A Tale of Two Provinces: Culture shock within your own country
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.
- Edmonton is landlocked, and we have trains in addition to buses. Also, Vancouver Island means ferries. Ferries!
- 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.