According to my sources, the Caesar is one of the most commonly-craved and sought after drinks by Canadians living abroad (especially in Australia), but since it isn’t really sold anywhere in Australia (except maybe Canadian-themed bars) Canadians make their own at home.
If that’s not your thing, no worries! There are plenty of options to suit your fancy.
But here is a tip for ordering drinks in North America.
If you order anything with lemonade, you will literally get lemonade
As in, freshly squeezed lemon juice mixed with sugar. In Canada (and the USA) that’s what people will give you if you say lemonade.
But most likely, they won’t have it and they will look at you funny because they don’t realise you mean the soft drink, not something kids on TV sell on the sidewalk for pocket money.
If you want the soda, you have to ask for Sprite or 7-Up.
And don’t forget to tip! It’s the North American way.
I bet you read the title and thought, “Um, who do you think you are?
Let me explain.
I read this post from The Betoota Advocate and they had quoted a representative from The Australian Bureau of Statistics who said the fact that only 1 in 30 Australian expats make friends with locals is pathetic.
That got me thinking about how I hear expats talk about how hard it is to make friends with locals when they’re on a working holiday. They often end up hanging out with other expats who also have an expiry date and soon leave them.
So they cycle through friends for the one to two years they’re there, and if they are lucky enough to transition to a permanent visa, find themselves lonely because all their expat friends have left. If they leave at the end of their visa, all they did was hang out with a bunch of people who were also foreigners.
Is there anything wrong with this? Of course not.
It makes sense, because expats flock to the parts of the country that are most famous and have the best resources for temporary residents. It’s also comforting to surround yourself with people who are going through the same thing as you are.
But are you really going to experience what life is like in your new country if you construct your life so that it feels exactly like your home country?
It’s kind of like learning a new language – you can study and practice it all you want, and know how to speak it in theory, but that can’t compare to immersing yourself in an environment where they communicate in that language.
That’s why when I came here, I decided that the best way to truly experience the Canadian way of life was to make my life fully Canadian.
That meant embracing everything Canada had to offer that Australia didn’t, including its people. It also meant avoiding parts of the country that have a huge concentration of Aussies, like Whistler. So many Australians go there that is has earnt the nickname “Whistralia” and they call Australians “Jafas” which stands for “just another f***ing Aussie.”
I did so because I thought to myself, I’m not going to move to the other side of the world just to feel like I haven’t left. I want the country to feel very different and new, and it won’t feel that way if I’m surrounded by Australians.
I was so excited by this new adventure that I totally embraced my new life in Canada and kind of ignored my life back in Australia. I didn’t keep up with anything that was going on back home and I focused fully on life in Canada. I figured it would always be there waiting for me when I went home.
Obviously I don’t have anything against Australians! I’m Australian, and I love my people, of course! I just think it would have been a different experience for me if I had closed myself off to building relationships in Canada by finding my Aussie tribe and relying on them to carry me through my time here.
I couldn’t avoid it forever though. After about five years I started to get really homesick and I wanted to be around Aussies again, and I ended up finding a couple of Facebook groups and of course met some cool ones living here.
But I’m glad that at first, my social circle was mostly locals because I didn’t have the Australian way of life influencing the experience I was having in Canada, and I could see what life here was really like.
I also didn’t have the cushion of having mostly Australian friends to see me through my time there, so it forced me to make friends with locals, no matter how hard it was. Because it can be hard!
If I didn’t, maybe my experience would have been totally different. Or maybe I just secretly loved being the only Australian amongst all my Canadian friends and I didn’t want to share the spotlight!
What do you think? Is it better to seek out familiarity in an unfamiliar situation, or dive into the uncertainty of a whole new world?
Canadians love to talk about the weather. One of the most common questions I get asked is, “What’s the coldest it gets in Australia?” When you live through a few winters here, you understand why. I think they ask because:
they dream of living in a snow-free land or;
they know an Australian winter is a walk in the park compared to a Canadian one.
And it is! I’m from the coast of Sydney, Australia, where winter looks like this picture, and I rarely experienced anything colder than 8 degrees celsius.
