As I wrote in Everyday differences between Italy and Quebec–Part 1 and Part 2, being an international student means being immersed in a different culture, and it’s amazing. In fact, for me it really is a dream come true. And like nightime dreams, sometimes it gets surprising, because no matter how much you prepare before moving to a different country, you will always end up finding some unexpected differences between the country that just welcomed you and your home country—in my case, Italy. And this is what this blog series is about: Little everyday differences.
After having talked about cars, roads, streets, houses and cities, let’s talk about… shopping! No, I won’t talk about fashion trends—I had poor fashion taste when I was living in Italy, and I have poor fashion taste now, with the nice difference that Canadians don’t seem as judgemental about clothing as Italians. I will talk about things that affect anybody doing any kind of shopping.
Let’s start with shop showcases. In Italy, shop owners are obliged by law to clearly show the price tag of the items they decide to put in their showcases. I really like this, because when I go shopping for, say, a sweater, my first exclusion criteria most of the time is not based on the color, the shape or even the size, but it is based on the price (speaking of poor fashion taste…). In Italy, since showcases include the price tags, I can decide at first glance that about two thirds of the shops I pass by are too expensive for me, and I can quickly see, within the remaining third, which shops are the most likely to meet my needs. Unfortunately, Canadian shops are clearly not held to show the price tags, and I do miss the information.
Now, let’s pretend I made up my mind and decided to buy a certain sweater. The price is the one on the tag. Plus tax. In Italy we do pay taxes, but they are already counted in the price written on the tag, while in Canada they are not. On the one hand, I understand why: Separating the tax from the price somewhat makes customers more aware of where their money goes. On the other hand, it is a bit unsettling to never know the exact price until you are at the checkout counter.
Let’s end on a positive note: Interac! In Canada, if you owe your friend $50, you just need to know their email or cell phone number and agree with them on a security question, and then you can easily and immediately send the money to them via Interac. It doesn’t matter what email address or cell phone number it is, as long as it is used by your friend. And it doesn’t even matter what your bank is, or what your friend’s bank is: If they are both Canadian, it’s fine. And, as far as I know, free. And immediate. To my knowledge, in Italy we don’t have anything like this. If you want to send money, you usually need to know the IBAN code of your friend’s bank account, which is a 27-character code. Twenty-seven. And there is no security question for the person who receives the money. And generally there’s a fee. And it can take a couple of business days. Well, some Italian banks do seem to have systems similar to Interac, but they are specific to the customers of that bank, not as universal as Interac is in Canada. Honestly, I am not unhappy with the Italian bank transfer system, but I have to admit that the Canadian Interac seems much more advanced.
Enough for now. Stay tuned for part 4!