Pants, Malls and Garbage

2pm Vancouver time. 10pm Glasgow time.

I was Skype-ing three of my lovely pals and all was going well. How’s the weather? What have you been up to? Have you married a Mountie? Etc etc.

Then one of them pipes up with the following question:

“Are you wearing pants just now?”

The Scots may join me in thinking this is a slightly intimate question to ask even your closest friend. But as we know, in North America pants equals trousers. I can only assume that as I’d just mentioned I was off to the Mall and that I had a new cell number, that my pals were trying to tell me I’m beginning to sound like I’ve just walked out of an old-school 50s diner movie.

As well as talking about my pants, I’ve had to pick up a whole new vocabulary in order to communicate like a true Canadian.


Trainers – Runners

Juice – Pop

Couch – Chesterfield

Bonnet – Toque

Shopping trolley – Buggy

Advert – Commercial

Main Course – Entrée

Booze – Liquor

Flat – Condo

And the list goes on. I’m managing to pick up some of the words as I go and learning to correct myself when met with quizzical looks e.g. “I would like some chips and crisps” becomes “I would like some fries and chips”. (Not that I say that sentence much…!)

More importantly, however, is that there is one phrase I’ve managed to clarify that will come in very handy for anyone who happens to make it to North America:

Loo – Scottish

Washroom – Canadian

Restroom – American

It’s been pretty neat (NB: Canadian-ism) to navigate the cultural waters over here. Though most differences are subtle there are a few quirks that have taken some getting used to e.g. instant coffee is expensive because nearly everyone has a coffee machine, you can only buy alcohol in specific liquor stores and never in a supermarket, 5 cent pieces (nickels) are bigger than 10 cent pieces (dimes), you can turn right at a junction on a red light and if you go to Costco at the right time you can get a three course meal in samples.

However, the best cultural quirk I’ve found is the Canadian love of sports. It’s amazing that it’s such a big part of everyday life and not a niche thing for a small group of devoted fans. And even better is the fact that the teams are based in cities, rather than areas of cities, so neighbours and friends all root for the same side. I’ve been made an automatic Vancouver Canucks ice hockey fan and Vancouver White Caps fan for football/soccer by sheer fact of geographical location.


Rogers Arena in Downtown Vancouver – home of the Canucks

So, I’m getting there with my cultural integration. All I need now is a maple leaf tattoo like my cousins husband Tom and I’ll be all set.

P.S. As I write this, Canadian Word has been trying to take away all my u’s e.g. neighbour – neighbor. Some things are too sacred to give in to though!


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