Pants, Trousers & Sallapettes…The Culture Shock that Shocked me…

Well, ok, I figured that since I was going to an English-speaking country and it was Canada that it wouldn’t be THAT different and I doubted I’d experience culture shock in any particularly significant level.  I was wrong.

My other exchange friends and I were talking about the weird ‘hostility stage’ you experience when being away.  Your initial journey sort of goes from the exciting ‘Honeymoon period’, to the ‘Getting Used to Everything Period’, and then it gets to the stage where your trip has definitely been longer than a holiday.  It’s at this point, when you’re just beginning to settle in, that the ‘Hostility Stage’ creeps up on you.  This is when the strangeness of all the wee cultural differences you discover build up.  It’s most noticeable when you’re reminiscing about home or describing your favourite foods and no one has a clue what you’re talking about!  My friends came up with the concept of the ‘Hostility Stage’ to describe this period because sometimes they got frustrated when no one knew what ‘Tim Tam’s’ were (an Australian biscuit of awesomeness by the way) and when people kept assuming Britain was simply ‘England’, and when people refused to believe that Canberra is the capital of Australia!  (Erm, I might be slightly guilty there)…but we all got over it.

One of the best things I’ve found about being abroad is what you discover about your own country.  I didn’t realise I use so many Scottish colloquialisms that no one has ever heard of.  I discovered this when on seeing the confused looks my class was giving me during my drama presentation when I used the words ‘scaffy’, ‘numpty’ and ‘NED’…  Ok, I can give them that, writing them down they do seem like silly words.  But still, the point was that they’re part of my everyday speech so it got confusing when I had to stop and attempt to explain words three sentences in a row!

It’s also funny finding out people’s perceptions of different countries.  Like, everyone here thinks the London accent is the ‘British’ accent, which to us from Scotland sounds strange as there are thousands of accents in Britain, but then, similarly, most of the exchange students find it impossible to distinguish between Canadian accents :/.  A lot of people also confuse Australia with New Zealand which doesn’t always go down well with them… so it’s a cultural and geographical education for all, and usually we end up with a good collection of funny stories to tell!

Most of these moments are funny, sometimes a little embarrassing.  In class for example, I was highly confused when one of my Canadian friends asked me if I was wearing her ‘pants’, and after much assurance on my part that I was, in fact, wearing my own pants, I remembered that ‘pants’ here means ‘trousers’, and she was talking about the pair of jeans she gave me!  This I probably should’ve remembered from the movies but it caught me off guard this time, providing much hilarity for all.  I got another education when I was telling another Canadian friend what ski stuff I bought from America.  I was trying to explain the concept of ‘Sallapettes’ which apparently they call ‘Snow Pants’ here, and they call our Thermals, ‘Long Johns’.  It’s surprisingly difficult to describe words you use casually to people!

Anyway, as I said, most of these instances are pretty funny and form part of the whole studying abroad experience.  Even though little things annoyed us sometimes, you learn so much about so many cultures.  There’s a general consensus that the ‘hostility stage’ lasts for only about 2 weeks, about 6 or 7 weeks in and it’s over pretty quickly.  And even thought the Culture Shock can be a little irritating sometimes, I honestly think it’s also one of the best bits about being here – you just need to stick it out and I think when it’s over is when you really settle in.

P.S.  Oh, and for future reference – Beavertails are not actually beaver tails.  They are the most delicious Canadian food ever – deep fried dough with whatever topping on top, I reccommend Nutella….hmmmmmmmmm…. 🙂

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