Canadian politeness and other issues

So I posted a little while ago about how nice Canadians are. Yes, they are generally lovely. Super helpful and polite, friendly and open.

After being here in Toronto three months now, I’ve had a tiny bit of experience with the negative aspects of Canadian politeness. Now, I’ll preface this by saying there’s no doubt my opinion differs greatly from others’ and what is annoying and stifling to me is the zenith of courtesy to others. So I’m not meaning to be judgmental, I’m just noticing my reactions to various things.

1. Lining up: they love a good queue, these Canadians. And for the most part, I appreciate an orderly line. It keeps things clear and fair. But it seems the threshold of ridiculousness resides in a different place for me. Lining up to order coffee? Sure. Lining up at a bus stop for a bus that is yet to arrive? Umm, no. I mean, seriously, why is this necessary? Obviously we want to be fair but this is Canada, where people don’t push ahead anyway! They excuse themselves and everyone takes turns. The line up to nowhere is just taking it too far!

    2. And speaking of lining up to nowhere, what’s with the “form a line metres from the counter and wait patiently to be called forward to order your Tim’s”? I got so annoyed with a bunch of idiots in Timmy’s last week. It was like being in some country town circa 1955! Standing in a line that began seriously at least two metres from the counter where no one was being served! I had no idea it was even a line to order, I thought they must have been waiting for coffees. The old codger at the front says, “excuse me, ma’am, there is a line up here”. I apologised and went to stand at the back but couldn’t stop myself saying, “so why don’t you stand at the counter?” They ignored me. And I promptly left, it was taking forever. These people should try making proper coffee, they’re so slow!

    3. The silly train. And public transport generally actually: don’t get me wrong, the actual system has got some positive elements. But wow, people just accept so much. There are some really ridiculous things going on. This is not so much about politeness but more an example of a fundamental problem in efficiency that exists at least across the GTA. I can’t speak about anywhere else. Here’s the silliness: after a train departs the station, and you’re looking at the monitor showing when the next train departs, the train you just missed is still displayed as having departed for minutes afterwards. Why?! It’s annoying because you think you haven’t missed it but the you see it says it’s departed and you realise you have missed it and it’s just taunting you. I could go on, about lack of integrated, well-priced, user-friendly ticketing systems, drivers who can’t stop at the platform properly or over heating but I’ll stop.

    4. Cheques. They use them here, all the time! Our landlords want post-dated cheques for our rent for six months in advance. The bank want to charge us $50 for a chequebook too! What is this, 1989?! 

    5. The metric system: just frigging stick to one system already, please! It was introduced here in the 70s yet you’ll still see produce for sale by the pound. They can’t make their minds up, you’ll get a random mix of both systems in a grocery catalogue. You know what they thought would help? They wanted people to get a sense of how much a litre is so they started selling milk in one litre bags. What?! So if you want three litres of milk you can buy a big bag containing three single litre bags. And then you need a jug to put the bag in. So stupid. We only buy cartons, we hate the bags, so stupid.

    Oh this post is such a silly rant. But it does illustrate how I’m feeling about being here. I’m starting to feel a little out of place, despite settling in a bit. Only time will tell how this pans out…

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    The right path

    How do you know when you’re on the ‘right’ path? I feel like I used to know, before I got distracted by life. It’s like, in my teenage years and 20s I used to have huge amounts of time to ponder and think over things. Too much time really. An ex-boyfriend (who, when he was my boyfriend, wouldn’t commit enough to my liking and I desperately wanted him to buy me some jewellery to symbolise our commitment) once bought me a birthday present, I think when I was about 22. It was a silver ID bracelet and he’d had it engraved. On the front it had my name and on the back was “No Thinking Zone”. I think we’d been dating a year or so and he wasn’t really intellectually the right person for me but he easily saw my issue back then. I was thinking too much, going over every little thing, obsessing.

    Oh if only I had the time to obsess now! Something happened, I think, around the time that first serious relationship started to break down, and life started to become full. I resisted, of course, and it was only because that boyfriend announced he was leaving for a stint in London that I pig-headedly pushed my way forward and ended up leaving for my own London adventure a few months before him. I resisted it all the way, was convinced I would be there for about six months, and I wasn’t going there to party it up like all the other antipodeans. Oh no, I was just going for, um, the experience, whatever that was… And I’d be back in six months anyway. I didn’t need to let my hair down and be stupid on the other side of the world to find out who I was. I was going to fix my relationship, get married, and settle down in Canberra. Or Melbourne. That was me eight years ago. I would sit and think things over, imagine myself in various scenarios, get a feeling, and know the right path. I don’t think that’s what I did with my decision to go to London, although I know for certain it was the right choice. I became a completely different person, a much better person, after living in London. And I met Mr Chewbacca, which is one of the best things that could have happened to me.

    With my decision to step into a new life in London, I forfeited this process of assessing my future plans. I began to be spontaneous, and ended up doing a lot of things I would never have considered previously as a result. Some things I can’t say I’m particularly proud of, and I don’t know how positively they contributed to who I am now, but I’m here to tell the tale (not in a public forum though!) and I don’t regret anything. I do miss that clarity, however, those moments of contemplation which allowed me to see the right path. I haven’t got the time now, to sit and think and plan, and so much has happened, life and circumstances have descended upon me in layer upon layer of possible deviations from the right path so that there is now no going back. I can’t sort back through each layer, meticulously choosing my path at every turn. Too much has happened.

    So now I am on the path I’m on. I’m here, in Canada, a country I never even envisaged visiting let alone living in, and I’m doing an MA at one of the top universities in North America. As a family, we’ve taken a huge risk coming here. A risk for what? Because we didn’t know for sure if Australia was the right place for us. We couldn’t handle any more 40 degree endless summers. We wanted snow and beautiful trees and piles of leaves and traditions at the ‘right’ time of year, to be in a place that feels like it’s a little more in touch with the world. The course I’m doing is certainly leading me in the right direction and it’s fantastic to be studying again, especially with a level of maturity that allows me to apply myself fully to the material and achieve good results. But it will be ending all too soon.

    Many MA programs are two years but this one is unfortunately just one year. I love this university, I am so privileged to be taught by some exceptional academics. I seriously want to do a PhD. But there’s one problem: this university is in Toronto, in the city. I don’t want to live in the city. In fact although I live 40km out of the city, that’s still too close. I can’t wait to move. But if I wanted to do further study I’d have to stay close enough to commute.

    I got some clarity around what we might do next yesterday and I know what our options are in terms of staying on in Canada once I’ve graduated next year in June. Unfortunately, none of those options is clearly the right one. We haven’t been here long enough to decide whether to go back home or stay on permanently, another year testing things out at least seems the right thing, but that’s not an easy thing to do. These decisions are depressing me! I wish it wasn’t so complicated, and so much about money!

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    I listen to my Aussie music, stuff I never listened to when I was at home, and I actually miss home, I miss it for the first time since London. I don’t believe in regrets, they are a waste of time, everything happens exactly as it should. But there are so many things that, if I’d just thought at the time with some clarity, taken a few moments to sit and really make the decisions without rushing, I’d have gone a different way and things would be better. At least that’s what I tell myself. I’ll never know, there’s no such thing as Sliding Doors. Right now, we’ve got some serious thinking to do and big decisions loom yet again. Wasn’t it meant to be easier than this? Didn’t I plan to settle down and enjoy simple family life when I left London?