Monday, September 16, 2013

5 Things I Found Weird Upon Returning to Canada

A few months ago, I stood on Canadian soil again for the first time in 10 months. Those 10 months I spent in the Philippines, working at international school (if you don’t know that already). It was really good to be home, but it was definitely a switch!
It was a lot less of a culture shock than I expected, but that makes sense since I only spent 10 months of my life so far in the Philippines and 18 years in Canada. Still, there were a few little things that threw me (and still kind of do). I thought I’d share those things with you, and in doing so give you a glimpse into little bits of my life in the Philippines.

Things I thought were weird when I got home:

1.    Hearing Canadian accents.

My first entry into Canada was in Vancouver before we were to catch our connecting flight home, and there was a woman volunteer guiding us in the right direction, and the last thing I expected to come out of her mouth was a Canadian accent, but it was there! I mean, it makes no sense that I would think that, because I was in Canada but...

...the Philippines is on the other side of the world from North America, so it isn’t a popular tropical vacation destination for North Americans. Why fly for 24 hours when you can get to Cuba in four? Also, Americans are everywhere because there are so many of them, and there are not very many Canadians. Basically, if you see a white person (which is rare enough), they are American unless proven otherwise by their accent or other distinguishing characteristics.

In short, I was not used to hearing Canadian accents, so it surprised me when I did hear them! (Also, when I see people wearing Canada shirts, I still think in my head excitedly, They’re wearing a Canada shirt!! And then I remember that I’m actually currently IN Canada and it makes sense and I do not need to bond with them in my head over being from the same country and finding each other on the other side of the world).

I wore my Canada shirt climbing Mt Pinatubo... and met two Canadians as a result! Yay.

2.    A significant decrease in outdoor activity after 9 PM.

It was so weird to see stores closed and only a few people milling about on the streets once it got dark. In downtown Manila, there are ALWAYS people around and up and about, and always a lot of people, too. Seriously, you could get caught in the middle of a traffic jam at 4 AM. I guess that’s what happens in a city of around 16 million. It was still weird when I got home that the city actually quieted down and activity actually decreased at night.

3.    The weather!!!

This is probably the biggest one. In Manila, the temperature stays the same every day, and all day, only dropping a couple of degrees once the sun goes down. Once I got home, I kept forgetting that the temperature increases significantly throughout the day and decreases significantly into the evening.

In Manila, I would wake up, decide what to wear by how hot I was feeling at that moment, and be fine (albeit hot but that’s pretty much inevitable) for the rest of the day. Here, I have to think of how it might get warm later and layer and decide whether to suffer being cold or hot and remember to bring a sweater if I’m going to be somewhere after the sun goes down... the weather in the Philippines may be hot and humid, but at least it’s uncomplicated!

4.    Toilet paper in public washrooms.

There is no toilet paper in any public washroom in the Philippines, and sometimes even no toilet seat. Back home now, I keep forgetting that, and when I’m on the way to a public washroom I think in the back of my mind, Do I have Kleenex in my purse? And then realize that I don’t need it! There will be toilet paper in the stall! To be honest now that I’ve thought about it (and done it for a year), it’s not really that big of a deal to carry Kleenex in your purse and not have toilet paper in stalls. But it is a very nice luxury for North America to provide, that’s for sure.

5.    The weight of Canadian coins also threw me for a while, because it’s a lot lighter than the huge Philippine pesos and other coins.

So, these were a few things that threw me upon returning to Canada, but for the most part everything was actually completely normal and familiar – which was probably the weirdest thing of all!

Have you ever experienced culture shock in your own country?


  1. Yep! I hated the move back to the States after living in Germany for four and a half years. HATED it.

    More recently, I returned to the US after studying abroad in Mexico. The toilet paper thing was a factor, but different. Sometimes in Mexico, you have to pay for toilet paper in a public restroom. Also, you have to toss it in the trash can because most pipelines are too small to handle it or something. This actually leads to private homes keeping their bathrooms cleaner...though public restrooms are universally gross everywhere.

    It sounds like you had a really good experience living abroad! I'm glad you were able to have that opportunity. :)

    1. Woah you lived in Germany for four and a half years? Cool, what were you doing there?


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