Are Canadians altruists or simply super nice people?

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North Nanaimo <3

“Altruism is the principle and moral practice of concern for happiness of other human beings or other animals, resulting in a quality of life both material and spiritual.

In the last 48 hour I felt more love, respect and kindness from perfect strangers than I have in the last ten years combined. Where ever we needed to go we were welcomed by altruist natured, simply helpful and very nice people. The stereotype of Canadians being super nice is absolutely true! Is it possible that this country is derived of an army of altruists? If given the opportunity, will they always go out of their way to help? From my experience, yes.

Best Buy was our first stop on Sunday morning. We were the first in the store and a guy named Alex helped us get four new mobile plans, a briefcase to house my old laptop, adaptors, batteries, and all the bits and bobs needed to get our first days started right in Canada! He was beyond nice, knowledgeable and friendly. I loved the way he said, ‘Sorry, but I need to ask you for your passports again to complete the transaction’, ‘Sorry, but I need another minute to enter your $25 dollar gift card compliments of management’ or ‘Sorry, but I will be waving your connection fees but it will take another minute if that’s ok with you!’ Every sentence started with sorry but mentally prepare yourself because I am going to be extra nice to you again and again in case you are not used to this behaviour! Oh how I missed this! <3 <3 <3

At the grocery stores we were greeted with friendly staff and the first thing they say ‘Can I help you find something?’ In these giant mega food/clothes/sporting goods/furniture stores there is a plethora of items and aisles; you could literally spend a whole day inside (some might actually be lost inside trying to get out, but whatever). I wanted to make it snappy, and I was feeling a little overwhelming after my little ‘mom and pop shops’ I had been using for the last decade. I actually felt stressed by the lights, the crowds of people and all the shiny products that screamed ‘buy me’! Each place it seemed there was someone who took me to the exact item I was looking for which made my shop as painless as possible. Real Canadian Super Store, Save-on-foods, Walmart, London Drugs, Canadian Tire, The Brick, Homesense, Urban Barn, Lowes and Jysk; all had the best staff a customer could ask for. So kind and patient while I hunted down a little chest of drawers and a drying rack to hang our clothes on. And this all happened on a Sunday! Some items, because of COVID-19 quarantine were still not stocked, and Canada is just starting to open up towards normality again. Where Hungary was open for business as soon as humanly possible, vaccinating at a mach speed rate; Canada seems to be taking their time, maybe waiting to see what will happen in other countries first? Not exactly sure. Hungary also had the pressure of people not being able to survive for long without income, whereas Canada sported the bill to help Canadians through the rough patches. Could explain it, but I am no expert.

One thing I noticed right away was how big things are. Big wide roads, big vehicles, big stores, big parking lots, big malls, big portions, big(ger) people, big space, big drives… Everything was close in Hungary, within 10 minutes from home. Here you travel faster between, but go farther to get to where you need. I counted 4 giant shopping centres; there are probably more. 15 strip malls. Hundreds of restaurants. And Nanaimo only has a population of 100,000 people! It seems commercialisation is happening all around us. People happily work their bottoms off to buy stuff.

I was also a little surprised by the high cost of things although I did try to mentally prepare myself before we left. White Spot on the ferry was about $75! A quick shop at Auchan back home is about 20€ where here will run you at $100 Canadian. The first day we spent $500 easy, the next day was about the same. The liquor store was a pleasant surprise, we were expecting the worst, but managed to walk out with a case of White Claw, a case of local brewed beers and two bottles of fine wine for about $100 bucks. It is virtually the same price in Europe. Also when we managed to find our dresser drawers Alfonz got the price down from $169 to $150 everything included because it was the floor model and simple because he asked! We had to go back twice to make the decision, and on the first go I asked the man behind the counter for a miracle that the large one would be in stock. It was not. When we returned, Alfonz asked if we could have the smaller one, and they were also out of stock. He managed to talk them into the smaller display model at 20% off. They guy said, “Wasn’t it your wife who asked us for a miracle earlier’ Hesitantly he must have said, ‘Why yes it was.’ He is always embarrassed when I make stupid jokes. He gave it to him! Well done man! And it was already assembled!

