The Cultural Differences Between Canada and the UK

When I stepped on a plane to Toronto this August, my European mind had no idea how different two Western countries, partitioned by the great big ocean, could possibly be. I was entering the crazy, big world of the most desired continent by almost every European: North America. It was becoming real, something most people, including myself, imagined their whole life in their dreams.

To be fair, I had no idea what living here could be like, but that’s what makes it fun - the challenge of adapting, and most importantly, realizing what a privilege it is to miss home.

It feels incredibly weird and hard to write this piece about the differences I experienced between Canada and the UK, as both countries are patriotic and proud.

So, just to clarify for everyone who decided to dedicate precious time out of their day to read this piece, I don’t want to offend you, your country, your heritage or your culture.

Coming here, I obviously experienced culture shock, as my brain was not at all prepared for any of the cultural differences. I stupidly have to admit that I simply did not expect there to be many. And as I had never been to North America before, the experience of moving to Toronto was a lot, like an overwhelming shower of new impressions that came upon me.

However, in the first couple of weeks, I realized how much I love and appreciate Europe. Before coming to Canada, a country that is not nearly as old as Europe, I realized how rich, long and old European history is. 

And I know it sounds cliche, but it does make a difference.

For me, in the beginning, it felt like two worlds clashing in my head, leaving me mind blown by how different things can be.

Also, I had no idea how expensive imported dairy products can be, like cheese. 

It feels so incredibly hard to put this big experience into written work, as some things and feelings are simply not attached to words.

In Europe, we live on a small continent that glues together more than 20 countries, with a million different accents and languages, cultures, foods and mentalities. We have the privilege that we can step into a car, drive for a day and we might cross a couple countries.

Here, if people from Toronto were to drive a day, they would probably still be in Ontario.

The hardest pill to swallow was the difference between the people back home and the people here. Coming from the north of England, where we literally talk to every possible stranger on the bus about how terrible the weather is, or talking to random people in your regular evening pub, I was used to having lively conversations with strangers.

This might only be my own perception, but I felt like talking to strangers here is not very normal. I felt like in Toronto, people are more into themselves. Everyone is just minding their own business.

That does not mean that they are rude, they are definitely not, they are just a different kind of friendly. 

Another point would be how accessible, or inaccessible things are. Before coming here, I never realized how mapped out and connected everything is in the UK or in Europe. For example, when we want to order something from ASOS, we don’t pay the shipping costs, and we have it two days later on our doorstep. As a fashion student who might need something as soon as possible for a shoot, this is a true luxury. 

But on the other hand, a thing I will truly miss, and a thing I will probably envy about North America forever, is the amazing thrift stores. We do have vintage stores and charity shops in the UK, but they are price-wise and size-wise nowhere near as good as Canadian thrift stores. In times when everyone becomes so much more aware of the fast fashion ethical consequences, thrift stores are a real gem, and they are so affordable!

However, the last thing I would add on my list would probably be the language. I am aware of the fact that in theory, in Canada and the UK, we speak the same language, but in fact, we use it very differently.

It is very hard to capture that into words, as there are a million and one things to say about it. Long story short: people in Toronto are very considerate with their language, but they can also be very direct. In Britain, cursing is an art, we use a lot of sarcasm and joking terms, and we are not very direct.

In the end, all these differences are good things. It makes the word being an interesting place to explore, and the differences unite us. No matter what your passport might claim, in the end we are all human, and that’s what matters.