My Culture Shocks In Canada

No recipe today but a little bit of a story time. Since I moved to Toronto, I have experienced so many new things and had to adapt to a new culture. I always wanted to share my experience here and share a bit more of what it is to be a new immigrant in Toronto. When moving to a new country you know that it will be a new and exciting adventure and obviously things will be slightly different than where you’re from.

I came to Toronto for the first time around 4 years ago and came back 3 years ago. Even though Canada and France are very similar in many ways, there is still a big culture gap between the two of them and I had several culture shocks when I first arrived here. I will talk about the major culture shocks that I experienced in Toronto.

1- Oversize Canada

I think that the first thing that shocked me and impressed me at the same time in Toronto was how big the city was. I come from a small town in France, and of course have been visiting Paris and other bigger cities in France, but it was nothing compared to Toronto. The sizes of the buildings, the roads, etc. It was like a city of giants! It was also hard for me to realize the itinerary time to go anywhere. Distances are huge in Toronto, and even though it looked so close on the map, some places were actually quite far from where I was. In France, everything is closer, so for me, taking 1h to go somewhere in a same city was a real shock.

2- Multicultural

One thing that made me love Toronto so much was the melting-pot that this city is. I love how everyone’s culture is represented here and that I get to experience a bit of each without having to travel. What a pleasure to go to Chinatown, Koreatown or Little Italy! And as the food lover that I am, there was nothing better than being able to try foods from all over the world!

3- Food

Talking about food, this was one of the biggest shock for me! As a French person, you may guess that food is something really important to us and I guess this is why so many people find us so arrogant and elitist when it comes to food. The first thing that I will talk about are the quantities. The first time I visited a grocery store, what shocked me the most was how big everything was! Bottles of juice of 3 liters, no less than 12 eggs , sizes of chips bags, etc. In France, you will rarely find more than 1 liter bottles, and 6 eggs are more commonly bought. It was really hard for me to understand why so much was needed.

The second thing was more about the food itself. In France we really value food made from fresh ingredients, and the amount of canned or frozen food is rarely consumed when here it is half of the store. I do have to admit that culturally speaking it was quite a shock as in my country these kinds of foods are not well seen and avoided as much as possible. It is also difficult to find organic foods in a regular store and to know what is GMO or not, which are some of the main things we look back home.

4- Taxes and tips

You probably already know that but tips are not common in France. We do tip sometimes if we really appreciated the service but we only give between 2 to 5 euros. In Canada, of course I knew that I would have to give tips but being new to it, I had no idea what was 10% or 15% tip. And also, what a surprise to realize that tips are not only expected in restaurants but also in other places such as hairdressers, salons/spas or taxis.

The other interesting thing for me, was to discover that the tax is never included in the price which made it hard for me at first because I had to make calculations to know what would be the total price. Inconvenient at first but you get used to it.

5- Respect of others

Another thing that made me love Toronto so much was how respectful and nice people were here. I love how everyone wait for people to come out of the bus or the train before coming in, and were always willing to help when I was lost. I heard some people saying that people in Toronto weren’t nice but I never met such people.

6- Houses and apartments

I fell in love with the architecture of houses here. I love how most of them have a sort of patio in the front of the house with nice columns. This was a new sort of architecture for me. When it comes to the inside, it was unusual for me to see basements as it is not very common in French houses, but one thing I have to say is that houses are quite big here!

I have mostly lived in apartments here in Toronto and even in France, and I would say that they are very similar. The only differences are the bath tubs that are quite low here so it makes it hard for me to take baths, and the heating system. Also, in the majority of houses, toilets are separated from the bathroom in France when here it is always in the same room. In small apartments, of course toilets are in the bathroom, but it is quite unusual in a house for me. In France I would say that the most common ways to heat your house/apartment are mostly radiators or electric heating, when here it is a ventilation system for the majority.

7- Weather

I had to finish this culture shocks list with the weather. As you can guess Canada can be really cold in the winter and get a lot of snow, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise for me. Where I am from in France, we also get cold temperatures and lots of snow, but it is not as bad as in Canada. The first time I came to Canada, it did shock me a bit when it was -20C but felt like -30C with the wind! When you never experienced such cold temperatures it can shock at first, but put many layers on and it will be ok!

When I was the most shocked was in the summer. What a disgusting weather! It is hot and humid, which for me was the hardest to adapt too. Where I am from , the summer is hot as well but dry, so it is a little bit easier to live with. So my advice is to get a dehumidifier, it will help you a lot!


What about you?  Did you experience culture shocks as well? I would love to know your stories so let me know in the comments below!


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