A Tale of Two Provinces: Culture shock within your own country

IMG_9235When someone says culture shock, you likely think about going across the world to a country with languages and cuisines that are decidedly foreign.

But really, culture shock can come in many forms. Born and raised in Alberta, I grew up travelling to and from both the west and east coasts of Canada.

I’ll tell you something most Canadians probably know, and something most foreigners probably don’t: Canada is not a homogenous country. BC is different from the prairies, different from the central region and different from the Maritimes. Leaving the Prairies to start my first year of university in Victoria came with an unexpected experience that can only be described as culture shock.

Like most first years who aren’t from Victoria, I chose to live in residence. I was prepared to miss home, I was prepared to struggle with my new found independence and I was prepared to have difficulty balancing my course work. What I was not prepared for however, was for the differences between Victoria culture and Edmonton culture to be so significant.

Here is a quick list of some things I’ve noticed:

Attitudes towards the environment

  • Edmonton has a state of the art recycling depot, but I’ve never experienced a level of commitment and encouragement for ethical approaches to preserving the environment.

Public transportation

  • Edmonton is landlocked, and we have trains in addition to buses. Also, Vancouver Island means ferries. Ferries!

Common abbreviations

  • This is mostly localized to the university, but things like CARSA (the gym), CL (community leaders in residence), and the SUB (student union building) take a hot minute to learn.


  • This is a biggie. The prairies have notoriously temperamental weather. The summers can heat up to +30C  and the winters can drop to -40C. Also winter typically goes from October to April. Victoria is much more temperate, even with the rain. For reference, it’s mid November in Victoria as I’m writing, and it feels like mid September in Edmonton, even before the chill hits.

As I said, I was prepared to be homesick, but I thought it would have more to do with missing my friends than missing the familiarity of local culture. The adjustment period probably took just over a month for me; it’s not always easy, and it really doesn’t need to be.

After I recognized how things were different and was able to accept those differences, I began to appreciate both culture here and back home. The distinct difference between Victoria and Edmonton culture wasn’t weighing on me as an impossible obstacle, rather offered new perspectives and attitudes that encouraged me to rethink my own ideas and behaviours.

I left my province for school because I wanted a change of pace and I got more change than I bargained for. The best thing is, I always have my home culture to return to when I’m missing it, but now I have this new culture to be a part of as well.

I tell all my friends currently taking gap years that they simply must leave Alberta for university if they’re able because I think everyone should get a healthy dose of culture shock every now and again to shake things up.

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2 Responses

  1. Mckenzie Latham says:

    As a fellow Albertan turned B.C. student, i know exactly where you are coming from, the first time i came out here i was shocked at how different everything was, not only in geography/weather but spirit, attitudes, transportation etc.

    i mean learning and using the public transportation system here was new since in Calgary everyone drives mostly and i have never needed public transportation before.

    I too left Alberta because i let i wanted a different cultural and to be honest personal experience then what i had known all my life and so i chose to come here, and it was a bit of a struggle to get used to anew culture, enforcement, and place.

    One thing that helped me was that i have family out here and so there was someone to steer me right and help me get use to the differences, but i think it has paid off well in my opinion.

    I am glad you were bale to get a hold of the culture shock and are now open to the new opportunities granted here, in fact i agree i think more people should try and experience the country so they can get to know the different kinds of people, cultures and groups that live within our nation, it is a great eye opener and a great educational experience, the closer we get to together the more united we can be as a people and a nation.

    • Erin says:

      Good to know I’m not the only one who felt this way! The change was more drastic than I was expecting as I said, but I’m really glad I took the leap and came out here. I have family in the lower mainland area and my mom grew up out here, so I know what you mean about it being nice to have family that are familiar with the region. I think the best part though is meeting people from outside Alberta and BC who are experiencing some level of culture shock as well, just in a different way. I completely believe in travelling and experiencing different cultures and social climates in order to have a better understanding of people and the world. It makes life more exciting, that’s for sure!