As I wrote in Everyday differences between Italy and Quebec–Part 1, one of my favourite aspects of being an international student is being immersed in a different culture. What is most interesting to me though, is that no matter how much you try to get prepared about your destination country in advance, when you finally move there you still find something that surprises you. And this is what this series of blog posts is about: The differences between my home country–Italy–and Quebec. The ones that I discovered only after having moved here. The ones that aren’t big, but still remind me that I am in a different country.
In the first post of this series I talked about cars and streets. Let’s continue from there, this time paying attention to house numbers. They are so high! Here in Canada I’ve seen house numbers higher than 20,000, and I often see numbers around 3000-6000, while in Italy the highest number I’ve ever seen is probably around 200. Apparently, there are two reasons for this. The first one is that in Canada, if a building has 3 floors and each floor has an apartment, then each apartment gets a number, while in Italy the whole building gets a number, which is shared by the apartments. The second one is that for some reason, the houses in certain roads are numbered starting from high numbers, such as 800 or 1000. I discovered this by searching random addresses with low numbers on Google Maps, and finding out that some roads just don’t seem to have low house numbers. I was astonished, and I didn’t manage to find out why some roads are numbered this way. I can only guess this is due to some practical or historical reason.
Speaking of houses, there is one everyday difference that sometimes still confuses me. Floor numbering. Here in Canada, when you enter a building at the ground level, you call it first floor, and if you go upstairs you find the second floor, then the third floor, and so on. In Italy, we call floor at the ground level ground floor (pianterreno), and thus the Canadian second floor in Italian is the first floor (primo piano), the Canadian third floor becomes the second floor (secondo piano), and so on.
The third difference lies in the city landscape. Both Montreal and Turin–the capital city of the Piedmont region, where I come from–are considered big cities, but their layout is very different. Indeed, Turin is filled with large apartment buildings of 4-6 floors–up to about 12 in the outskirts–and several apartments per floor, while in Montreal big apartment buildings are relatively uncommon, and there are instead plenty of houses with 2-3 floors, and 1-2 apartments per floor. When I go to Turin I can’t help thinking that people there live quite piled up, while Montreal, despite having more than a million inhabitants, seems to give people more room to breathe. Besides, I was very surprised when I noticed that even offices sometimes are located in 2-floor small buildings that at a first glance look like residential houses. They give an unexpected sense coziness.
The city landscape is also related to the fourth and last difference I am pointing out in this blog post. Montreal, for being a city, seems quite “rural” to me, and this compels me to review my concept of “urban” and “rural”. Indeed, every now and then there is a warning regarding the presence of wild animals in the city, such as coyotes or rabid raccoons, not to mention the countless squirrels. In Italy, despite having grown up in a village in the mountains, I didn’t see a squirrel until I was 11. Well, of course we have animals in Italy too, but the presence of a wild animal in a built-up area is seen as a rare event, and it’s almost inconceivable in a city, while here in Canada it is considered normal, or at least not surprising. Personally, as long as the animals aren’t aggressive–and they generally aren’t, I am happy to see them, because they make me feel less disconnected from nature.
Enough for now. Stay tuned for part 3!