don’t realize you are being bitten) and your blood doesn’t coagulate, so you bleed.

So, I was there, ready to beat the world fishing record when I realized I was surrounded by a cloud of tiny insects. Actually I was covered with them. I tried to wave them away, I killed one, two, twenty, but they seemed too attracted to my delicious blood. I turned my head to see how my companion was dealing with them. He  wasn’t moving at all. They weren’t bothering him because they were all after me. I decided to face my enemy. I put my hat on to protect part of my ears. They continued to swarm me. They would land on any piece  of exposed skin, bite me, take off and come back a few seconds later. I could almost hear them call their friends “Hey, we found an open bar!”. They were biting my eyes, nose, lips, fingers… But I wouldn’t give up. I almost couldn’t see anything, they were like a black drape in front of me. I could see my father-in-law looking at me though. I told myself “It’s a test, hold on!”

Right when I was ready to give up, I felt something at the end of my line! There it was, I was finally going to catch a fish! I brought it back slowly. When the fish was out of the water I tried to act like I wasn’t too excited. However, I was so happy about it that I forgot to make sure the fish was above the ground, and not the water… Of course it’s when I reached for it that the fish managed to free itself and go back to  freedom. That was it, I had had enough. I had blood all over my arms, my legs and my face, swallowed probably 100 grams worth of protein and just lost my only hope to bring something back.

“- Well, we  probably won’t catch anything else today and you don’t look very good, let’s go home.”

Thank God!

In the truck on the way back, I was pretty quiet (probably because my lips were so swollen). I glanced at him while he was driving and noticed a little smile. I couldn’t decide if it was because of the fish he caught or the look of my face (and he hadn’t been bitten even once!). But when I looked in the mirror, despite my swollen left eye and lips and dozens of red spots I saw the same smile on my face. I had passed the test, I had survived.

Of course, that smiled quickly disappeared when my eye and lips swollen even more and spots on my limbs turned purple. I looked diseased, but it went away after a week. I’m a great fishing companion now. I don’t catch anything but the bugs will leave you alone because they will be too busy feasting on me.

 

Disclamer : For storing telling purposes I took some (a lot, actually) creative liberty describing my father-in-law. 

 

Find out if you speak Nova Scotian here

Read more about how much I love living in Nova Scotia here (home page)

My left arm after a few days

My left arm after a few days

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Un jour, le père de ma femme a décidé de m’amener pécher. J’imagine qu’il commençait à s’inquiéter de m’entendre parler de gâteaux, cuisine, tricot (oui, tricot) et d’autres choses pas typiquement masculines. Je me suis dit, pas de problème, j’ai déjà pêché avec mon grand-père, tout ira bien. Tu parles…

Tout a commencé, quand après avoir garé son camion près d’une petite rivière, il m’a tendu différentes pièces d’une canne à pêche et m’a dit de l’ « assembler et monter ma ligne ».

« – Bien sûr, euh… comment

– Quoi, comment ?

– Bah, comment je la monte ? Mon grand-père le faisait toujours pour moi. »

Après un roulement d’yeux et un gros soupir, il a préparé ma canne. Il me l’a ensuite tendue, accompagnée d’un bon gros ver de terre.

« -À moins que tu ne saches pas comment l’accrocher…

– Ah si, bien sûr, ça je sais faire ! »

J’ai donc pris ma canne, mon ver et me suis dirigé vers l’endroit qu’il me désignait.

Une fois hors de sa vue, j’ai commencé à me battre avec le ver. Parce que bien sûr, j’avais menti. J’avais déjà pêché mais seulement avec des petits asticots (pas des vers plus gros que mon majeur).  Après plusieurs minutes à batailler, j’ai réussi à accrocher ce gros truc gluant au petit hameçon.

Quelques lancés et fausses touches plus tard, je l’ai vu se diriger vers moi avec deux grosses truites.

« – Comment tu t’en sors?

– Moins bien que vous apparemment !

– Oh, j’ai juste eu de la chance. Et puis l’autre côté de la rivière est meilleur, viens. »

Je me suis donc installé de l’autre côté, à 3 mètres de lui. La pression montait maintenant qu’il pouvait voir ce que je faisais. Je me suis concentré, j’ai lancé ma ligne, et bien-sûr, elle s’est prise dans un arbre derrière moi. Elle était tellement emmêlée que j’ai dû la couper et en monter une autre. Cette fois-ci j’ai réussi à le faire tout seul et je l’ai un peu impressionné. Mon ego s’est senti mieux et j’étais remotivé. J’allais attraper plein de poissons et lui montrer que je serais capable de nourrir sa fille si un désastre nucléaire nous renvoyait à l’Âge de Pierre. J’allais être l’Elvis de la pêche.

