By Ye Jin Chung
Excitement rolled over when I took my first step on the carpeted floors of Edmonton International Airport in January of 2017. It was when I first encountered Canadian winter, but the chill felt delightful. As I reached closer to downtown, the night view of the River Valley and the sleepless buildings were spectacular. However, living in a foreign country is very different from traveling it. There were times when I was puzzled by the difference in the portrayal of Canada in the media and the reality, and times when I realized some characteristics must be implemented in my home country, South Korea. Here are the following things I would like to share about uncomfortable and unique experiences I had during my stay in Edmonton up until now:
1. Edmonton Transit Service and Light Rail Transit: The ETS seldom arrives on time. It’s perplexing when I see three route 9 buses coming in a row. Not just that it’s constantly late, it’s also quite dirty as well. It wasn’t a pleasant experience when I found out my seat was soaked with coffee, along with my jeans as well. It would be better if the seats were made of some other material that would prevent dirt and liquid to remain, such as plastic. If anyone finds a drink spilled over their seat, they can simply use their napkin or wet tissue to wipe it off. Gladly, there are some buses where plastic seats are installed, but it’s not widespread yet.
On top of that, in South Korea, it’s quite rare for passengers to give thanks to the bus driver before getting off. After I learned this etiquette in Edmonton, I now give thanks to the bus driver when I’m in South Korea to spend my summer. At first, most of the drivers seemed a little surprised but smiled, returning a “you’re welcome”. I feel this is an etiquette Koreans need to learn from Canada.
Moving on to the LRT, personally, it had fewer problems than the ETS. However, there’s still a critical disadvantage for using it: the wi-fi doesn’t work underground. A call with my friend would be disconnected as soon as the train entered a tunnel. I would often sit anxiously, waiting for the train to pass four stations underground. In Seoul (which is the capital city of South Korea if you didn’t know), wi-fi is always available in both the subway and the bus. There’s rarely a case where wi-fi connection would be weak, and it is offered free. I’m now used to this system, but it was a surprise when I first encountered it.
2. Long call wait times: As an international student, there were times I had to call the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for inquiries about my study permit. However, speaking with an agent was quite a quest. Almost every time I called them, the automated voice kept repeating that they were receiving a very high call volume and I had to try again later. Even if the voice gave the reply of “one moment please”, my phone was placed on hold for 40 minutes until I could speak with an agent. As the IRCC is a civil service department often sought by many people, waiting hours were inevitably long. Gladly, the IRCC solved this issue recently by calling back when it’s their turn. However, some companies still use this inconvenient waiting time, such as Rogers. Holding on my phone for more than 20 minutes without knowing when they will call me is a pain in the neck (and the back!) Being used to South Korea’s pali-pali culture (a “chop-chop” culture, where everything needs to be done as quickly as possible), long call wait times are very difficult to get used to, and even now.
3. Daylight savings time: Daylight savings time was a concern for me before I arrived in Canada because I simply hated being late to any events. South Korea used to implement daylight savings time, but it was repealed after 1988. I was worried if I would be late for classes on the day the system is applied because it advances clocks for an hour. However, smartphones automatically adjust their time automatically, so daylight savings time is not much of a problem for me anymore. However, there were some occasions where I forget that it was applied. For example, when I saw the time difference between my analog clock and my phone clock, I would often be puzzled about why there was a difference of an hour. I shuddered, thinking of this as a ghost’s mischief. I think daylight savings time is a useful system because one can avoid the sun rising too early in the summer or the sun rising too late in the winter.
4. Clean air quality: In my opinion, this is one of the greatest advantages that Canada has. Clean air is not always available in all countries. Especially, South Korea suffers from serious air quality issues due to the emergence of particle matter and yellow dust. During the spring season, clinics and hospitals would be packed with people suffering from respiratory, eyes, and skin disorders. I too would often visit the clinic because I regularly suffer from cold, including sore throats. In addition to that, I suffer from rhinitis since birth, which makes things just as great. At first, I was worried if I would visit the clinic often in Canada because I heard so many things about the notorious winters. However, I’ve never been to a clinic or hospital up until now. I always thought I caught a cold because of my weak immune system, but it was actually from the dirty air. Even if I caught one, it was simply relieved by purchasing some pills from my local pharmacy. On top of that, I’ve only caught the cold four times in Canada, while I paid regular visits to clinics around once a month back in South Korea.