But even if you’re from the coldest parts of Australia, I will tell you straight up:
You do not know what winter is until you’ve seen a winter in Canada
What’s the big deal about winter? It’s cold, and it snows, right? Snow is beautiful!
Snow is beautiful. But there’s a lot to living in this climate that you don’t realize until you actually have to do it. I’m sure you understand that it’s very cold, but what does that actually look like?
Let’s talk about time.
Even though winter proper is three months long, the cold seems to go on forever
And I’m only talking about Toronto, which is said to have a mild winter compared to other parts of the country. It gets so cold here, that you will start thinking zero to two degree days are downright balmy compared to -20.
Never in my life did I think I would be calling zero degrees warm. But Canada does that to you.
Here is a rough timeline of the cold season. All temperatures are in Celsius.
Fall officially begins Sep 21st. By the middle of October, the temperatures are usually already in single digits. So it’s only midway through fall and it’s already colder than a “freezing” day in Sydney.
October is the time to bring your hats and gloves out of storage, but you won’t need a winter coat just yet. It’s a beautiful time of year with all the leaves changing colours. The many parks and trees in Toronto put on quite a show.
Halloween is chilly, so don’t think you can strut down the street in a barely-there costume, because you’ll freeze. As such, onesies are a big hit here.
November is similar, and you might see snow, but it doesn’t usually dump piles just yet. You can still spend time outdoors without a full winter wardrobe. Trees lose their leaves by the end of November.
Winter officially begins December 21st. It’s usually around -5 to -15 for most of December. You may or may not see a white Christmas. I’ve seen three in seven years.
January and February are the coldest months with the most snow. For a few weeks it will hit around -25 to -40 with the wind chill. Snow falls at least once a week and there will be a few ice storms.
By March, everyone is sick of winter, ice and snow and just wants it to all go away.
But it doesn’t really until late May. People forget that every year and are always surprised/annoyed by the last few snowfalls that happen in spring.
That’s why the city by-law says that indoor heating has to remain on until June. JUNE.
That’s more than six months of cold weather, with three of those months being extreme. But being cold is just the beginning….
With the cold comes ice and freezing rain
What is freezing rain? It’s when the temperature goes above freezing and then rapidly drops back to freezing, resulting in rain that instantly freezes when it hits a surface. In a matter of hours, roads, buildings, trees, electrical poles, footpaths, cars, benches, railways, streetcar tracks, traffic lights, you name it get coated in a thick layer of ice that remains frozen.
Depending on the severity of the freezing rain, the result can be anything from the roads and pavements being slippery, to trees breaking and falling on power lines, cutting power for days.
If you have electric heating and hot water tanks, it’s a miserable time to not have electricity.
Temperature fluctuations result in “freeze and thaw” events. This is when snow melts a little and then freezes as ice. There will be snow on the ground that has layers of ice underneath.
As it starts to melt, the ice is exposed and it’s really impossible to walk anywhere that isn’t salted by the city. The further away you live from downtown, the worse it is.
I couldn’t walk around the courtyard in my apartment building for almost 2 months this winter because it was covered in ice.
When this happens, the water goes everywhere and freezes all around the site. I’ve been evacuated from two buildings because of a burst water main.
So if you own a home here, you can’t just take it for granted that you can go on vacation and come back to find your property in the same condition. You have to take preventative steps like draining pipes and draining hoses before you leave.
Garbage bins freeze shut!
So do windows, doors, locks, gates, bike chains – basically anything with leverage that’s outside.
Travelling by any means becomes a challenge
Ice-covered walkways are slippery
Walking is difficult because you can’t always see the ice, so you have to walk slowly and carefully to make sure you don’t end up on your butt or with a fractured wrist.
But if you don’t walk on them, you have to walk on the busy road beside them.
Street corners are the worst, because that’s where the snow gets piled up the highest.
It can be hard to use the crosswalks because there’s so much snow in the way. Good luck if you have a stroller, a wheelie bag, etc.
Driving is also a hazard
Most public roads are well-salted and cleared by the city.
Driving is worse while the snow is actually falling. Visibility is limited, and the white lane markings (genius to have them the same colour as snow!) are completely invisible while it’s snowing.
