Many people asked if I had reverse culture shock coming back from Europe to Canada after 3 months, or if there were any major things I noticed.
I would say there were two things in particular that were hugely apparent right away.
ONE: While in Paris I never spent one minute in a car. I did not drive for three months. In Paris I took the metro almost every day, walked, cycled, and had a couple trips on bus or train. There was one week in July where we rented a car in Avignon and drove around Provence (and for that week my sister and mom did all the driving).
My first day home in Calgary, I got in my car in order to meet a friend for a coffee. The day after that, I did some errands, and went out for dinner with my mom. And I proceeded to use a car every. single. day. after. that.
Now, I don’t live downtown- I live in the suburbs. But very few of my friends are centrally located either. We drive to meet each other. It ensures we have more time to see each other, and spend less time waiting and waiting for inconsistent buses and avoiding rush hour LRT chaos.
TWO: In Canada we have so much SPACE. And we spread out like crepe batter. 😉
Not only are the cities sprawled out but so many people here expect to have large front and back yards, a two car garage, and big house with parks and pathways and man-made lakes nearby. And suburbia reigns.
There have been attempts to create more concentrated housing in repurposed and more central up-and-coming neighborhoods in Calgary. The idea is for semi-detached housing in tall, narrow homes, and smaller lots. Sort of like townhouses, but without the condo boards. I see it as a wonderful opportunity to create a community with your neighbors, and some of the designs are beautiful and classic in design. I’d love to live in a place like this! In several cases, the citizens of our great city have come up against the builders and have demanded more lawn space, larger square footage, and separate dwellings with larger garages.
In Paris, so many people live in tiny apartments with no yards, no garages and often they don’t even own cars. They walk or take transit or bike to get around. They share courtyards or small gardens and patios with neighbors. They spend their money on quality food and entertainment. They meet at local cafes and restaurants that are around every corner. They don’t sit at home watching giant tvs in giant living rooms and spend any time watering or mowing giant lawns.
I have a new appreciation for our space here. The skies of Paris and France reminded me of our Alberta blue but I missed the mountain-edged horizon, the pathways around the reservoir, and the fact that the streets are only jam-packed with tourists ten days every year. Car keys in hand or not, I am happy to be home. 🙂