Hello-bonjour, Canada!


It’s my own fault, really. I did say that I wanted a challenge.

My Canadian adventure certainly began that way with a missed connection and re-route via Calgary; A four-flight 32 hour journey of epic proportions. To top it off, my luggage was lost in transit. I had arrived in my new country with just a backpack and a sense of despondency.

So there I was, on the very first day of my new life. I should have been infused with excitement and anticipation, but instead I was sitting in a shitty hire car, wearing the same socks I’d put on two days earlier, wondering if my entire worldly possessions would ever re-appear.

Concerns about the validity of my travel insurance made me too scared to even drive said car, lest I crash and land in hospital with repair bills and medical costs big enough to bankrupt me. My imagination ran away with me and I was paralysed by fear of what awful things could happen, so very far from home.

Friends. It was a low point.

My fortunes turned around quickly, however, and later that evening I was in the company of a good friend and his lovely pooch in a park with a river and sunshine and wild berries and beers on a patio and recovered-baggage and Life. Was. Good.

Then all of a sudden I was at a music festival rocking out to one of my favourite bands of all time. AMAZING! Surely I had peaked too early. No subsequent experience in Canada could possibly top this.

What a crazy rollercoaster.

The last week has been somewhat more stable as I’ve been settling into my new home-town of Victoria. I’ve been busily running around finding a place to live, buying a car, driving on the other side of the road, opening a bank account, joining a gym and getting a local phone number.

I’ve made progress, but I feel like I’m having to rapidly re-learn every adult life-skill that I’ve acquired over the last 20 years. And it hasn’t always been completely straightforward to a foreigner like myself. Like, what’s the difference between a suite, condo and apartment? Why isn’t there a central real estate database? Does “hydro” refer to water, power, or heating? What’s the deal with car leases?

Adulting is hard in another country, y’all.

And harder still when you realise you’ve gone a week without having a single conversation with someone who wasn’t selling you something. (Note to self  – find some friends, ASAP.)

But, I’m slowly getting my head around things and enjoying having the time and space to observe my new surroundings and discover the things that are different to home.

Much of it is wonderful. Blazing sunshine until 9pm every day, baby deer along the road, beautiful snow-capped mountains on the horizon, a gazillion flowers everywhere, the most incredible huge bookstores, and charming little free libraries all over the place. Guys – I watched a Jane Austen improv show in a garden last night with cucumber sandwiches and homemade lemonade! It was SO delightful.

Some of it’s baffling. Why does every brunch dish come with a side of fried potatoes, greens or soup? Why is a “regular coffee” so huge? Why aren’t car indicator lights a standard colour?

Some of it is mildly annoying, or even down-right infuriating. For instance, taxes aren’t included in the listed price so you get a little extra 5-12% surprise with everything you buy.  And there is, apparently, no standard way of writing the date here. Canada doesn’t use standard international paper sizes, and uses a mix of imperial and metric for measurements. Meanwhile the local gym aka “fitness centre” has a tanning booth; the cancer causing, UV kind …I mean, WHAT THE ACTUAL?

So I find myself wondering… what do I find weird now that will soon become totally normal? What will still be weird 12 months down the track? Will there be things I find strange about home once I’ve been away for a while? Will I ever start to sound like a Canadian?

And, what of my Australianness do I cling to and what do I let go? How do I feel about saying “cell” instead of “mobile”, “trunk” instead of “boot” and “sweater” instead of “jumper”? If I adapt to the local language does it make me lose part of my identity? If I don’t, where is the line between charming foreigner and arrogant ex-pat?

One thing I will happily adopt is the title of “physician” which is applied much more broadly than in Australia. Let’s hope I can live up to my new fancy title as I take on my next challenge of learning to practice medicine in a completely new system. I anticipate many more rollercoasters ahead!

Stay tuned to hear how it all turns out…


4 thoughts on “Hello-bonjour, Canada!

  1. I’m loving hearing about the countries in reverse – I had similar (but different!) experiences when we first moved from Canada to Australia. Glad everything seems to be going well!

  2. Hi Penny!

    Ah yes, the wrong side of the road. Just when you think you have it, you’ll have to turn left from a one-way street onto another one-way street and for some reason it all falls apart.

    I wondered if I could ask your advice – I’m an Australian RACGP fellow looking at a move to Canada and wondered what your starting point was? Job first… locum agency first… exam first… etc.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated! And all the best with settling in 🙂


    • Hi Beth,

      It’s a long, complicated, frustrating and expensive process. You can’t go for locums, you have to go as a “permanent, full service doctor” so it’s a minimum 1 year full time-ish committment. I may write a post about it, as soon as I have healed from the pain of it all.

      First step is to decide which province you want to go to, and then contact their government-funded health recruitment agency (eg Health Match BC or equivalent).

      Good luck!

  3. Hey Penny, i think i bought your Fortuner and would love to know a couple of things about it. Any chance you could respond to my email address and I will ask you there?
    Cheers, James Swan

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