You basically have to follow the car in front of you and hope they’re keeping in their lane.
Late for work?
You will be after spending 20 mins digging your car out of the snow!
If you don’t have underground parking, you must allow extra time to dig your car out of the snow that accumulated on/around it while it was parked.
(PS. Don’t keep anything in your car that you don’t want to freeze. I watched a poor lady try to thaw out her 5L bottle of laundry detergent after it was in her car for 3 days…)
Get ready to freeze waiting for public transit.
Thank goodness for transit apps. You soon learn to use them to minimize time spent standing outdoors freezing waiting for the next one. Even 5 mins is torture when the wind is blowing -25 degrees at you.
Transit functions fairly well considering, but on bad days, buses do get stuck in snow, and streetcars do malfunction because of ice buildup on the tracks.
Taxis/Ubers/Lyfts are available, but demand is high and they are not immune to getting stuck, so if you do manage to get one, be prepared to shell out coin.
But you bike to work, so you’ll be okay
Nope. Don’t forget about the ice. When the temperaure is below zero, you’re bound to encounter ice somewhere along your journey and that means you are very likely to fall.
The bike lanes are usually a mess as well, since the snow plows push the snow to the sides of the road right into the bike lanes.
Most people put their bike away once they’re snow on the ground.
I thought they were just being softies and didn’t want to be cold. It took a near miss and then an actual fall on ice to stop me from biking when it’s freezing.
Don’t even get me started on air travel
I’m surprised aircraft get off the ground here at all. Ice on the runway, freezing rain, low visibility, etc etc. The Eastern Seaboard is notorious for its bad weather, so extensive flight delays and cancellations are just expected here.
Salt destroys things
This car was black!
Salting of surfaces is necessary to melt snow and ice so that vehicles can safely drive on the roads and people can walk on the footpaths.
The problem is, it eats away at things such as asphalt, metal (look forward to rust on your car, just like living by the ocean), destroyed bike chains and shoes.
By the end of winter, the roads are a torn up mess and have to be repaved often. If not, they’re left a mess and driving, walking and biking on them sucks.
Many things are “seasonal” and put on hold until Spring
This includes, but is not limited to:
picnicking, outdoor parties, al fresco dining
outdoor sports like baseball, golf, tennis, etc
just being outside in general
Oh, you wanted to enjoy your backyard? Sorry, you can’t. It’s buried in snow
If you celebrate Christmas, it’s more common here to have an indoor Christmas dinner, rather than an outdoor Christmas lunch like we do back in Australia. I suspect this has something to do with not being able to barbecue…
You also have to watch where you place your furniture and belongings in your home, so as not to block heating vents/melt your stuff.
Winter dries everything up
Indoor heating makes the air very dry. For the first few years, when I woke up in the morning, I felt as dry as I do on long haul flights. The air gets static and you get shocks when you touch things. Your hair and skin get more dry than usual, especially if you take long, hot showers. A humidifier helps.
The water that comes out of the faucets is frigid, so when washing your hands , you have to mix hot and cold water so your hands don’t freeze. It becomes a habit, and now when I go home to visit my family, I get lectures for unnecessarily using hot water. But constantly using hot water contributes to dry skin. Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise!
Winter clothing is an expense
You need an entire winter wardrobe to get through the winter, and that comes at a price. Since winter clothing is a necessity here, it’s much cheaper than it would be in Australia, but you still get what you pay for. While you don’t need a $1000 Canada Goose jacket, you still need to choose quality gear or you will be miserable when you’re outside if you’re not wearing the right clothes.
Winter affects your mental health
I feel it is important to include this one, as it is something you may not realize is even happening to you. Coming from Australia, the land of sunshine and long summers, to the exact opposite of that is a shock to the system. It’s that fact that you’re not able to spend as much time outside, and that everything natural (except for the evergreen fir trees) loses its colour, and that the days are so short. The biggest factor is the lack of natural light.
Winter will give you a Vitamin D deficiency
Generally, there aren’t too many sunny days. The sun will peek through now and then, and only on the days when it’s really really cold.
