Coming to Canada, I had many different expectations based on stereotypes about maple syrup, hockey, politeness and wearing shorts during snowstorms. Many of the things turned out to be quite true, but to my surprise, there were many other elements of this country I did not expect.
I knew the climate was different, but I did not realize just how different. Ukraine has a mild climate with high humidity, so there are all four seasons with their specific and great changes.
While in Ukraine -15ºC felt unbearable, -30ºC in Canada is actually not that bad, and the same can be said when the temperature is high. Typical summers in Ukraine are very stuffy, even when it's just 15ºC. In Canada, the same temperature is perfect and won’t make you sweat that much.
Manitoba’s architecture definitely surprised me at first. Many buildings are made in a simplistic box design and are all quite similar to each other. It is unbelievable how strange it is for a European to see one box after another for the first time.
Also, Canadian cities are absolutely gigantic. When describing Winnipeg to friends or relatives, I usually use the joke that Winnipeg is like Lviv, a large city by Ukrainian standards, multiplied by three.
Having learnt and used English as a translator, it was much easier for me to use English to communicate for the first time. Many Ukrainian newcomers don’t realize how difficult it is to learn the language on the spot. It’s definitely a challenge, especially for people who now have to use English every day for tasks like buying groceries.
What surprised me was that all of the text on Canadian products is usually doubled, in both English and French. This makes it a bit easier to learn French on the spot by looking at the spelling of some of the words.
Most groceries are also different from what’s available in European supermarkets, which don’t have a vast range of products. Shoppers may easily feel overwhelmed when seeing such a variety of options.
It is especially interesting to see that many products come in different versions, some having no salt or sugar added. And perhaps one of the most unique peculiarities I saw was the international aisle, presenting many choices and giving shoppers the chance to try new cuisines.
I must say that the “nutrition value” side of food packaging is interesting and easy to use. In Eastern Europe, I only saw lists of iingredients.
No matter how incomprehensible the Americas may be to the European mind, they are distinct and definitely worth experiencing. And perhaps Canada is one of the greatest examples of what you may find, trying to get to know what it is like to live on the other side of the world.
Volodymyr Andreiko is a newcomer to Winnipeg from Ukraine. He is a translator and student at the University of Winnipeg interested in music, literature, philosophy and culture.
Published in Volume 78, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 30, 2023)