Living in Ontario, Canada – Part 1

Or should I be more specific… living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – Part 1. I’ve crossed the Atlantic in November of 2006, just in time for winter, which I survived, and am now enjoying my first Canadian summer. To summarize this blog post, I really like living in the capital of this huge country. People are really nice, and many of them speak a language that reminds me of French, hidden behind an accent and some strange ways of saying things, that is for someone who grew-up on the other side of the Atlantic. As for when living in the UK before coming to this side of the world, there are things that come as a surprise to me, some constructive comments and other random thoughts not really worth mentioning. In no particular order, I’ll be covering the milk distribution, the temperature during winter, batteries recycling, the Canadian-French language, buying geek toys, hockey and weather news on USA channels.

First things first, surviving the Winter in Canada is not as difficult as rumor has. Basic rules of survival: 1: Stay inside (if heated) whenever possible; 2: Get warm cloths to cover your whole body when rule number one cannot be applied; 3: wait a few more years for global warming to really kick-in :-(. With my gear that keeps you warm up to -32 degrees Celsius (about -25 degrees Fahrenheit) and rule number one followed as much as possible (yes, plenty of time to enjoy my Playstation 3), it worked out well. And when you go to enjoy Winterlude or walk around the Gatineau Park, you’ll discover that there is a huge difference between -10 degrees and -20 degrees (both Celsius)… at minus twenty, your nose freezes from the inside because of the cold air you inhale! The dryness and very little wind most of the time make any temperature “above” -10 degrees C quite comfortable (for a limited amount of time). And for those who want to to visit Ottawa and don’t like the cold, avoid February and March… actually, from what I can tell, I also recommend avoiding the summer as it gets really hot and humid, with plenty of mosquitos and other strange flying things. Ideally, try June or September.

Now that myth number one has been covered, and you are waiting inside, let’s watch some TV. While not directly related to Canada, it is still amazing every time you go through US “news” channels such as CNN and stop on weather forecast to see that this snow storm shouldn’t be a problem for people living north of the border, as there is only a big nothing above the United States of America. I suppose the Swiss weather forecast do the same.

To continue on the theme “Winter”, I really enjoyed my first season of NHL… by the way, did you notice that it’s called National Hockey League? Anyway, the Senators (the local team) made it to the finals of the Stanley Cup this year and finished champions of the Eastern Conference (yes, I’m getting better at the lingo). I really enjoyed the games, but I enjoyed even more seeing how a whole city lives for their team, without the side effect of alcohol on Football fans in the UK for example (or should I say soccer now that I am in North America). On the topic, for those outside of Canada, did you know that there is the Under 20 FIFA world cup? Back to hockey. Not sure about the story behind, but having finals in June against a team from California seems a little strange… well, now that the NHL season is over, I’m getting into MiLB, e.g. baseball.

Good news for those of you who are environmentally aware, there is a system in place to enable sorting of the trash (cans, paper, garden, …) and the waste management company comes weekly to pick-up the various types of trash (quite a complex yearly schedule is provided, taking into account the holidays). But the one thing I haven’t been able to figure out yet is what to do with old batteries? Dear canadian friends, batteries are one of the most polluting things with a limited life-span. In Switzerland, every single store where you can buy batteries has also a special box to recycle them. In Canada, just like in the UK, I am still wondering what to do with my discharged batteries. If anyone has an explanation, please let me know, because I start having a pile of those at home!

And now for something completely different: Milk distribution. I have to admit that it took me a while until I understood what to do with the milk that you buy in plastic bags at the supermarket, but now I’ve got the whole equipment and am ready to enjoy my “Café au Lait”. It’s a great idea as it takes almost no space in the trash (see my previous paragraph) and isn’t worst than tetra-paks to keep milk in a container. It’s just a little surprising the first time you see it.

I couldn’t write a blog post about living in Canada without mentioning the local French language. I have to say, it can be difficult to understand the Canadian-French from Ontario at first (and sometime even after a while). It seems that the French spoken in Québec is a lot easier to understand. For those of you who want to give it a try, I can only recommend the web site Têtes à claques. It must be like “proper” English from Leeds in the UK! 😉

To end-up this first part of my living in Canada rant, I have to mention to all the geeks out there that coming to Canada won’t help with getting the latest toys at the same time as in the USA… the only benefit is that it’s only a car drive away compared to Europe! A few examples, Sony hasn’t released the Mylo or the eReader in Canada, the iPhone is nowhere to be found and I don’t think you can buy movies of the iTunes store. The good news is that depending on what you want to buy, with the current exchange rate between the Canadian and the US Dollars, it’s almost worth driving / flying over the border to do some shopping.

That’s all for now!