Back in the day, I moved from the UK to the Netherlands. One of the things I really enjoyed about this was the inherent change. There’s nothing like living in another culture for highlighting ‘unknown unknowns’: assumptions and ways of doing things that you didn’t even know existed.

Like the Netherlands, Canada is not wildly different to the UK, although for different reasons. (NL and UK are both ex-colonial, historically sea-faring powers from a very similar part of the world; Canada, of course, is an ex-colony of the UK!) As such, I can’t say I have really suffered much in the way of culture shock in either place.

I’ll start with the negatives of life as an expat in Canada. Besides the obvious downside of being far from family and Europe-based friends, the following downsides exist:

  • where are the crumpets?
  • why, oh why do you measure things in cups? Volume-based measurements for butter? C’mon!
  • kettles take sooooooo long to boil. Thanks, 120 volt power :(
  • modern telecommunications: my goodness, cellphone and internet set-up is old-school here.

And the positives:

  • diverse, immigrant-friendly culture: we have been made to feel so welcome
  • that stereotypical Canadian thing: good manners. Everyone is so friendly
  • pedestrians have priority when crossing intersections that don’t have signals
  • a point specific to Vancouver: it is utterly beautiful.

Some things are plain different, for instance perceptions of time and space. Someone said to me, when we moved: “100 miles is a long way in the UK; 100 years is a long time in north America”. This is true!

Although I miss people from the UK, I can’t say I miss the country as a whole, especially in the current political climate: things like Brexit and the Investigatory Powers Act leave me cold. But even putting that aspect aside, the positives outweigh the negatives for me on this one. It’s good to be in Canada.


A further difference that has struck me is city layout and navigation. I used to be skeptical about the north American grid system for roads, thinking it rather unimaginative and rigid. Now, I’m something of a convert: navigation is not one of my stronger suits, and being able to navigate more easily (and even know which way is north) is rather splendid.