10 Things I Missed About Canada While Abroad

One of the questions I’m often asked about Spain is what we have here in Canada that is lacking there, or what I missed the most from home. A few things instantly come to mind; others require a bit more reflection. Here, I’ve compiled a list of the 10 things apart from friends and family that I missed the most about Canada while I was in Spain.

1. Frozen fruit

I’m not sure whether it was just Granada or Spain in general, but I did not come across a single piece of frozen fruit in the entire five months I was abroad. I checked every grocery store – even the British one – but alas, I came home empty handed. Now that I think about it, the reason for this might be that they don’t really have berries in Spain other than strawberries. Still, making smoothies from fresh fruit just isn’t the same.

2. Good service in restaurants

You’re lucky if your server stops by the table other than to take your order, bring your food, and give you the bill. In a country where service staff don’t work for tips, don’t expect to be asked how your food tastes or if you need anything else.

3. Meat & dairy alternatives

The vegan/vegetarian thing hasn’t really caught on yet in much of Spain as eating meat, especially Spanish ham, is an important part of the culture. As a result, soy and vegetable alternatives to meat and dairy products are few and far between. They can be found most often in health food stores, but the prices for some items are exorbitant. You’re better off buying quinoa on Amazon. Also, almond/coconut/hemp milk tends to be loaded with sugar.

4. Smoothie bars

“Hi, my name is Ivana and I’m an alcoholic addicted to smoothies.” Preparing a smoothie loaded with fruit, greens, chia seeds, coconut oil, and a splash of almond milk is hands-down my favourite way to start the day feeling refreshed and energized. When I’m on the go, I’ll often grab a smoothie from Booster Juice or Jugo Juice to sip on. Much to my disappointment, I only found one place in Granada that served smoothies like the ones we have here in North America (again, lack of frozen fruit is a problem). Think of how much more bearable the Spanish heat could be with a nice cold smoothie in hand! Actually, that might not be a bad business idea…

5. Breakfast places

Spain does a lot of things right when it comes to food, but their breakfast could certainly be improved. If they eat it at all, breakfast generally consists of a slice of toasted French bread with tomato or jam on top. Churros con chocolate is the other favourite after a night of partying. No eggs. No oatmeal. No fruit and yogurt. Going out for breakfast isn’t really a thing, either, considering breakfast is culturally the least important meal of the day. I made sure to grab some eggs Benny and a glass of orange juice on my visit to Dubai over the holidays.

6. Sundays and siestas

I was actually reminded of this one while reading a post on LisaLDN.com. I recall going out for groceries on one of my first days in Spain only to find that everything except the odd café was closed. Right. Siesta. The closure during siesta period was the more difficult of the two to adapt to because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out when siesta time actually took place! Was it 1-3? 2-4?  2-5:30? I still don’t know.

Sundays are just an ordinary day in Canada. Not so in Spain. Though inconvenienced by the closures a couple times, I actually grew fond of lazy Sundays in the sun, catching up with friends over a plate of churros.

7. Courtesy

I’m aware that this is going to sound like the most Canadian complaint ever, but I was genuinely disappointed by the lack of politeness that some Granada residents showed. Receptionists, servers, random people on the street: I often wondered whether these people were ignorant to the fact that they weren’t exactly pleasant, whether they just didn’t care, or whether my expectations were simply too high as a result of my Canadianness. Maybe a combination of the three, but probably the third. Someone would run into me on the street, and I would be the one to say “sorry.” Yeah…

8. Central heating

It’s southern Spain, they said. It will be warm, they said. Lies! 

Seriously, though. If you ever go to the south of Spain in the winter, bring a sweater. (This is coming from a Canadian.)

9. Toilet paper

I can’t count the number of times I walked into a restroom and reached for the toilet paper only to find the holder empty. This happened everywhere: bus stations, restaurants, bars, my university. I learned quite quickly to carry a packet of tissues in my purse.

