Contemplating Canada: Part 1

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Having now been in Calgary, Alberta for the first two months of my year abroad, I’m finally getting into the swing of things here in one of Canada’s coldest cities. There are a hundred and one things that differ from dear old Blightey, but most recently it was Halloween that had me surprised. I amply sampled the local festivities via three separate parties, one of which being the infamous ‘Frat party’.

far from the uncomfortably predatory environment that American cinema had sadly prepared me for, my flatmates and I actually had a great time

With a guest list of a mere 300 people, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Kappa Sigma’s bungalow on the outskirts of campus. However, far from the uncomfortably predatory environment that American cinema had sadly prepared me for, my flatmates and I actually had a great time. This may have been due to the fact that I was dressed as a stereotypical Tinder guy called Fred — name tag very much included — which meant I was given a wide berth, but this gave me a fantastic opportunity to observe the Frat boy in his natural habitat. Hockey-jersey-wearing or flannel-clad, I saw many a beard and many a bottle of IPA. To be quite honest, the only real differences to a British house party were the Greek letters on every surface imaginable (including many human bodies), the professional DJ (Fraternities tend to have hefty budgets for these things), and the bonfire in the garden (which somehow didn’t lead to any drunken injury).

To be quite honest, the only real differences to a British house party were the Greek letters on every surface imaginable

Canadians do love a costume, and not just a scary one – quite literally anything goes. Napoleon Dynamite, Bob Ross, and several Pharaohs were introduced to me over the course of evening. But it wasn’t just limited to the parties. On Halloween itself, and in the middle of the day, I was wandering around downtown Calgary and must have seen every other person in some state of dress-up; including the suited and booted workers emerging from the many many skyscrapers scattered around the centre. I couldn’t quite imagine seeing a woman in full skirt-suit and witch’s hat walking around London? But I did in fact see just that as I grabbed a coffee from the cafe on the ground floor of a firm. One adorable observation though was that rush hour was brought forward to around 3.30 so that parents could be home in time to take their kids trick or treating. The C-train — Calgary’s equivalent of the tube — was packed by mid-afternoon, and a kind fellow passenger let me know that I didn’t have the time wrong, Canada is just that lovely.

rush hour was brought forward to around 3.30 so that parents could be home in time to take their kids trick or treating

They weren’t lying when they said North Americans took Halloween seriously, but Thanksgiving was a whole other ball game. I’ll be back soon with some more thoughts and observations from across the Atlantic. I hope Durham is treating you all well. Even when the temperature drops to single figures, count yourself lucky it won’t ever reach the minus thirties!

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