A cause for celebration! After a year of pedestrianism in the country where Car is King, we are finally getting our own set of wheels. After months of trying to find ways around the various restraints imposed by a work visa we lucked out with a sweet deal from the boys at Jeep.Those of you who know me know my low opinion of American cars, but hey! when in Rome…. maybe that opinion is about to be revised (or entrenched!).
Our work visa meant we couldn’t get a line of credit to put a down payment on a car, or a lease/finance agreement longer than a very short period, making the monthly payments unaffordable. So we stuck it out for a year – trying every so often and coming up against the same brick wall. Until a last-ditch visit to a dealership brought K into contact with the fabulously named Mr Fancy who worked his arse off to get us terms we could go with.
It was clear when we arrived here that a car is pretty much a necessity. For a lot of Canadians it is a second home (third if they have a cottage) and drive-thrus are everywhere to accommodate this; there are fast food ones, pharmacy ones, drive-thru ATM’s… very handy for when you have forgotten to dress before hitting the road (pyjama culture is big here too). I’m not sure you’re average Canuck would cope without their big comfy
armchair on wheels pickup/SUV and their portable, insulated, stainless steel coffee mugs.
When I first ventured out on foot, crossing a road felt like crossing a continent – they are sooooo wide! And because drivers can turn “Right on a Red”, the Walk signal at pedestrian crossings does not necessarily mean it’s safe to cross! Although the pedestrian has right of way, drivers creep forward. There is none of the respectful distance allowed by British signal crossings. I felt like I was taking my life in my hands every time I crossed a road in those early days.
Some crossings have a timer, where you can see it counting down twenty seconds as you try to coax two moody young children and a pushchair with a mind of its own across the huge expanse of tarmac – if that’s not pressure I don’t know what is, I felt like I was in an episode of The Crystal Maze and Richard O’Brien would get out of a car and start shouting at me any minute!
Apart from finally getting to see more of this beautiful country, a car will make the biggest difference when it comes to grocery shopping. Imagine carrying a heavy watermelon for 2.5km, or two jumbo boxes of Pampers. When you have to walk a distance to shop, you feel you need to make your trip worth your while…therein lies the dilemma, because you are limited in what you can transport back. Costco is popular here. Buying in bulk saves money and most people have plenty of basement space to store their goods. But pushchair transport is not synonymous with the bulk buying philosophy, aside from the fact that we don’t live within walking distance of Costco 😦
It hasn’t all been gloom and doom though. Walking everywhere has kept us fit, and has meant that we spend more time together – we have some of our most in-depth conversations on a walk into town! You notice your surroundings more and strike up conversations with all sorts of random people (not everyone’s cup of tea, I know) and this helps with the settling in process, you are out in the world, not cocooned in an extension of your own. Some of you car-dependent Canadians should try it!!!