6 months away: 10 things we miss about Canada
CTVNews.ca's Angela Mulholland (right) rides camels with her family in Tangier, Morocco.
Published Wednesday, February 8, 2017 6:00AM EST
Integrating into the European way of living hasn’t been all that difficult, but there are still some things we still can’t quite get used to.
Like the way eggs can be found on store shelves near the flour, not in the fridge; the way every bathroom has a bidet (or “a funny butt-washer,” as my boy calls it); and the way that Spanish stores shut down between 2 and 4 p.m., just when you remember you need something.
As much fun as this adventure has been, there are some times when we just miss home. We miss our friends,of course, and our work colleagues and our family, but we also miss everyday stuff. Stuff we didn’t even know we’d miss. Stuff we never realized comprised the comforts of home.
Here are a few of them.
1. Peanut butter: Oh, how we miss this sandwich spread. It’s pretty much a staple at our house back home, particularly since our kids don’t eat meat. But here in Europe, peanut butter is just not a thing. Hazelnut-cocoa spread is everywhere, yes, but finding peanut butter in a grocery store is a special treat, as rare as finding a Willy Wonka golden ticket. When we do stumble on it, it’s cause for great celebration that lasts for days… until we run out again.
2. Kraft Dinner: It must be said that the Brits and the Europeans make wonderful cheeses; hard, aged cheeses, semi-soft cheeses, big wedges of Brie. But sometimes you just want over-salted powdered cheese from a foil-lined packet sprinkled over pasta, butter and milk. Some friends who recently came to visit us from Canada delighted us by bringing some generic KD in their suitcase. It was the most wonderful, thoughtful gift we could ever ask for.
3. My wardrobe: I knew when we set out on this trip that we had vowed to employ the “rule of two” and pack light. But good grief, five months is a long time to wear the same turtleneck and jeans almost every day of the week. I know it’s vain, but I long for a new frock.
4. Clothes dryers: After more than 15 apartment and house rentals, we have seen only one clothes dryer on this trip. Most of Europe uses drying racks and clotheslines it seems, even if it’s cold and damp (I’m referring to you, Ireland). While I commend the continent’s commitment to low energy use, it’s a real pain having to wait two days for your jeans to dry. There’s also a particular Canadian comfort to wrapping yourself up in a hot, dry towel fresh from the dryer that I miss so much right now.
5. Over-the-counter medications: I never realized what a privilege it is to be able to keep your embarrassing ailments to yourself. In Canada, if you need yeast infection treatments, anti-diarrhea meds or antifungal creams, you can pick them up discreetly at a drug store. Not so here in Spain. Medications are available only at “farmacias” where you have to use a Spanish dictionary and hand gestures to describe your diarrhea, yeast infection and toe fungus to get what you need. Mercifully, we have had zero illnesses on this trip so this has not come up. But I lay awake at night dreading the day our luck runs out.
6. Antacids: It’s never hard to find antacids in Canada; they’re everywhere from grocery stores to gas stations. But here in Europe they, too, are kept behind the counter at pharmacies. Why that is, I have no idea. (Is it even possible to OD on calcium carbonate?) They’re only sold in tiny packets at absurd prices and we seem to always be out on evenings when we’ve overindulged in wine and fried fish and need them the most.
7. Live sports: This one’s from my husband. He misses his sports channels terribly. He misses sipping his morning coffee while watching highlights packages. He misses watching sports live. And while he respects the game of soccer on an intellectual level, he can’t watch it; it’s American football he loves. Yes, he can still catch games over the internet but watching the Super Bowl alone in the wee hours of the morning, well, that’s just not quite as fun.
8. Poo-free streets: The sidewalks of so many towns in Spain and elsewhere are a delight, cobblestoned into black and white works of art. They’re also filled with doggie doodoo. And feral cat doodoo. It’s very annoying. We really miss being able to walk down a street and not worry about dodging petrified poops -- or worse... fresh poops. Even though many towns are trying to crack down and plenty of Spanish pet owners obediently poop-and-scoop, the turds remain. I’m so tired of the turds.
8. Coins that make sense: Again, a simple privilege Canadians take for granted: being able to reach into your pocket and know what the coin you pull out is before you even look at it. After months in Europe I still can’t figure out Euro coins and it drives me nuts. Why are they all essentially the same size and colour? Why is the British 10p coin bigger than the 20p? Why are 1 pound coins so darn heavy? Loonies and toonies, I understand. I miss those guys.
10. Winter: I know, I know, most Canadians are probably getting pretty sick of winter by now, and we know we’re lucky to have gone this long in the season without having to shovel a single snowflake or scrape a frosted window. But what can we say: we kinda miss the snow. The kids miss it a lot. It’s just not natural for Canadians to go this long without experiencing a cold weather alert. When you can’t feel your fingers at all, well, that right there is the feeling of home. We miss it.