Moving to a new country requires you to do a lot of planning in advance, which I thought I had taken care of. But even so, there are some lessons in life that you only learn when you experience it firsthand, and that’s when you might be in for a few culture shocks. Here are some of the 10 bizarre culture shocks in Canada that I was absolutely not prepared for.
10 Culture Shocks In Canada That Took Me By Suripse As An International Student
Full disclaimer before we dive in: none of the things mentioned here are meant to offend anybody; these are some real experiences that a lot of international students such as myself had after moving to Canada, and it’s not a negative reflection of any culture, but rather a reminder of how diverse our society is, and how things are done differently in different countries.
1. Tapping Credit Cards Is The Norm Here
One of the first culture shocks in Canada that really took me by surprise is how casually people use the tap option for their credit cards here. Not only is this option not available in Bangladesh, but as a newcomer, I was also slightly concerned about safety: what if your purse gets stolen and your credit card is used before you even realize it’s missing?
Now that I have been living here for a month, I realize that the chances of having your purse stolen or pickpocketed without your knowledge are very slim. The streets are rarely crowded here, and even when they are, people here give you a wide berth out of courtesy so it’s unlikely you would bump into someone and lose your valuables.
2. People Hold Doors For You And Let You Walk First
And that brings me to the second culture shocks in Canada that I was not expecting. People here will hold doors for you and they will respect your space. When you are out in public, it’s very common to see people pausing to let you walk first. It’s a very small gesture, but it’s so wholesome and polite that it made me feel very welcome here.
3. Lots Of Angry Geese Everywhere
If there’s one thing I absolutely was not expecting in Canada, it would be the geese. And how everyone stays clear of them. In Bangladesh, migrating birds are a beautiful sight to behold, and they are relatively friendly–at the very least you don’t need to be afraid of being swarmed by them when you try to feed them.
The situation with the geese in Canada is very much different. The people here might be nice, but the geese? Not one bit.
4. The Weather Changes At least 5 Times A Day
I have a whole new appreciation for the accuracy of my iPhone’s weather app because the weather in Canada changes dramatically several times in one day. It quite literally feels like living through 4 seasons in 24 hours. While I understand this might not exactly fall under the category of “culture shocks in Canada”, I did have to get used to carrying sunscreen, an umbrella, and a waterproof hoodie on me at all times.
One great thing about this ever-changing weather? You get to see gorgeous sunsets like this almost every other day.
5. People Do Not Send Out Personal Invitations To Parties
South Asian hospitality has no comparison, and so it’s very normal in Bangladesh to receive personal invitations to someone’s home–be it through text, phone call or in person. No matter how casual the party or gathering is, we generally do not go over to someone else’s house unless we have received the invitation from the host directly.
So imagine my surprise when I realized that over here, you may not always get invited to a party through the host themselves, but through other guests! While it’s definitely sweet and has its perks, it took some getting used to for sure.
6. Groceries Cost Less When You Buy In Big Bulks
One of the biggest culture shocks in Canada that I experienced happened in a place where I least expected it: in grocery stores. In Bangladesh, it is usually more expensive to buy groceries in bulk from the supermarket–that’s what the wholesale bazaar is for. In Canada, it’s the total opposite. Buying items in smaller quantities end up costing a fortune, which is an issue for me because I only do shopping for myself.
7. The Price Tags Do Not Mention Taxes Or VAT
Another culture shocks in Canada: price tags do not mention taxes or VAT. In Bangladesh, you knew exactly how much you would pay for VAT anywhere–be it at a restaurant or at a clothing store or at a supermarket. Here, you kinda have to do mental math on the spot if you are budgeting real hard like me, which is honestly a little troublesome.
8. The Price Of Groceries Vary From Store To Store
Next up on my list of culture shocks in Canada that no one warned me of are the price of things. In Bangladesh, we use the MRP system, which means all stores are legally required by law to sell a product at the same price. Over here, I have to move from store to store to figure out where I can buy which item at a better price.
9. Fresh Food Items Spoil REALLY Fast
Now this is one of those culture shocks in Canada that made me feel better about my life here: how quickly the fresh food spoils. In Bangladesh, there is an unfortunate malpractice of overusing preservatives in fish, meat, dairy, veggies, and fruits…you name it. So seeing how quickly fresh food spoils here actually made me feel better about what I was putting in my body because it meant not too many preservatives were being used.
10. Homeless People Aren’t Always Harmless
Finally, the last one on my list of culture shocks in Canada would be the homeless people. In Bangladesh, you see homeless people as well, so naturally, I grew up with a lot of sympathy for people in these unfortunate situations. But in Bangladesh, most homeless people simply ask you for a bit of extra change and money and leave you alone.
In Canada, it’s best not to interact with homeless people if you can help it, because they might harm you. On my second week in London, there were rumors going around about a homeless man who would go around asking people for directions, and then stab them in the stomach if they actually responded.
I didn’t want to believe these stories until I encountered them myself. It was then that I understood why not all of the homeless people here were harmless–unfortunately, these people were suffering from substance abuse and were not always aware of their own actions. And though it breaks my heart to see their condition, I know I have to keep my distance to prioritize my own safety first.
That wraps up pretty much all the culture shocks in Canada that I have faced so far. And if I am being honest, I am enjoying most of these new changes in my life.