10. Free refills

Something we so often take for granted here in North America is the seemingly endless fountain of glorious soda. Now, I’m actually not a huge pop fan, but I do appreciate an iced tea every so often and I especially appreciate that I don’t have to ration my drink to make it last the entire meal. Europe is all about the individual 200mL beverage bottles. I’m sure this is just one of many reasons why obesity is a much smaller problem there than it is here. However, you’ll even be charged for water if you don’t specify that you’d like it from the tap. If anything, I suppose this speaks to how spoiled we are in North America.

I’m beginning to realize that much of what I missed is in some way related to food. What can I say? I love to eat and I love the dining experience in Canada! As much as I sometimes wish I had these things in Spain, they certainly don’t detract from the country’s appeal. Spain is very dear to me because of its unique culture and lifestyle, as is Canada. Neither will ever be perfect for me, and that’s just fine.

Tell me, what are some things you miss from home when you go abroad?

10 Things I Missed About Canada While Abroad

 

33 Comments

  1. Reply

    LisaLDN

    May 1, 2016

    Ah, I was so surprised to come across that link to my blog when reading this, haha! Did you see that I wrote a post on reasons I DON’T miss living in the US as well? And I actually added the free refills to that, haha. As a European, there was too much pop overload for my taste, haha.

    Thank you for stopping by, and for writing this! I’ve ALWAYS wanted to visit Canada, and have such high expectations for your country. I’m imagining a perfect blend between Norway and the US, for some reason! Loved reading this post!

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 1, 2016

      I haven’t read that one yet! I saw it up on the Pinterest board though, so I will definitely head over there this morning and check it out :) That’s a neat idea to do the two sides of the experience: what you like and what you don’t like.

      Actually, I noticed that’s one of the things I mentioned to my boyfriend while we were in Oslo: the people there live a lot like Canadians do, especially in terms of work and getting through the cold, dark winters with outdoor activities. You guys are just much more environmentally friendly than us, and we have a fair bit more sunshine! I have always aspired for Canada to be more like Norway and Sweden haha.

      Thanks so much for reading, Lisa! If you do make your way to Canada, let me know! I would love to meet up :)

  2. Reply

    Patricia - Ze Wandering Frogs

    May 3, 2016

    Funny how we get to miss stuff once we are away!

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 4, 2016

      So true! Thanks for reading, Patricia!

  3. Reply

    Holly

    May 3, 2016

    There are some creature comforts I’ve missed from home when I’ve been traveling for longer bits of time, but for the most part, it’s the people I miss more than anything.

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 4, 2016

      Agreed. The people are truly what makes coming home precious.

  4. Reply

    Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren

    May 3, 2016

    Yes, getting used to the service abroad was a challenge at first for me! They’re just so attentive in North America, probably because they working for tips. Great post, thanks for sharing :)

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 4, 2016

      Very true. Here in Canada, and I imagine the US as well, servers can be paid less than minimum wage because it’s expected they’ll make tips. I don’t agree with this system at all, but I have to admit that it does make for some pretty great service the majority of the time.

      Thanks for reading, Lauren!

  5. Reply

    Heather Cole

    May 3, 2016

    Frozen fruit, what’s that all about? Never heard of this before, sounds intriguing, maybe a Canadian thing? I’m British and I miss queues when I’m abroad, not having to wait, but because nowhere apart from the UK seems to be able to queue in an orderly and fair manner ;-)

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 4, 2016

      I find it so hard to believe people have never seen frozen fruit!! Must be a North American thing, then.

      Funny, my English friend said the exact same thing about queues. I do appreciate people who know how to line up properly!

      Thanks for reading, Heather :)

  6. Reply

    Perrisha

    May 3, 2016

    Aw, I hope the list won’t dampen your overall experience. I chuckled at the toilet paper point, not sure why lol. Whenever I’m overseas I miss the warmth of my people. Individuals overseas seem to mind their own business. Jamaicans will strike up random conversations on public transportations, as if they’ve known you all their lives!

