07 July 2009


The good news first: This is the first post I am typing in my new flat, where I sleep well in my own bed, and the internet connection obviously works.

Getting this far was not so easy however, and the last week was very intensive indeed. Some of the effort was expected, such as Monday's treck to Ikea, Zellers and Canadian Tire in order to buy half a household worth of furniture and accessories in one and the same day. I had also prepared myself for Saturday's mad assembly rush, and had cajoled four very dear friends into spending the day helping me. They did, and thanks to it I now own furniture instead of cardboard boxes!

What I did not anticipate though, and was both disgusted and upset about, was the appalling dirtiness in which the apartment was handed over to me. Yes, the landlord did repaint every wall, but that was all he did. The floors being covered in paint and plaster stains were a minor complaint compared to the dark-grey windows and screens and the stains in the bathroom.

Worst of all however was the kitchen. When I had visited the flat, I saw that it was both old and dirty, but I expected it to be cleaned to reasonable (if not Swiss) standards before handover. Unfortunately, nothing at all happened, which meant that I encountered a fridge with a grease-vegetable-goo crust at its bottom, closets and cupboards covered in solid layers of grease and dust, and appliances filled with someone else's hair & dirt. It was really, really icky!
The landlord, who otherwise seems a nice enough guy, just shrugged and said that here in Quebec, that's just how it is. (Consultations with local friends revealed that this is not true, and I'll take the issue up). In the end, I spent a full two days cleaning and sanitizing the kitchen, with a professional cleaner recommended by my new neighbor adding another full day in between. It was not pleasant at all. Still, to end this post on a bright note, now that it's done I take great joy in gradually unpacking and arranging my stuff, and really building myself a new home. Soon, I'll be able to share "after" pictures!

01 July 2009

Canada Day

On July 1st, the Great White North traditionally celebrates Canada Day from coast to coast. From coast to coast? Not quite, for one small province of indomitable Québecois still holds out against the Federalist invaders....

Of course, July 1st is a national holiday and therefore also a day off here in Québec, where the day is used by everyone and their dog to move. Move out, move in, move together, move apart... you name it, it happens today. Which obviously means no vans / U-Hauls / boxes / empty parking spots at Ikea can be found at all. This ingenious concentration of action obviously sees me in the middle of it, as today is the day the lease for my new home starts. But more on this in the next few posts.

For now, I'd like to share a few thoughts on the values that this country, True North Strong and Free, has so far displayed. I was and continue to be very much impressed by and grateful for the openness and welcoming attitude towards new arrivals. From the treatment of my work permit application (once it was submitted to the right places), to the friendly welcome by immigration officials at the airport, to government officials on both provincial and federal level that I had to deal with - everybody seemed open and upbeat about new arrivals, and was kind and helpful. Although lacking first-hand experience, I'd think that this attitude would be somewhat different in Switzerland.

But it was not just the government (dial 1-800-o-canada), but bankers, mobile phone operators, landlords etc. as well who seemed to follow a "trust over doubt" attitude. I had been quite concerned about being able to sign up to essential services here without a residence history, but everybody just said "New arrival, eh? No problem. Welcome to Canada."

Finally, there is another attitude that somebody nicely described in our merry drinking round yesterday night: Canada very much sees itself as a "mosaic of cultures", where many pieces of different colors fit together to form a bigger picture. This is in striking contrast to the "melting pot" mentality famously attributed to the United States - where everyboddy seems to pursue the same American Dream. I must say, I like it up north.

Happy Canada Day!

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