1. I stopped worrying about my looks.
The feeling that I need to look like I’m going to a job interview every time I leave the house is no longer. I only realized that Canada had a serious influence on the importance I put on my appearance when, on vacation in France, my mom threw away a pair of shoes because, to her, they looked like “they belong[ed] in the garbage.”
They were not brand new, but to my newly-acquired standards, they looked just fine. Never in France would I have left the house with a pair of hiking boots to go grocery shopping, put on my toque to cover a mess of tangles, or sport my yoga wear to have coffee with a friend. Instead, I would have put on some clean pumps, washed and blow-dried my hair, and changed into a “proper” pair of pants.
I’m not saying that Canadians don’t look good or make no efforts to do so, but because they are a very down-to-earth bunch, they just don’t seem to care as much. They know when looking elegant is a necessity and when one should just be practical, which is most of the time. In all fairness, shovelling snow in your heels before going to work, or spending hours doing your hair when you’re going to cover it up with a woolen hat all day, is ridiculous.
2. I stopped disobeying.
The first time I came to Canada, while on a walk around Nelson, BC, I tried to cross a street at a red light, but my partner held me back and said: “We need to wait. You’re not in lawless France any longer.”
Even though his comment was meant as a joke, it resonated with me and the habits of my compatriots. In France, we do tend to do whatever we want, whenever we want, breaking the rules if the consequences are limited. We park poorly halfway on the sidewalk and run out of our car to get some bread at the bakery, we smoke on the train station’s platform, and we never pick up our dog’s poop.
At first, I was baffled when someone would refuse to pull onto the side of the road to enjoy the view for a few minutes because it was “not allowed.” Who cares if it was not allowed? Well, apparently Canadians care. A lot. And because I don’t want to look like a wild French woman, I just started to care too. Also, I must admit, it makes living together a lot easier.
3. I stopped taking medical care for granted.
Those who praise Canada for its brilliant medical coverage have never been to France. I never thought it would be that expensive to have your teeth cleaned or get your eyesight checked. Are your teeth and your eyes less important than the rest of your body? In Canada, apparently so.
Let’s not mention how much one needs to pay to visit to the doctor without a care card (about $100 for a five-minute consultation).
I have even gone as far as waiting for a trip to France, where I am not covered for any medical care any longer, to have one of my teeth fixed ($58, please) and get a pair of brand new glasses ($55).
4. I stopped laughing at the French Canadian accent.
That’s just how I speak now.
Like the British one for English speakers, this accent is contagious. If you hang out with French Canadians long enough, you’ll quickly find yourself saying “tiguidou” and “J’suis tannée” to your wide-eyed parents.
5. I stopped using a cell phone.
Canadian cell phone plans are unbelievably pricey compared to what we pay in France (or anywhere else in Western Europe). I’m aware that cell coverage in a country that is 15 times larger than France is not an easy task, but I am still not ready to spend $80 or more a month on a cell phone bill when I can use my landline and call anywhere in the world for half the price. To be honest, it’s also a good excuse to not be constantly connected.
6. I stopped shopping for expensive clothes.
Before my big move, I had never been in a thrift store. I had spent the first 23 years of my life buying all my clothes brand new and at full price. It’s not that French people resent buying second-hand clothes, it’s just that thrift stores are not a common sight over there. In Canada, however, they are everywhere and their abundance completely turned my shopping habits around. Canadians love their thrift stores and I guess I’m becoming one of them, because I ditched my old habits for this greener and cheaper alternative rather quickly.