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 4, 2016

      I fell madly in love with Spain despite the things listed here. Each country has its own culture that might frustrate us at times but that we should learn to appreciate ;)

      Jamaica sounds lovely! Reading your blog initially piqued my interest. Knowing that the people are so friendly only makes me more eager to visit.

      Thanks for reading, Perri!

  7. Reply

    Carmen's Luxury Travel

    May 3, 2016

    Yes, I always miss those free refills! I enjoyed reading this, thanks for sharing.

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 4, 2016

      Thanks for reading, Carmen!

  8. Reply

    Lara Dunning

    May 3, 2016

    When a friend and I traveled in Spain for a week we always were starving during siesta hours because we couldn’t get our stomachs to get with the program.

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 4, 2016

      I know how you feel! It was quite a challenging adjusting to the Spanish eating schedule on top of trying to figure out when I could actually go out and buy food.

      Thanks for reading, Lara!

  9. Reply

    Jojo

    May 4, 2016

    Toilet paper is definitely the most important one! Haha I really missed that in China. I learned quickly to carry around your own paper,

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 4, 2016

      I will keep that in mind when I make my way to Asia!

      Thanks for reading, Jojo!

  10. Reply

    Colby

    May 4, 2016

    I am currently living in South Korea and totally feel the same way about just about everything on this list!! ESPECIALLY courtesy and toilet paper!! ARGH! lol

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 4, 2016

      I’m glad you can relate!! The toilet paper one is SO frustrating. But hey, the perks of living abroad totally outweigh the drawbacks in my opinion ;)

      Thanks for reading, Colby!

  11. Reply

    Cassie

    May 4, 2016

    I mostly miss food stuffs – you cannot find Hys seasoning salts anywhere outside of Canada!!!

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 4, 2016

      Okay, I’ll admit that I didn’t actually know what Hys seasoning salt was, but I recognized it as soon as I Googled it. That’d be one of those things you have to get your friends to send over in a care package!

  12. Reply

    brianmayroam

    May 4, 2016

    The service in restaurants one made me laugh.

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 4, 2016

      The struggle is real.

      Thanks for reading, Brian!

  13. Reply

    Christina

    May 4, 2016

    Being from Canada and having visited Spain I ran into some of these issues as well. I was really surprised about the lack of breakfast places as well. Basically, drink your espresso and have a heavy lunch became the norm during my visit.

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 4, 2016

      Yep, that sounds about right, Christina. At least since I started my school day at a reasonable hour (9-10ish) I could make myself a nice, hearty breakfast.

      Thanks for reading!

  14. Reply

    Brianna

    May 4, 2016

    I really enjoyed this post. It’s always fun to reflect on the similarities and differences between countries!

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 4, 2016

      I’m so happy you liked it, Brianna! Thanks for reading :)

  15. Reply

    Arzo Travels

    May 5, 2016

    I do not know why for some reasons I really like Canada (was there only for 3 days) but I always assume they are so friendly and just nice :) It is great to hear that plant-based diet is not something people do not know about in Canada- I also struggle with that in many countries (though I am not fully vegan)

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 5, 2016

      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your short stay in Canada! We take much pride in being considered a country full of friendly people. Oh yes, the move to a plant-based diet is certainly catching on in Canada. We have tons of health food stores and quite a few vegetarian/vegan restaurants. I am not fully vegan either, but considering making the switch. I know it could make travel challenging, though. Hopefully more countries get on board and provide us with some meatless options!

  16. Reply

    Stephanie

    May 9, 2016

    I loved this post! There are quite a few things I miss about America (one being In n Out) but after my most recent trip home, I’ve found that I’ve assimilated to Australian culture more than I thought. I found myself after a few days missing things about Australia.

    Stephanie
    Adventures in Aussieland

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      May 10, 2016

      I’m so glad to hear you liked it, Stephanie! I definitely see where you’re coming from. When I went back home, I also found myself missing things about Granada because I had become accustomed to the Spanish culture. Funny how that works ;)

      Thanks for reading!

  17. Reply

    Amber Petersen

    September 1, 2016

    I couldn’t agree more!! Canada rocks ????

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