As a Canadian immigrant, it’s natural that you’ll want to hold on to your history and the culture of where you were born, and where you probably still have family. But when you move here, you’ll also want to fit in and feel at home in your new country. As Canada approaches its 150th birthday this year, it got me thinking about how Canadian I now feel and the things which have contributed to that.
The call of the loon
I arrived in Canada not long before the 2006 federal election. At that time I had no interest in, or understanding of, the Canadian political system – and of course wasn’t yet eligible to vote. Politics? Forget it! I was far too busy just navigating everyday life.
But one thing that did grab my attention was my local CBC radio morning show. From my earliest days here, the call of the loon that featured as part of their theme music, and the now familiar voice of the presenter, provided a sense of comfort and familiarity–of being “home.”
“Morning North,” “Up North” on the drive home, and “As It Happens” while I’m cooking dinner–all quickly became a part of my life here. I didn’t (and still don’t) have TV, so I relied a lot on the radio, gradually learning more about the local news scene and eventually the national picture.
Learning the lingo at Tim’s
Double double? Roll up the rim? Timbits? Despite now being owned by the American burger chain, Wendy’s, Tim Horton’s is a Canadian institution and you’ll feel extra Canadian once you decipher the lingo at “Tim’s” as it’s known.
I have happy memories of “Everything bagels” with cream cheese during our many house hunting trips over here. Having just flown in from England, which is 5 hours ahead on time, we were always up ridiculously early at the beginning of Canadian holidays. Since those days, the Tim’s menu–along with the calorie count–has expanded. I don’t tend to stop in there now unless we’re on the road, but I still enjoy a Tim’s steeped tea now and again.
O Canada & hockey bewilderment
Attending my first and *embarrassed cough* only hockey game as a brand new immigrant was certainly an experience. Hockey–never “ice hockey”–is THE sport in Canada, so my husband and I figured we should turn out to see our local team in action – the Sudbury Wolves. I had no clue what was happening and knew none of the rules. I remember being astounded by the random violence that broke out on the ice on a regular basis–and this from two “junior” teams. The most emotional moment was the singing of the Canadian anthem before the game. I think I cried a little. We’d made it–we were finally here.
Room to roam on crown land
According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, less than 11% of Canadian land is privately owned. The rest is classed as “Crown land,” controlled by either federal or provincial government. Despite the name, crown land is yours to roam through as you please, although non residents will need a permit. Moving here from a country full of private/keep out signs where everything is owned, being able to hike across crown land was a revelation. This sense of freedom is something I felt from my very first visit here. Now I’m lucky enough to have a house that backs onto crown land, I can walk out of my front door and wander for hours where I want.
Shoveling all that snow and a real white Christmas
After all this time, it’s very easy to get jaded about winter. But during our first winter here, we enthusiastically bought shovels at Canadian Tire and rushed outside with excitement after the first major snowfall to begin clearing! We even took pictures! And every Dec 25th was a guaranteed white Christmas! Well okay, not quite. I think we’ve had two green Christmases since I moved here. But our first proper white Christmas was magical. And even now, when there’s fresh snow on the trees and the sun is shining, I still get that Canadian winter wonderland feeling.
Joining in the summer fun with our “toys”
Canadians love to play in summer, and after the long hard winter, who can blame them? We’re talking boats, RVs, classic cars, the cottage/camp/cabin (depends where you live). We’ve been lucky enough to get a taste of this on road trips and camping trips with our Corvette and camper van, as well as the occasional cottage rental. It’s been very special to be able to share in the typical Canadian summer lifestyle.
Those are some of the experiences that helped me very quickly feel at home here as a new immigrant. The moment when I felt most Canadian? Without a doubt, my Canadian citizenship ceremony–an emotional and very proud occasion. These days more than ever, Canada feels like a good place to be, and hopefully many more newcomers will get to discover Canada for themselves in its 150th year.