Humour · Real LIfe

An Adventure Anniversary

This post is from 20-something Helen, like me from South Africa, and like me experiencing Canuckistan through an “expat’s” eyes. (Bits in green were added by me.)

“Would you like an adventure now, or shall we have tea first?” – Peter Pan


Exactly a year ago today, I spent my first day in Quesnel. Fondly called Q-town by its inhabitants, this strange little place has become quite dear to me. There is so much to say about this strange country, so many adventures to talk about. Perhaps the most entertaining aspects of this journey so far have been the accents, cultural differences and various misconceptions about both South Africa and Canada.

During one of my first weeks in Quesnel, I spent a fair amount of time with a girl I met at church. One night, as we sat talking about all sorts of things, she told me a rather sad story about someone she knew. I listened, interjecting, as any good South African would, at polite intervals, with “shame”. I was slightly confused by her look of shock each time I did, but I decided that I didn’t know her well enough to understand her facial expressions. It was only a few months later that she told me that, because of my accent and the fact that Canadians do not use the word “shame” as a sympathetic sentiment, she thought I had been swearing.

We’ve shocked many people by informing them that South Africa does, in fact, have a winter (albeit not as cold as here). We, in turn, were pleasantly surprised by summers that reach the 30s (barely, I should add). Many of you know Tumi, my beautiful black sort-of-sister. I told a few girls at the dance studio I attend that every first-born in SA is born black. And they believed me.

One of many conversations with a random stranger went something like this …

“You have a British accent! Where is it from?”
“South Africa.”
“Oh! I have a friend in South Africa!”
“Really. Where?”


The Canadian phrase “I don’t care” is equivalent to the South African “I don’t mind”. For quite a while I thought people were just being apathetic and rude. Also, saying you will do something “just now” means right now, not in a few minutes, hours or days. (Like when I told a kid at our church’s family camp to put a ball away where she had found it “just-now.” “Just now?” she asked aghast. “But I just started playing with it.”) Robots are called traffic lights, crumpets are called pancakes and pancakes, crepes. The milk is gay, the crackers are high and the shower gel is quite a chop*.

Homesickness and loneliness pestered me rather consistently in the beginning but I am now quite enjoying this new life. Even though my plans of studying, working and getting married have all gone out the window, I’m finally able to look at my confusing little life not as a mess but as a grand adventure that is constantly changing. Happy one-year-in-a-foreign-country to me!

* a derogatory term for a person acting idiotically.

Yep ...
Yep …
When they said BC had a drug problem, they weren't joking ...
When they said BC had a drug problem, they weren’t joking …
"I don' like that guy. He's a real douche.."-Nacho Libre
“I don’ like that guy. He’s a real douche…” – Nacho Libre

11 thoughts on “An Adventure Anniversary

  1. Hey Helen, you had me laughing out loud at some of the stuff. Well done, and well done on adjusting to a new life. Many of the plans you think go out the window just get in God’s hands again so he can upgrade them! Happy one year in Canada to you!

  2. It is always so interesting to discover the big and little differences in different cultures, the mishapps being the moments you can later joke and smile about. I remember when I lived in Montana, USA, and the students at school kept asking if we still had bathroom in the garden back in France or if we now knew how to use the shower… humourless at first, I learned how to see things with another person’s eyes.

    Thanks for sharing yours and Elen’s debut in Canukistan! 😉

  3. Yesterday’s conversation with a taxi driver:

    You have a British accent, where are you from.
    South Africa
    Which country in South Africa?
    The one called South Afr… never mind

    *stare out the window

    1. Oh, that’s hilarious! Generally I have this here:

      Your accent is a bit different, where are you from?
      South Africa.
      Oh, so you’re a doctor, then?

      1. Don’t worry too much about the ‘British Accent’ thing. Recently there were so many cricketers of South African origin actually playing in one capacity or another for England, because of English connections (Matt Prior, Jonathan Trott, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Craig Kieswetter, Jade Dernbach…) that there was a joke going round –

        Q: Where do the England team stay when they visit South Africa?

        A: With their parents.

        Funnily enough, the ‘British’ accent which is closest in timbre to a South African is that of a Channel Islander.

        Excuse the language on this link, but it’s the best example.

  4. As a Canadian reading I couldn’t quite figure out the paragraph for the gay milk etc. Thank you for including the pictures to clarify! I miss crackers that are high!

  5. What Helen said about Canadians not using the word “Shame” in the same way as South Africans is true for Australia too .. since moving to Australia I’ve learned to avoid the word altogether. But where’s the substitute .. just don’t know what to say sometimes!

  6. After having lived in South Africa for 3 years I can totally relate to this. Laughed out loud at the conversation about the accent and Ghana, and about the “just now” incident. Well written!

  7. The milk is gay – giggle.

    I get this a lot in the US
    ‘Is your accent South African?’
    ‘No I’m Australian, but I moved here from South Africa’
    ‘Oh, that must be it then’
    ‘No, its not, before then I lived in Hong Kong for six years, do I sound a little bit Chinese as well?’

    Just now – the bane of my existence for three years in Durban, seriously.

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