Canada – Home and Native Land
In light of the recent celebrations of Canada’s 150th birthday, I thought it fitting to dedicate a post to my home and native land. When I first moved to Italy, so many people asked me how I was getting on with the “culture shock.” Moving from Canada to Italy isn’t much of a culture shock as they are both considered part of the western world. However, moving from Vancouver to a small provincial town that had no more than a butcher shop and a church could definitely rank decently on the culture shock scale.
In the beginning, it seemed like a romantic fairytale to be living in the wine-covered hills but after a while, annoyance, frustration and intolerance started to settle in as my Canadian ways started to clash with my surroundings. If you want to know more about that you can read about getting stereotyped in Italy.
Soon enough I picked up the language and started teaching aerobics classes, making friends and feeling more like a local. In the process, I became more tolerant, understanding and willing to accept new ways of doing things.
Now, I’m at a point where people point out how “Italian” I have become. Just yesterday, I was saying to my friends from out-of-town how I prefer driving in the towns and hills because highway driving makes me tired. Immediately, they exclaimed how Italian of me that was to say.
Always a Canadian
I don’t want to lose my Canadian ways but I do think that when you choose to live in another country, you should be open to their way of living. Otherwise, you are likely to experience a little friction.
I’ll always be proud of where I am from. I will continue to enlighten the Italians about our young food culture and hold my head up high when I describe what pancakes, maple syrup, Coho salmon, and poutine are as if they were the best dishes invented!
How Italian Life Changed My Canadian Ways
- I prefer to drive a car with manual transmission
It’s been 7 years since I got my Italian driver’s license. Every time I go home and borrow my mom’s automatic Toyota Corolla I have to put a lot of mental effort into NOT using my left foot. Once I get going, I feel like I am not in control of the car. Manual transmission all the way.
- Life is cleaner with a bidet.
Don’t get me started, just read my post here.
- Where my food comes from is a big deal.
If someone were to ask me 8 years ago where I got my eggs, I would have said, “from Superstore.” Now, I would tell you, “from my zia’s hens.” Italians care a lot about the quality of their food and so, naturally, they care about the source. If I don’t see that the cherries I am buying are from Italy, I don’t buy them. Don’t get me wrong, once in a while, I’ll contribute to a carboon footprint with Gold Kiwis from New Zealand or Hass Avocados from Perù. I’m not a saint.
- Dinner is at 8pm or later. 6pm is for aperitivo.
I get off work at 5:30 and then teach dance until 9:00. It’s impossible to eat dinner at 6pm.
- I pronounce Italian food terms correctly and cringe when they aren’t pronounced correctly.
It’s a dilemma every time I go back to Canada with my husband. I try to avoid saying Italian food names like, ‘ricotta’ and ‘spaghetti’ because as soon as I pronounce it correctly, my friends pounce at the opportunity to say, “oohh, you think you’re so Italian, now?” But, if I don’t pronounce it correctly, I will get scathing glares from my husband and a comment like, “after all these years in Italy, have you not learned anything?”
- I’m less politically correct
Italians are not the best at being politically correct. I still have relatives that call me “americana.” “Quando vai in America?” (When are you going to ‘America’?) They think it’s the same thing.
Another example of their political incorrectness is found in their desserts and coffees. An ‘African’ is a liqueur-soaked pastry topped with chocolate. A ‘Moroccan’ is a coffee with chocolate powder on top.
- I worry about the air conditioning being too strong because of fear that I will get a colpa d’aria.
- I hang my clothes outside to dry. I don’t use a dryer.
Having a dryer would be much easier but more expensive. I could avoid hanging clothes and most of all, avoid ironing them! But, everyone does it, so I guess that makes me feel better.
- I don’t tip unless the service is extremely good.
When I worked in Canada as a waiter, tips were necessary because we were paid minimum wage. In Italy, restaurants sometimes charge a ‘coperto’ of around 2,00/person to cover the costs of bread, breadsticks etc. Tips are appreciated, but not obligatory.
- I never wear running shoes or cross trainers outside of the gym.
In Canada, I used to go out sometimes in running shoes or cross trainers. When I came to Italy, I stuck out like a sore thumb. In fact, if you ride the metro in Milan, you can spot all the tourists by their shoes: If they are wearing runners, they are probably tourists.