One of the best parts of being an international student is the exposure to a different culture. I moved from Italy to Quebec more than a year ago, and like any international student I noticed the cold weather, the long Winter, the peculiar–and amazing!–bilingualism, and the differences in the food, the currency and the time zone. I think most of the people are mentally prepared to these things when they move to Canada.
This post is the first of a series in which I intend to talk about another kind of differences, i.e. those little everyday differences that are less obvious and less relevant, but still made me feel astonished when I noticed them.
In this first post, I’ll focus on transportation. The cars I see around here are, on average, bigger than in Italy. I have some hypotheses about the reasons behind this different size (larger streets? More room to park? Need to drive longer distances and desire to do it in a comfortable big car?), but I don’t know the answer for sure.
Let’s continue with cars. Canadians are so respectful when they drive! Some Canadians told me that Quebeckers aren’t as respectful as other Canadians behind the wheel, but from my perspective, Quebeckers drive very nicely. I don’t want to put down my home country, but at this point I think it’s better to give Canadians a little piece of advice that might be life-saving: If you ever go to Italy, pay extra attention before crossing the street, and don’t take for granted cars will stop to let you pass. Better wait until no vehicle is coming.
Let’s talk about cars, again. When I came here, I was surprised to notice that Quebec cars don’t have a front licence plate! And I was even more surprised when I discovered that Ontarian cars do have one, and thus different provinces have different rules concerning this aspect. Some more information about licence plates in Canada is available here.
Enough about cars. Let’s consider the streets. The first time I took a bus in Montreal, I thought its shock absorbers were broken. After several rides, I finally realized that the problem wasn’t the bus, but the number and depth of potholes on the street. Of course potholes can occur anywhere, and Italy is no exception. But my impression, confirmed by some Canadians I talked to, is that roads in Quebec do have a problem.
Let’s continue with roads, this time on a positive note. Canadian sidewalks are so large, I love them! And I love them even more when there’s a road verge between the sidewalk and the street. It feels so peaceful to walk there, and I like being safely separated from cars and motorbikes. I was quite amused when I saw for the first time a snowplow on a sidewalk and realized that yes, sidewalks are large enough to accommodate small snowplows. Amazing!
Enough for now. Stay tuned for part 2!
Please note that this series of posts is not meant to belittle Quebec or Italy, but to compare these two different worlds from the perspective of someone who has lived in both and appreciates both.