Tout ça s’était avant que l’Enfer se déchaîne et envoie ses pires créatures après moi : les mouches noires. Étant d’Europe je n’avais jamais entendu parler de ces monstres avant mon premier été en Nouvelle Écosse. Quand une mouche noire vous pique, contrairement aux moustiques, elle n’injecte rien dans votre sang. Deux conséquences : ça ne gratte pas (et donc vous ne réalisez pas que vous êtes en train de vous faire piquer) et votre sang ne coagule pas, donc vous saignez.

Bref, j’étais là, prêt à battre le record du monde pêche quand j’ai réalisé que j’étais entouré d’un nuage d’insectes. En fait, j’en étais complètement couvert. J’ai essayé de les chasser, j’en ai tué une, deux, vingt, mais elles étaient trop attirées par mon sang. J’ai tourné la tête pour voir comment mon compagnon s’en sortait. Il ne bougeait absolument pas. Elles ne le dérangeaient pas du tout puisqu’elles étaient toutes après moi. J’ai décidé de faire face à l’ennemi. J’ai mis ma casquette pour protéger ce que je pouvais de mes oreilles. Elles continuaient à tourner autour de moi par dizaines. Elles se posaient sur n’importe quel morceau de peau découvert, me piquaient, décollaient et revenaient quelques secondes plus tard. Je pouvais presque les entendre appeler leurs copines « Hé, tournée générale! » Elles me piquaient les yeux, le nez, les lèvres, les doigts… Mais je n’allais pas abandonner. Je ne pouvais presque rien voir, elles formaient comme un rideau noir devant moi. Mais je pouvais voir mon beau-père me regarder. « C’est un test », je me suis dit, « tiens bon ! »

Juste quand j’allais abandonner, j’ai senti quelque chose au bout de ma ligne ! Ça y était, j’allais enfin attraper un poisson. Je l’ai ramené doucement. Quand le poisson s’est retrouvé hors de l’eau, je l’ai joué cool, comme si de rien n’était. Mais j’étais tellement excité que j’ai oublié de m’assurer que le poisson était bien au-dessus du sol, et pas de l’eau… Bien-sûr c’est quand j’ai tendu la main pour l’attraper qu’il a réussi à se libérer et est retombé à l’eau. C’était la goutte d’eau qui faisait déborder le vase, j’en avais eu assez. J’avais du sang plein les bras, les jambes et le visage, j’avais probablement avalé 100 grammes de protéines sous forme de mouches et je venais de perdre le dernier espoir de ramener quelque chose.

« Bon, on attrapera probablement plus rien aujourd’hui et t’as pas l’air au mieux de ta forme. On devrait rentrer. »

Dieu merci !

Dans le camion sur le chemin du retour, j’étais plutôt silencieux (probablement parce que mes lèvres étaient très gonflées). Je l’ai rapidement observé du coin de l’œil et j’ai vu qu’il avait un petit sourire aux coins des lèvres. Je n’arrivais pas à décider si c’était à cause des poissons qu’il avait attrapés ou à cause de mon état (et il n’avait pas était piqué une seule fois !). Mais quand je me suis regardé dans le miroir j’ai vu que je j’avais le même petit sourire. J’avais passé le test, j’avais survécu.

Bien-sûr, le sourire a vite disparu quand mon œil et mes lèvres ont gonflé encore plus et que les boutons dont mon corps était couvert ont viré au violet. J’avais l’air malade, mais ça s’est arrangé après une semaine. Je suis un très bon compagnon de pêche maintenant. Je n’attrape rien mais les insectes vous laisseront tranquille parce qu’ils seront trop occupés à se régaler sur moi.

 

Note : J’ai pris quelques libertés littéraires concernant mon beau-père pour rendre cette histoire encore un peu plus intéressante.

 

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

Lost in Transportation

This doesn’t have much to do with becoming Canadian but more with becoming a Haligonian. Since I’ve moved to Halifax I’ve been using public transportation more often. I could say I do it because it’s good for the environment, or because I like the exercise, but then I’d have to quickly get an extinguisher for my pants. I use public transportation because it’s very expensive to own a car and when you live in a city like Halifax it’s easy to get around by bus. Of course, some winter mornings I wish I could jump in a car waiting for me at my door and drive to work with my bum slowly roasting on the heated seat. But then I would be missing a lot of fun things. Well, I would miss things anyway…

First of all, I would miss my morning walk on the icy sidewalks. When else do I get to walk like a penguin or use my shoes for skates to get to the bus terminal? The kids who go to the school that is on my way there would probably miss making fun of me.