Even if you are an Aussie who spent most of their time indoors in Australia, you still got sun exposure inside buildings and vehicles because of windows and the fact that part of your skin, even if it’s just your forearms, was usually exposed. Here, because buildings are designed to retain heat, they have less windows. The daylight hours are also so short that it’s possible that your skin won’t never see the sun for six months.
Depending on the type of work you do, you could spend most of winter in the dark.
Say you get a 9 to 5 job. The shortest days of winter are 8 hours long, because the sun rises at 8am and sets at 4pm.
If you leave your house at 730am, it’s dark. You get on the subway, you’re in the dark.
You arrive at work and you scurry from the subway station to your office – maybe you’ll get a glimpse of the sun.
Your office doesn’t have windows so you’re inside with artificial lighting. On your lunch break, you brave the cold to stand in the sun, only it’s too cold to stand there for long, and you’re covered head to toe anyway.
You finish work at 5pm and it’s dark.
That leaves you with just the weekends to seek out the sun, and there’s no guarantee it will show up at all.
Unless you’re super brave and love the extreme cold and want to go out there no matter what, you’ll find yourself spending most of your time inside.
Well, almost. Especially by January and February, there’s not a creature to be seen. You forget that you haven’t heard a bird chirp for months until they start to reappear in spring, around mid March/early April when the snow starts melting.
And then…. beacon of hope! The snow starts melting!
This is what I call the big tease after the big freeze
Which means flooding
And mud. Lots of mud.
As the frozen ground starts to thaw, it shifts, and the frozen piles of snow and ground water melt and can seep into lower levels of buildings.
It is common for basements to flood during this time, unless the owner has a flood management system in place. If you live in a basement apartment, or keep a car or a bicycle in an underground space, be aware of this.
You start to get some warmer days, a sunny 5 to 10 degrees, but Jack Frost still has a few snow storms left in him. As I said, it doesn’t consistently stay above 15 degrees until late May/early June.
Watch your head!
You will see these signs all around the city as melting snow starts to fall off the roofs of buildings. At least they’re nice enough to warn you.
Watch out for dog poo!
Grassy areas become a soggy mess, and several piles of dog poo that owners buried in the snow (instead of picking them up) make an appearance.
Ok, so what’s good about living in winter?
I know. I’ve made it sound like living in winter is hell. So I guess I should point out some of the positives of it:
Winter is magical
It really is a sight to behold. When the city is blanketed in snow, or you look closely at the pretty formations of ice crystals, it’s quite gorgeous and fascinating.
Free ice skating!
Coming from Australia where entry to a rink is about $25, it’s amazing to see how many free outdoor rinks there are in the City of Toronto. Many of them have facilities such as indoor change rooms. You just bring your own skates and go for it!
Not to mention….
Less sun damage: You mightgo back to Australia looking 10 years younger than your mates because you haven’t had as much UV exposure
No bugs. They all go dormant in winter. There’s not a roach or a fly or a mosquito to be seen. You may see tiny (by Aussie standards) house spiders and centipedes in damp areas (mostly basements), which are harmless but look absolutely terrifying with their ridiculous number of legs.
If you identify as female, and you wear clothes marketed to people who identify as female, you will suddenly be blessed with pockets thanks to your winter coat. It is possible to leave the house without a purse!
The “hibernation-friendly” weather is conducive to studying and shift work. It’s very easy to fall asleep on command, or keep your head in the books in the dark and dreary months, because you’re not really missing much outside.
But the biggest thing about the weather here is…
It really makes you appreciate good weather. I never took hot weather or the beach for granted when I lived in Australia, but now I really understand how it feels to be deprived of sunshine and the outdoors and I feel so grateful when summer comes and we can embrace the outdoors again.
I don’t think I have ever been so excited to be able to keep my windows open. And I promise I will never say “I’m freezing!” while back in Australia, ever again.
(But I will definitely give Australians a hard time when they dare to complain about the “cold” in front of me).
So now that you’ve read all this about winter, do you still want to live here?
Have I scared you off, or are you even more up for it now? Let me know in the comments, and share with your friends who swear they prefer cold weather!