(Titled borrowed from Stuart Maconie’s very funny book about Northern Britain)
Canadians don’t tend to write dates backwards like Americans do. (ie: 03/04 would be the third of April, not the 4th of March). However, they do celebrate PI-Day, the 14th March (“3.14”). So, we had a potluck lunch at work on 14th, and my contribution was Pi-pie.
At least this time, people got it! What they didn’t understand though was my love of savoury pies. That one was Caribbean style with beef and loads of peppers and I confused them all before when I made a giant Cornish pasty. Here, pies are sweet, and bakeries only serve doughnuts. I miss Greggs!!
Best news ever: My MAD geeky friends are coming out to visit!! Hilary and D, those sarcastic folk from London famous for Lego, working at the BBC and naked sauna parties, and who made comments about us being insane for moving somewhere so cold – they are voluntarily coming here. Not until October unfortunately, but YAAAAAAAAY anyway.
As soon as I heard this news, I wrote them a postcard, to prepare them for their arrival in this alien culture. It said something along the lines of:
“We will get cold watching the hockey, eh? But we can eat maple doughnuts and roll up the rims on our Timmies double-doubles, while somewhere nearby (about 5 hours away) a moose will nod appreciatively. Don’t forget your toques!”
Believe it or not, that was not (just) an exercise in ‘how many Canadian stereotypes can I fit on one postcard?” – I genuinely believe they will have NO IDEA what “Timmies,” “toques” or “double-doubles” are. They don’t measure distance in hours, and I’m fairly confident that D will think “rolling up the rim” is a sex act. He still hasn’t got over the concept of the Regina Farmers’ market, poor boy.
Last week I was sitting nervously wearing a 10 year old suit jacket and feeling like a complete berk, having a very high pressure discussion about my future job prospects. I faced the usual questions relatively well, or so I thought – research skills, can I do quantitative? Why Coffee? Why Regina? yadayadayada. Then came the question that threw me off-guard. “So, you’re an anthropologist; what cultural differences have you noticed here?”
Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many cultural differences between here and the UK, and probably even quite a few between Saskatchewan and other parts of Canada, but explaining them eloquently under pressure without offending anyone was beyond me. I made some awfully vague comments about everyone being friendlier, and fortunately managed to sidetrack the conversation away by pointing out how everything is designed around the car here. Which is true, and something I am acutely aware of and can’t seem to get used to, but it is certainly not the most striking cultural difference. The devil is in the details as they say. Things like not eating savoury pies, the innate apology-reflex and the adorable national obsession with a gimmicky competition designed to flog cheap coffee.
Some of the stereotypes do ring true. Canadians are very polite, but it’s not always a good thing. You can be deterred and unnerved by politeness, or lulled into a false sense of security. I didn’t get that job, but the woman who interviewed me sure as hell wasn’t going to tell me that. She was too polite. In some ways, that is even more infuriating.
On the surface, everyone is very friendly here, courteous and considerate – and they know they are, hence the “I’m sorry we’re so awesome” memes after the Winter Olympics! It is also much more classless in comparison with the UK. Back there, no one was too fond of claiming what ‘class’ they fitted in to, but it was constantly in the collective consciousness. There were the usual references to ‘middle class Guardian readers’ or some posh toff politician claiming to come from a “normal working class background”. Yes, I’m sure you did grow up on an estate, Cameron… your family just happened to own it…. Here, however, there is none of that. I’m well aware that I live in a nice comfortable middle class and lefty-liberal bubble, but very few call it ‘a middle class area’.
That is not to say that ‘classism’ or other forms of prejudice don’t exist though. I recently had an eye-opening discussion with a friend about our local schools. As of yesterday, Connaught school where Miranda went to pre-kindergarten, is officially no more. http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/Saskatchewan/ID/2339282560/
It will be closed in June, and then knocked down. (This topic deserves a blog post all to itself but it makes me so angry that it’s taken ages to start writing, and each time I do, something else happens to make me need to rewrite!). Anyway, there has been outrage in the local community, and the school board couldn’t have handled it worse if they’d tried. In what passed for “public consultation”, the parents were given different options of what should happen next – where the kids could go in the interim between the school being knocked down, and them (hopefully) building another one. To my mind, none of the options were remotely plausible – and as it turns out, futile too, since the eventual outcome completely disregarded the views of the parents anyway. One option, which the school board finally decided on this week, was to bus all the kids over to Wascana school, which is currently standing empty. The Wascana school kids are now in the brand new Seven Stones school. At the public consultation meeting back in February, this idea was suggested, and shouted down with boos from the parents. I confess ignorance here: I didn’t know where Wascana school is, and I didn’t know why it was empty. As the name suggests, I thought it was some school near Wascana lake, and I thought it was empty because it was falling down or something – and that was why it was an unpopular choice.
As it turns out, Wascana School is nowhere the lake. In fact, it is above the train tracks from here, in the North Central neighbourhood, otherwise known as “the hood”. I’ve mentioned it before on here. Before we moved, I was warned by several people not to move to that area. Now we’re here, I have had other parents aghast that I took Miri to Scott Collegiate for the Early Years Family Centre there, because it involved walking through the hood. I never had any problems whatsoever up there, and I always felt far, far safer there and more comfortable than I did just walking between my house and my own business back in Darlington. But no, apparently, these polite, courteous, laid back, liberal and classless Canadians won’t send their little darlings to a school the wrong side of the tracks. And their reasoning, conscious or otherwise, is worthy of another blog post all to itself because it is even more disturbing!