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?”
“Oh! I have a friend in South Africa!”
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.