Almost three weeks ago I moved to Canada to be with my girlfriend. I’ve never lived in another country before, so this emigrating thing is all completely new to me. I thought it might be interesting to write a bit about my experience of adapting to a new culture and environment.
I suppose I should start by explaining why I moved to Canada in the first place. I met my girlfriend in the UK but she isn’t a British citizen, so she found impossible to get a job there once we had both completed our masters. Mind you, I couldn’t find a job either and I am a British citizen so… As she was unable to stay in the UK and I couldn’t go to her country for various reasons, we had to find somewhere else. We chose Canada because it’s an English-speaking country, LGBT-friendly and relatively open to immigrants when compared to other places, like the UK, for example. We ended up in Newfoundland because my girlfriend has a friend living there already, so we would know at least one person when we arrived – and in addition we both wanted to apply for graduate courses and Memorial University in Newfoundland has the cheapest tuition fees in Canada. So here we are.
It’s been two weeks already, we have a little basement flat (or ‘apartment’, as they say here), my girlfriend has started her graduate course at Memorial and I am now waiting to apply for a work vacation visa because my course plans didn’t work out quite as I expected, for reasons which I won’t go into here because it would take an entire blogpost just to explain the whole sorry mess and it’s frankly far too dull and irritating anyway.
So, Newfoundland. Here is a list of things that I knew about Newfoundland before I arrived:
1) It is actually an island off the coast of Canada.
2) It has a very small population for its size
3) The main city, St John’s, is also very small, for a city
4) The winters are not as cold as other places in Canada but still definitely colder than the UK (average temperature in winter is 0 and it can apparently go down to -10 or lower).
5) You can go hiking, whale watching, kayaking and many other wildlife/adventure-oriented activities
6) Newfoundland dogs come from there
And here is a second list of things I have learnt about Newfoundland from speaking to locals and just generally absorbing the atmosphere:
1) It’s pronounced NewfinLAND, not NewFOUNDland or NEWfoundland. The first two syllables run together a bit and the emphasis is on the last syllable.
2) The “Newfie” accent is an odd but charming combination of Canadian, Irish and Somerset, if you can imagine that. If you can’t, here’s a video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQc43b4OsRg.
This is because the European settlers who came over here mainly originated from Ireland and South West England.
3) Newfoundland has only recently become part of Canada (in the last few decades) and some people who live here still aren’t happy about it.
4) Many rural communities are very isolated
5) It’s apparently rare to see Newfoundland dogs but we’ve already met two people who own them
6) It can get VERY windy here and I imagine that in winter, when it’s cold and snowing, this is going to be an absolute bitch.
In addition to all this, people are very friendly and helpful – and drivers are also very courteous! I don’t know if this is a Canadian thing or just a Newfoundland thing, but if you start crossing the road (even if it’s not at a pedestrian crossing), cars will slow down and patiently wait for you – even on main roads. This is pretty amazing if you come from somewhere like the UK, where drivers are extremely reluctant to slow down for pedestrians and will probably honk their horns at you if you try crossing anywhere that isn’t an official crossing – or indeed if you use a pedestrian crossing just after the green man has gone. I like the fact that pedestrians seem to have a stronger presence on the road here – and this is despite the fact that St John’s is definitely more car-friendly in terms of distances to things like the mall or the supermarket. I had a car in the UK but it seems too much hassle to bother getting one here. This makes it a bit tiresome when lugging groceries back from the supermarket, but at least means that I am getting a bit more exercise!
I’ve decided to keep this quite a short post because I’ve only been here three weeks and therefore I’m still gathering impressions and reflections about the place, but I will make notes on new things as I come across them and write another blogpost fairly soon! I’ll leave you with some photos that I’ve taken of St John’s, which will give you a rough idea of what the city and surrounding area looks like – the first four are of the harbour, the next eight were taken at the top of Signal Hill, which is a short walk (and a hard climb!) from the harbour and the last one is of the street that we’re currently living on, all quiet and peaceful in the weekend sunshine!