Yesterday was Monday and we needed to get registered in the government offices to let them know we have arrived home. This includes exchanging our French and Hungarian driver’s licences to Canadian ones and applying to national Health Care. We got there at about 12:00 and we were out of there within an hour! We are talking about four different health care card applications, three driver’s licence transfers, change of addressed and two abstracts. The lady that helped me get sorted also gave me information about Angelina’s second Pfizer shot online registration, and the French late immersion school she is going to be going to; apparently they have a full Francophone program too!! She also has a daughter going to this school and again friendly people often talk and share information. It is this openness that makes Canada special. I find some people who have knowledge or information like to keep it to themselves to make themselves feel more powerful. It would be like holding your cards very close to your chest. While others share information to put their heads together to make things more efficient, to generously exchange information so both will grow. It is a different standpoint but is how this country operates; this altruist nature, which I took for granted as normal before leaving, yet it is actually something very unique to Canada. Who knew? I couldn’t believe how fast everything got done. We even got eye exams and new photos taken within that time frame. The government services office was nothing short of exceptional! Again, I felt taken care of by people who actually know their jobs well and have the intention to make your life as easy as possible as you try to find solutions to problems that arise in everyday life. They hold the cards but will let you look at them. Full transparency. If there is a will, there is always a way. In France this would have taken months to complete! In Hungary, don’t even get me started! Oh how I missed my people.

Today is my first day home with our quarantined girl. Although I am not fully understanding why she is quarantined with so many people here in Canada walking around without any vaccinations. I guess she can still be carrying the virus even after her first shot. They say 14 days will determine if she develops any COVID symptoms? However, herd immunity means because the rest of us in the family are vaccinated, the likelihood of her getting it from us is far lower. But hey ho, those are the Canadian rules. Happily we have already scheduled her second vaccination for August! Again, taken care of by happy staff by phone within a few minutes! Alfonz and Daniel went to check out Honda Motor Sport where Alfonz will start his job next month. I will use this short time to go through and organize our little home better. We plan on a walk around the property and make sure we work out today; some yoga, some weights, some stretching and above all Grey’s Anatomy on NetFlix (mind candy)! I also have to get ready for my work next week which means find a car asap! I want a little Fiat 500, one Angelina will learn to drive on and eventually will be hers. Alfonz is looking at a Ford Explorer but we will have to head to Victoria tomorrow to go and buy it. The Fiat we like is in North Vancouver which means while I start work from home next week, the boys will be going to the mainland for a few days leaving us alone. Lucky buggers! But I know Alfonz, he will find me something more reliable and little bigger in the end.

Angelina is taking full charge of the food preparations while she is in quarantine to help pass the time. It hasn’t been easy for anyone, but I feel her situation is vastly unfair. While the rest of us explore and discover, she is stuck in a perpetual loop of boredom. She prepares lists of things for us to buy, organizes the refrigerator and makes interesting foods from recipes she finds online. Then the cycle starts again. We make sure to come back for lunch each day to break up her day a little while she suffers the injustice of it all. She does let us know how she feels. Teenagers, right? I would happily change places with her and stand still for awhile, read and learn, enjoy the peaceful nature right outside the door. This morning again the bunny family came to visit, hopping happily in search of food. Soon enough this moment of pause will all be over and our regular life will begin. The school schedules, the living for weekends, the mortgage payments, the mini weekend getaways to visit family, the all inclusive vacations to nearby hot spots, and working Monday-Friday… soon enough this moment will be a distant memory. I say we should revel in it and try to enjoy these long sweet Vancouver Island moments.

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Our mission is to share our family's move to France, and now to Hungary, how to slow travel with kids, and give tips and ideas as to what works and what doesn't being an expat and a travelling family in Europe. Expat experts on an adventure!

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