Another advantage of taking the bus is that it’s a very good way to get to know the city, at least for me. I have a bad sense of direction. No, really, a VERY bad sense of direction. So the bus is a good way for me to go from one point to another without getting lost in the middle. Even if, hypothetically of course, someone with a bad sense of direction could get on the right bus but heading in the wrong direction. I’m just saying it might happen… That’s why I like taking the ferry between Halifax and Dartmouth: it’s impossible, even for me, to get lost. Also, it’s only a ten minute-ride and I get to say that I have to take a boat across the Atlantic to go home.

But really, what I enjoy the most about public transportation is the public part. People watching is one of my favourite things to do. Even if you’ve only taken the bus once in your life, you know that you get to see a lot of different people on the bus: daily commuters in suits, students, families, sad people, funny people, people who avoid eye contact at all cost, crazy people, and a Frenchman who keeps looking around and who still sometimes can’t believe he lives in Canada.

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When you use public transportation you don’t have to worry about the scary Canadian roads, read what I have to say about them here 

In January, I made a video of Halifax. It’s called “2.2 seconds a day” and most of it was shot on buses and ferries. Watch it here.

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Ce qui suit n’a pas vraiment rapport avec le fait de devenir canadien mais plutôt avec celui de devenir haligonien (habitant d’Halifax). Depuis que j’ai déménagé à Halifax, j’utilise les transports en commun plus souvent. Je pourrais prétendre que je le fais parce que c’est bon pour l’environnement, ou encore parce que j’aime marcher, mais alors il faudrait que j’apprenne à vivre avec un nez d’un mètre de long. J’emprunte les transports en commun parce qu’avoir une voiture coûte beaucoup d’argent et que dans une ville comme Halifax c’est facile de se rendre n’importe où en bus. Bien sûr, certains matins d’hiver j’aimerais pouvoir sauter dans une voiture qui m’attendrait devant ma porte et conduire au travail pendant que mes fesses seraient en train de rôtir sur le siège chauffant. Mais je perdrais l’opportunité de faire plein de choses amusantes. Enfin… plein de choses.

D’abord, je ne ferais plus ma petite marche du matin sur les trottoirs couverts de glace. Je ne pourrais plus marcher comme un pingouin ou utiliser mes chaussures en guise de patins à glace pour éviter de me casser quelque chose en me rendant au terminal de bus. Les enfants de l’école qui est sur mon chemin seraient probablement tristes de ne plus pouvoir se moquer de moi.

Un autre avantage de prendre le bus, c’est que c’est un bon moyen de découvrir une ville, au moins pour moi. J’ai un mauvais sens de l’orientation. Non, vraiment, un TRÈS mauvais sens de l’orientation. Alors pour moi le bus est une bonne façon de me rendre d’un point à un autre sans me perdre en route. Même si, hypothétiquement bien sûr, quelqu’un qui n’a pas un bon sens de l’orientation pourrait prendre le bon bus mais dans le mauvais sens. Je dis juste que ça serait tout à fait possible… C’est pour ça que j’aime prendre le ferry entre Halifax et Dartmouth : c’est impossible, même pour moi, de se perdre. En plus, ça ne prend que dix minutes et je peux dire que je traverse l’Atlantique en bateau pour rentrer chez moi.

Mais vraiment, ce que je préfère dans les transports en commun, c’est le « en commun ». Observer les gens est une de mes activités préférées. Même si vous n’avez pris le bus qu’une seule fois dans votre vie, vous savez qu’on voit toutes sortes de gens dans le bus : des gens en costume qui vont au travail, des étudiants, des familles, des gens tristes, des gens drôles, des gens qui évitent les regards à tous prix, des fous et un français qui passe son temps à regarder autour de lui et qui a toujours parfois du mal à croire qu’il habite au Canada.

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Quand tu utilises les transports en commun tu n’as pas besoin de t’en faire au sujet des terrifiantes routes canadiennes. Lis ce que j’ai à dire à leur sujet ici.

En janvier j’ai fait une vidéo d’Halifax. Elle s’appelle “2,2 secondes par jour” et la plupart a été filmée dans les transports en commun. Regarde-la ici.