Friendly Waters


15 days. That's how long it took to meet a brand-new, previously unknown local person here in Montreal who invited us to her home.

About 4 and half years. The amount of time for the same thing to occur in Amsterdam (thanks Michiel!).

Expat blogs in the Netherlands will routinely tell you a similar story: although there's a great number of things to like about living there, for some reason there is a distinct border between public/work life and home life for the Dutch, a border for which internationals don't often seem to have the correct visa.

Here in Canada, it's never long before a co-worker or a playground parent will - recognizing your newness to the area - invite you to their place for a barbecue or for drinks with the group from work.

There's probably some historical reason behind this, something along the lines of "Canadians are ALL from someplace else originally, so there's an empathy for new arrivals", whereas as the Dutch are simply born locals, so they lack this gene.  

Maybe we simply have enough space in Canada to squeeze in more people into our personal space, versus the high population density of a place like Amsterdam, where people might crave some elbow room.

Or maybe there's something frostier afoot, a nationwide know-it-all mentality that leaves them genuinely uncurious about others.

In any case, it's nice to be in this place.

Amsterdam vs Montreal


Invariably, we lead lives of almost constant comparison. Our most recent drive to work was much better/worse than yesterday's. The last episode of Game of Thrones was way gorier/hotter than last week's. Taylor's boyfriend this week is, like, totally hotter/more sensitive than last week's. 

So in the spirit of the inevitable, the focus of a number of upcoming posts here will focus on what it's like living in Montreal (and Canada in general) versus Amsterdam (and Europe in general).

Today, we're starting off on a bit of a downer note for those on the Canada side of the ledger. It has to do with rampant, almost out of control patriotism and jingoism.

Admittedly, I've arrived just before the Olympics, where the volume on national pride in most countries is turned all the way up.

But still, if national backslapping and synchronized self-congratulation were Olympic sports, Canada would take gold, silver and bronze.

TV ads running non-stop during the past two weeks say things like "The World Needs More Canada" (Air Canada), with Molson Canadian beer and Royal Bank expressing similar hubris. Barf.

A recent New York Times piece on Canada's welcoming of Syrian refugees mentions the amount of sharing on social media that volunteers are doing, as they express the sheer awesomeness of their own volunteering.

Flags Gone Wild

Driving around town these first few weeks, I've seen more flags on cars (note - this is also pre-Oympics) than I saw in six years in Holland. I don't know even know if they exist in Europe, these mobile symbols of chest-thumpery.

And well before my return to the motherland, I realized on my travels that Canadians are the only ones sewing their flags on their backpacks as they travel the world. No overt harm in this of course - but it looks like a cry for attention cloaked in national pride that seems unseemly. I doubt the flagless Italian or Kiwi backpackers are any less proud of their countries - they just don't need to shout it from the rooftops.

It's one thing to be with a great friend. It might get a tad annoying if that friend keeps saying "wow, aren't I great?"

Born Again Blogger


Hello from the other siiiiide...

After 3+ years of blogging only in my mind - a period of time dominated by raising a girl and doing very little travelling - I am back online.

Except, this time, it's coming to you from Montreal and not Amsterdam.

After almost seven years in Holland's remarkable, rainy, and occasionally really annoying capital, I've moved back to my birthplace.

It's only been a week so far, and seeing things for the first time in many ways (I haven't lived here for 20 years) is exceptionally refreshing. As a wise stranger named Shunryu Suzuki says:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few” 

This is a quick hello post - posts to come in the next few days and months will include pictures, impressions, reviews, and occasional rants. Happy to read your comments and suggestions too...

A bientot!