It’s been 4 long years that we have lived in Germany, and while I will miss my new home incredibly, there is nothing like being back on Canadian soil. I didn’t even realize how much I missed Canada until we were visiting in April, to find a house at our new location.
There are a handful of quirks, foods, cultural nuances, and experiences, that just can’t be replicated across the pond. As an ex-pat, these are the top things that I miss about Canada.
1 – Bagged Milk
What is bagged milk, you may ask? It is the single greatest invention since sliced bread. Gone are the days of shlepping 3 cartons of milk home every other day. Bags of milk hold 4 litres between 3 bags, which store nicely in the fridge. But how do you pour milk from a bag? With a milk jug of course. And every family has at least a dozen of those little milk bag opener magnets somewhere around the house.
The only thing better would be a return to daily milk delivery by the glass jug. Check out the history of bagged milk for more info. And by the way, 3% of milk, is called Homo milk, because it’s homogenized. Don’t ask questions, just go with it.
2 – Turning right on the red
So many Germans, and British, gasp with disbelief when I tell them how we drive back home. What do you mean you turn right on the red? Why would you do that? Because we don’t have nearly as many cars on the road as you Europeans do and clearly we only do it when there is no on-coming traffic. We aren’t a bunch of hooligans, plowing down pedestrians at every turn…Well, not in Ontario anyway.
3 – Vachon Treats
Seriously, I love my Canadian snacks. Not only is our version of Smarties and Hershey Kisses better than the UK or American version, we have our own line of “specialty” snacks that are not exported outside of the country. Of course, I didn’t know this when we left Canada all those years ago. As I skurry the isles looking for something, anything, that I recognize, I come to the quick realization that I am forever at the mercy of the German bakery. Not a horrible trade, mind you, but a devastating blow to my road trip snack packs.
4 – Tim Hortons
Thought this would be higher on the list, didn’t you? While I do miss Timmies tremendously, I technically got my fix while we were in Scotland last summer and Coffee can be ordered from Amazon. Tim bits aren’t easily replaced but the Quarkinis available at most German bakeries come in close second.
I even have the kids calling them Tim Bits (it’s the English word for Quarkinis, of course), in order to make the transition a little easier come moving day.
5 – Poutine
In Germany, you get what you get. Your menu says your meal comes with fries (Pommes), then that’s what it comes with. I love being able to switch my fries to a Caesar salad, but mostly I love switching it for a poutine. I don’t want a poutine for a meal, cause that’s huge, but as a side; perfect!
There are plenty of places to get your fix without finding a poutinery; A&W (in Canada), St Hubert (only in Quebec) and New York Fries (surprisingly, a Canadian company) all serve amazing poutine.
Until then, we will have to settle for St Hubert packaged poutine sauce and make it ourselves; it’s not the same but it’s pretty darn close.
6 – Screens on windows
While I love the German pull-out windows, I am currently surrounded by flies, impatiently waiting for the moment to strike at my glass of wine. We don’t generally leave our doors open for longer than needed so they are clearly coming in from the windows. And they are relentless. Many times, they hover near a window, it’s like they have no idea how to get out now that they are in.
7- Mr Bubble
Yeah, yeah, I know. I can get a myriad of brands here, but I just LOVE Mr Bubble. And so do the kids. It is rather expensive to buy online so we have gone without for 4 years unless we find ourselves near an American shop, which isn’t often, then we stock up.
8 – Moose sightings
Ok, Moose sightings do mean an increase in traffic due to all the tourists stopping to take their picture, and others driving super slow to avoid hitting a Moose (because only the Moose walks away from a car accident involving a Moose), I do love the looks on Europeans’ faces when I describe a Moose.
The German word for Moose is also the same word for Deer, so using Google Translate isn’t an option. A drawing works, but then you need to get the scale right. Imagine this conversation; it’s bigger than a deer (the largest animal in Europe, if you don’t count Nessy), has giant horns, will destroy your car if you run into it, and is roughly the size of a bear. But don’t worry, its an herbivore.
9 – Camping
I’m not sure if it’s a German thing or a European thing, but the locals don’t camp. It is certainly not in a tent. They campervan. Not the same thing, sorry. I absolutely love the smell of a wood stove/campfire, roasting marshmallows, and garlic bread. We camped a few times in Canada, and Munchkin got a real liking for it. Now that we are moving back near Algoniquin Park, I think we will have to take them camping more often.
10 – White Christmas
I don’t like shoveling, I definitely don’t like shoveling minutes before the snow plow comes and clears the road in front of our house (an hour of work, wasted), and I especially don’t like slipping on ice, but there is something to be said for having a white Christmas. I understand there are plenty of places on this Earth where it is traditionally Green for the Christmas season, but up here in Canada, it snows from October to April, if you’re lucky (Looking at you Calgary). I have grown accustomed to seeing snow in December and it has become part of the Christmas spirit. Experiencing 4 green winters has become a little depressing.
Just visit a part of Europe that snows for Christmas? Not as easy as it sounds! 3 years in a row, we have ventured to Switzerland and Eastern Europe for Christmas holidays and do you know what we found? Green! Prague wasn’t even cold, it was raining for crying out loud.
I know there are plenty of expats that would disagree with a good portion of these, mostly snow and moose sightings, and that’s fair. Life really is simpler when you only have to dress for 3 seasons, instead of 4, and screens can technically be added to most windows with velcro but it just isn’t the same.
I’m a Canadian at heart, and you can move me halfway across the world, but Canadian news will always be at the top of my BBC feed, I call my parents house ‘back home’. I miss having small talk with random seniors that stop to chat about the kids.
As frivolous and nonsensical that this list may be (seriously, I miss milk bags and traffic lights?), it’s the little things that all add up over time that make up a country and a culture, not just the physical ground I am standing on.
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