Back at home: 11 things about Canada that surprise people in Brazil

As an exchange student, I only stayed one semester at UVic, the last one (Fall 2016). I already miss it so much! But I won’t stop writing for MyUVic Life. The difference is that now you’ll also get a different perspective of my exchange as a whole. This one is about things people get surprised here in Brazil when I talk about my stay in Canada.

Despite the cliche about developed and emerging economies, I also saw a lot of cultural differences and they were very interesting. Here are 11 things that people have already asked me.

1. Do people really stop for you at the crosswalk?

Different cities have different transit habits. The first thing that surprised me when I arrived in Victoria was that cars really stop for you at crosswalks!!

This may sound crazy, but pedestrians here aren’t really a priority in the streets. We have to wait for all the cars to pass so that we can cross the street.

2. Isn’t it dangerous to sleep with the front door unlocked?

At the house I stayed at in Victoria, my host rarely left the front door locked ― only when there was nobody home. And then I discovered that is a habit for some people. In some cities here in Brazil it is dangerous even if the front door is locked.

3. It is beautiful to see houses without high walls or gates!

Speaking of danger, sometimes the difference between houses in Brazil and houses in Canada are really visible. Both of these photos I grabbed from Google, but you get the idea: the first one is much more open, while in the second one you get even electric fences to stop people from jumping in.

(I’d like to point out that houses in Brazil here are rarely as big and beautiful as the second one.)

4. You really won’t get robbed if you use your phone in the streets?

You see from the last items that security is a frequent issue here. Sometimes it is even a habit to fear that someone is going to rob you in the street if you are with your phone or showing something of value, but it happens every day in most cities in Brazil (mostly in big cities, but some small ones can be dangerous too).

When I say at home that I walked alone around 3 AM, or left my things alone at the library while I went to the bathroom for a few minutes, nobody believes me.

5. That is a really high cost of living!

As I said, different cities have different habits, but also different costs of living. I live in a not so expensive city in the countryside of Brazil, so the price I paid for a bedroom in Victoria was the price of the rent for a whole house here in my city! Other costs, such as flight tickets, were expected but also high for most people in Brazil.

6. Why it is cheaper to fly to the US than to fly inside Canada?

Speaking of flight tickets, I still don’t understand this. I was looking for trip options while I was in Canada and saw a round-trip ticket for $200 to Los Angeles, and couldn’t find something similar even to Vancouver. In Brazil, domestic flights are much cheaper than international.

7. Do nightclubs really close at 2 AM?

I don’t know if this is valid only in Victoria or BC, but me and my Brazilian friends got a little disappointed when we went to a nightclub and the party ended punctually at 2 AM.

We didn’t believe it when we saw the end time on the Facebook event, only when we were dancing to the sounds of Beyoncé and the lights were turned on and the music stopped. Around here, it is common for parties to end only when the sun starts rising the next day.

8. Unhealthy food is really cheap!

$6 for 2 Whoppers? $9 for 2 frozen pizzas? Why not?! Jokes aside, I really tried to eat well, but when my money was low some places with cheap (and unhealthy) food were my first option.

A fun fact about Brazil is that nutritionists consider it to have one of the healthiest eating habits, so unhealthy food isn’t necessarily cheaper than healthy food.

9. Their public transport is a bit different.

This is the bus I take here in Bauru (São Paulo/Brazil)

Victoria’s public transport isn’t perfect, but for me it was really good ― and similar ― to the public transport in my city here in Brazil. However, the buses were much more comfortable and accessible. The schedule didn’t vary much, and I liked the fact that it doesn’t have a ratchet for people to go through, and you don’t necessarily need to pay for each trip.

Around here, we have to pay for every single trip, and people got really surprised when I said that with the ONEcard I was able to take as many trips as I wanted.

10. Their semester is really tight.

The semester here in Brazil means literally 6 months ― not 4, as it is in UVic’s academic semester. Taking orientation week, reading break and exam week off the schedule, the result’s roughly 3 months of classes. Very rushed, but I got used to it.

11. Counselling Services are really useful.

I know everybody gets stressed out easily with the semester, and with life in general. The exchange was very rewarding for me but also very exhausting.

When I was feeling bad at a point that affected my academic performance, I went looking for counseling and was happy to find it inside UVic, for free! This is rarely available here in Brazil, although I consider it very important.

How about you? What did you find it different at UVic or Victoria when comparing to your home country?

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