I’ve got to admit that one of the really appealing aspects about living in Canada, is that everyone is extremely friendly, always say ‘hello’ and are keen to engage in conversation anytime, anywhere. In fact, my kids roll their eyes when we’re out shopping as without fail, the shop assistants will always initiate a conversation and as true as night follows day, my kids will be required to step in and translate the odd phrase or word that I’ve uttered which has created a look of complete bewilderment on the other person’s face. It’s one of my natural abilities …. to create total confusion. It’s even become a weekly sport that upon entering a ‘Tim Horton’s drive-through’ (other coffee shops are readily available), I’ll place an order through the speaker only to be given something completely different at the pick-up window. In the words of Forrest Gump, ‘you never know what you’re gonna get’……. and in typical ‘british’ style, I’ll accept it and pretend it’s exactly what I wanted at the very beginning.
But it’s not just in placing orders that I have an innate ability to create complete confusion and havoc. I’m from the north of England so will always refer to midday snacks as ‘dinner’ and our evening meal as ‘tea’. As it is. This has baffled many Canadian friends who assume we’re having a brew rather than food and are impressed that I sit down with my kids and we all enjoy a hot beverage together in an evening. I have tried to explain ….
And following a similar pattern to ‘tea’ being a meal, whilst also the national drink – attempting to explain the concept of ‘pudding’ as a meal course rather than a specific item on a sweet trolley. Not only that, factor in british food items which are referred to as ‘puddings’ – such as steak pudding, black pudding, yorkshire pudding and syrup pudding; along with their respective traditional accompaniments being chips, bacon, gravy and custard – all of which I strongly advise not getting mixed up. To the uninformed, it can be a minefield to navigate and upon attempting to explain the various nuances to Canadian friends, I’ve received some strange looks. Maybe that’s why nobody has ever taken me up on our offer of coming over for evening tea?????Now, I can talk the hind legs off a donkey and as such, carry on regardless. After 2 years in Canada, I can distinguish the look of despair and panic on someone’s face who is clearly struggling to understand both my accent let alone the words I’m uttering. So imagine my utter delight on a recent whistle-stop tour back to the UK where upon arrival at Heathrow Airport we were whisked to the car hire place by a ‘cockney’ bus driver – both of us engaged in conversational banter for a full 15 minutes with complete comprehension of what the other was saying. It was bliss. My kids still rolled their eyes in despair and chunnered, ‘she’s off again’, but at least they were redundant in their need to translate on my behalf. Charming.Never was it more apparent than when we were placing a food order in a local English pub. With each dish ordered, the waitress enquired if we wanted ‘chips’ with that. And the proper sort too – ‘fries’ for those reading this in another country, not crisps. Oh yes. There’s nothing quite like being back home again. It was short-lived and a welcome brief respite, before returning to the chilly snowy surroundings of western Canada.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are equally phrases and words used over this side of the pond that take some deciphering for us Brits – and even some Americans…. a ‘donair’ is a beef pita or wrap; ‘eavestroughs’ are ‘gutters’; ‘garburator’ is a garbage disposal unit; ‘loonie’ is one Canadian dollar whereas a ‘toonie’ is a two Canadian dollar coin; ‘fountain soda’ is a fizzy drink like cola or lemonade; and the phrase, ‘for sure’ is often uttered to mean ‘definitely’ or ‘absolutely’. One thing I refuse to say upon pain of death is ‘awesome’. Used in common parlance here to describe almost any situation that is better than moderately okay. I’m making it my mission to seek out and use as many alternative adjectives which convey the same meaning as something which is extremely impressive, excellent or inspires awe …
Life is full of idiosyncracies, and the world would certainly be a boring place if we didn’t inject a degree of confusion, variation and contrast. I like to think I can singlehandedly contribute to all 3 …..