Cassandra: The Rest Of L’histoire
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Canada, etc.
I’ve paid the bills by working as a librarian, scoring the occasional freelance writing project, and teaching ESL/EFL. I love all three.
I pass my time being a jack-of-all-trades kinda geek. The things that really make me happy are coffee, eating and cooking new foods, hiking, learning about other cultures and local history, microbrews, South American wines, hiking, and baking bread. I like reading, playing the piano, learning about sustainable agriculture, and taking photos. I also love learning new words in French, watching television series and calling it studying, and am learning some Spanish. Oh, and I just bought a harmonica!
I moved to Montreal two years ago and am about to move across the vast country of Canada to Vancouver, which I’ll reach in November 2014.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started my current blog the day I moved to Montreal. Mostly I started the blog to keep faraway family updated and process what I was experiencing, but I soon realized I kept blogging because it kept me motivated to continue learning more about my new city. It’s also great to use as an online journal to refer to when I want to remember the name and place of that great crêperie we ate at that one time, etc. Plus I needed a reason to sit alongside all the Montreal hipsters in the coffee shops.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Of course I have favorites! I really enjoyed writing and sharing the post 14 Ways that 14 Months in Quebec has Changed Me. I also love telling people about Our road trip to the Gaspesie region of Quebec!
Tell us about the ways your new life in Canada differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My new life is different from my old in many ways. I walked across a beautiful park to get to work instead of driving. I fell in love with grocery shopping, stopping by stores and markets several times a week instead of going on my once-a-week grocery run. Instead of communicating in English and the occasional Spanish, I found myself surrounded by at least four different languages per day. My coffee intake also soared; I couldn’t resist the cafes.
Still, there was culture shock initially and as soon as I think I have figured things out, I’m surprised again. Within Quebec, nearly every day consisted of an awkward (but usually humorous) language exchange. Beyond language, I was floored and intrigued to learn the depth of Quebecois culture. One of the things that I really took to heart is how unique each part of the country of Canada is.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Canada? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Definitely not! I tend to think it’s impossible to be fully prepared, especially since I’d never been to either Montreal or Vancouver before moving there. I found reading local newspapers, following local blogs, and starting to learn French before going to be extremely helpful.
If I had to redo things, I’d be sure to do some listening comprehension practice with Quebecois French. Also, we should have familiarized ourselves with the renters’ rights in our province. We ended up paying some fees to secure our first apartment that were technically illegal to charge.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I enrolled in a French conversation class for immigrants and newcomers at the library. The group consisted of people from all over the world; every habitable continent was represented. During one of our early classes, we were asked to describe a traditional dish from our region to our classmates. After everyone had described a dish, the class voted on which regional specialty won the prize of “most bizarre.” Everyone decided there was nothing more bizarre than my Midwestern raspberry and pretzel Jello salad. Who knew Wisconsin cuisine was so exotic?
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Canada?
- Invest in some quality rain/snow gear. You’re going to do a lot of walking in slush (Montreal) or rain (Vancouver) if you live in the city, and your feet will thank you for having purchased those boots.
- Read up as much as possible before going. Read blogs, newspapers, and any good guide books you can get your hands on.
- Don’t ask someone [from Quebec] if he or she is a separatist upon meeting. He or she will share if it’s appropriate. Believe me, as the nerdy ex-political science major, I was super interested to hear views on the issue. But my friends also told me how appreciative they were that I didn’t ask them about it until they had casually brought it up in conversation.
How is the expat community in Canada? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Admittedly, in the beginning I wasn’t trying to meet other expats because I wanted to make an effort to meet locals first. That said, through French classes and networking, my expat social circle grew pretty quickly. We had little to no trouble finding other like-minded expats who wanted to explore the city with us. One of my best expat friends was actually made through my blog!
How would you summarize your expat life in Canada in a single, catchy sentence?
An amalgamation of bold coffee, city strolls, Franglais, maple syrup, country-side road trips, delicious carbohydrates, and all-around nerdiness.