A few weeks back I met this cool guy, with a cool accent.

jesseJesse, (Centre) at the 2015 Merritt Relay and Run

His name is Jesse Gibbs and he moved to Canada from New Zealand.  I asked him to write a blog on life in Canada.

He said yes. Here it is.

The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Kiwi in Canada

By Kiwi Jesse Gibbs

After being in Canada for almost three years, I think I can fairly say that I’m starting to get the hang of things now. I look the right way when crossing the road, I always dress appropriately during winter, and I know the Go Transit system like the back of my hand.  But just as I start to feel like a local, there’s always something to send me crashing back to my immigrant-status reality.  As much as I love Canada and everybody in it, ‘fitting-in’ in the Great White North is not quite as easy as one would think.

Before coming to Canada for the first time in 2012 for a university exchange, I felt as ready as I could possibly be. I figured that I was already used to Canadian culture, what more would there be to learn?

For instance, Canadian music is pretty popular in New Zealand.  No celebrity has ever come close to matching the crush I once had on Avril Lavigne; Alanis Morissette epitomized the 90s; and ‘Summer of 69’ would still be in the Top 40 if I had anything to do with it. 

As far as movies go, I had seen enough high school and college movies to understand the social complexities of the North American schooling system.  After all, Canada is just supposed to be a cold version of the USA, right? And movies are an accurate depiction of real life, right? I would be the exotic exchange student with crowds of friends around me in the cafeteria, and a row of girls on each arm…

If only they could understand what I was saying.

In reality, people aren’t mesmerized by my accent as much as they are confused by it.  I can’t even introduce myself without my name being mistaken with ‘JC’ (MICHELLE DID THAT).

Over time my accent has softened to the point where I can at least have conversations with people, but certain words which are hardwired into my brain still remain.  When I want ‘tomato sauce’ with my fries, all I get are strange looks.  When I want ‘lollies’ I get anything but the candy I’m actually after.  When I say ‘ute,’ you probably have no idea that I mean pick-up truck.  The list goes on.  But after all this time, I think I’m only holding on to those words out of stubbornness to change – desperate to reap the rewards of my social uniqueness that the movies promised me.

That ‘uniqueness’ understandably spurs on a lot of curiosity from Canadians.  Questions are asked, and without fail the first question is always “Are you from Australia?”  By now I’ve gotten used to that –  it happens so often, it’s easiest to just take a deep breath and politely say no.

Here are some other real examples of questions that Canadians have asked me:

“Have you ever had hot chocolate before?”

“Do you guys have movie theatres in New Zealand?”

“What about the internet?”
That too.

“Toilets flush the other way in New Zealand, right?”
Not really, they kind of just flush straight down.

“Is New Zealand a part of Australia?”

“Is Australia a country?”
Pardon me?

But in the defence of those who asked the questions, NZ is a tiny little country in the corner of the world, so I certainly don’t expect people to know much about it.  In fact, if it wasn’t for Lord of the Rings and Flight of the Conchords, people wouldn’t know anything about it. But the smile on people’s faces as they pretend to know what I’m saying is more than enough for me.  Maybe that’s my social reward after all? A thought for me to enjoy every time I have to set foot outside in -30 degrees, endure yet another country song on the radio, or bite my tongue when I am reminded that HST isn’t included in the advertised price.

Undeniably though, Canada is a lot of fun.  Despite the confusion and the misguided questions, you Canadians have certainly made me feel welcome, and for that I’m grateful. I only ask that you do me one more favour – the next time you see an Australian, ask them if they’re from New Zealand.

Sharing a muffin with a raccoon. Rabies warnings disregarded.

Wouldn’t a roundabout be so much easier? How does anybody get anywhere in this country?


Submitted by the Kiwi

Jesse Gibbs

Who Is Jesse Gibbs?


Originally from Timaru, New Zealand, I’m just trying to find my feet in Canada. With a Masters in Tourism, I have a passion for travel and especially air travel. I’m also a competitive runner, and am particularly fond watching rugby. However I’m still trying to come to terms with adult life.

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