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Trip to Canada

August 12, 2014

I was “home” recently – home being where I grew up in Ontario. It was the first time I had been back in three and half years! (It was time.) It was nice to be back among family and friends and actually understand everything that was being said! A lot of things have changed: the trees have grown, buildings have disappeared, people have fixed their houses… I could go on about the subtle things I noticed or the things I take for granted, but caught my in-laws’ attention.

“Propaganda” signs

There were a lot of these…

I was taken aback by this and wondered why I needed to be told how to cross the road:

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Or how to exercise common sense:

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The street and road signage was way too busy! I realized this as we drove down the road on our way back to our (Finnish) home from the airport – there is less to look out for. I drove a rental while I was home, the first time I had driven there in ages (we usually put one driver on our rentals to save money). I had to be on the ball. The Mr. drove our rental for the last week of our trip in southern Ontario and I was glad for that, I would never survive driving in Toronto. On the day we were leaving we hit rush hour traffic, oh joy!

Driving

On the subject of driving we all know there are idiots on the road the world over and Ontario was no exception. Drivers there seem to weave in and out of traffic more often than they do here. Then again in southern Ontario there are three or more lanes on some of the highways.

Most people in Finland slightly exceed the speed limit while driving and the police mostly look the other way. In Ontario NO ONE drives the speed limit! Most people drive 10-20-30 km/h over the speed limit. We, the Finns driving the rentals, were the slow ones!

Pedestrian-friendly? Heck no! This time around I noticed more than ever that many of the places I visited were not designed with pedestrians in mind. In many places sidewalks are an after thought in consideration of the space allotted for them. In Niagara-on-the-Lake and Virgil, the bike path going through the community was only inaugurated in 2009. There has been some progress in getting bike lanes in Toronto, but cyclists still have to share the road with cars, buses and other large vehicles… No thanks, I’ll take the Finnish version of cycling paths any day. I never have to share the road with a car if I don’t want to.

Faucets, toilets, doorknobs, handles and locks

“Mommy, I don’t know how to flush the toilet!” was the first of many new challenges for the Little Miss. One thing I realized while we were there is that not every faucet, toilet, hand dryer, door knob, lock or handle is the same – anywhere. Finland is a pretty standardized country in comparison to Ontario. And the Little Miss wasn’t the only one. My in-laws were challenged by the faucets, toilet levers (or in some cases, buttons) and door knobs. The Mr.’s mom locked herself in the bathroom at my mom’s house and it took a few minutes for her to figure out how to unlock the door. (See a previous entry about door handles.)

Playgrounds

The Little Miss would normally pipe up, “Mommy, there’s a playground, can we go?!” if we drove by one. Normally we were able to humour her and check things out, but one thing I kept asking myself: where are all the kids? Maybe it’s true, playgrounds don’t get used that much anymore. The playgrounds we visited were often empty and sometimes in a state of non-maintenance.

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Tractors

The father-in-law was fascinated with all things mechanical, tractors especially. He was amazed that the tractors were so “small” and so “old” compared to the ones that people use in Finland. I told him that a Finnish relative once told me that Finns had tractors that were far too big and expensive for the work they were doing on their farms. Well, in Northern Ontario the tractors may be older and smaller, but people still get by!

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Hey! Hay! Everywhere!

And on the topic of farming, it was hay season during our visit and the father-in-law again was amazed by how many hay fields there were in Northern Ontario. It appears that the hay season was pretty good, we saw tens of thousands of bales of hay with all the driving we did.

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Environment

Another thing that registered for the father-in-law was the mostly unmanaged forests in many parts of Northern Ontario. In Finland where the land has been forested several times over, a planted commercially valuable tree means money, lots of it. The father-in-law couldn’t understand why there was so much unmanaged forest, until we told him that property ownership is a little different in Canada, forestry is in the hands of large companies and that Every Man’s Right does not exist.

Clean lakes

In July in Finland, hundreds of people got sick with norovirus just from swimming in contaminated lakes! (The hot weather hastened that along, surely.) In Northern Ontario I am grateful to be able to swim in cleaner waterways and we did, a lot!

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Media

Summary: Sensationalistic, bordering on idiocy. The news reports were hyped up and made me feel there was an awful lot of scare-mongering going on. The reports were designed to elicit emotions that’s for sure, and much of the time I was angry – angry that such horrible things happen on a daily basis all over the world. It’s not right.

I often felt like I was being talked to down to – advertisers were telling me how to take care of basic things in my life – trying to tell me I needed help. Advertising was kinda over the top and in some cases downright eye-rolling dumb!

Other musings…

On a happy note, I was so pleased to be able to listen to my favourite radio stations CBC Sudbury and the music stations Q92 and Q107, it was so refreshing to hear Canadian rock music which doesn’t even register here in Finland. I am sorry Finland, you have no idea what you’re missing!

Things are always big in Canada (food packages, serving sizes, household appliances, cars, roads, etc.). I couldn’t get over the size of the washer and dryer set at a friend’s house. There is no way that would ever fit in our house!

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I now understand why Ontario’s road infrastructure costs so much! The shoulders on the highways are 3-4m wide, that’s an awful lot of infrastructure to maintain. Finnish highways have no shoulders… less to maintain.

We travelled to some new places and had some great experiences. The highlight of course was being among family and friends, although the Niagara area was very nice and our accommodations were superb!

Overall, I had a great time at home. A trip back to Canada is never long enough. Is there any way to move everyone closer to Finland? 😉

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2014 4:26 pm

    Amazing how many things you notice after having a break from home! We went to the movies in New Zealand on a trip home from Sydney on year and before the film started they aired commercials that reminded us to: apply sunscreen, not drink and drive, replace the batteries in your smoke alarm and don’t drink and fry! Must be a problem with people coming home from the pub and cooking at home rather than grabbing a kebab… Hope you enjoyed your trip. ; )

  2. Sonia permalink
    September 21, 2014 8:03 am

    It seems to be a matter of angle of view, but I see Finland patronizing a lot. It may be fewer prohibition signs and warnings, but enormous amount of bureacratic prohibition rules and guidelines generated in time-consuming “hanke” procedures. The summer terrace rumba needed a 18 pages guideline to promote sameness and protect the little ones of seeing a beer glass behind the terrace fence. And you cannot blame all of them on the EU.

    Finland has a far too heavy public administration body for a small nation, which we sadly sponsor with our tax money.

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