About ten years ago, I came to Canada for the first time on a year-long college exchange program. I had never lived in a foreign country before, and even though the language wasn’t too much of an obstacle (except the speaking part), I immensely struggled with some culture shock. The shock was usually around small things.
The college I stayed at was a particularly small one located in the outskirt of a small town. The majority of the students lived on campus and most of the professors and staffs lived within the walking distance from the campus. I was given a room at one of the dormitories shared with another exchange student.
One of the things that initially tortured me was the lack of coffee shops nearby. Having lived in Tokyo for a few years, I had gotten used to studying at coffee shops. Even though there was a beautiful library on campus, at first, my need for a coffee shop was so intense that I searched everywhere on campus for a coffee shop where I could stay and study.
After several days of roaming around, I found a tiny shop called “Bus Stop Cafe” in one corner of a building not too far from my dormitory. The “cafe” was run by one lady, and it was more like a corner shop than a coffee shop. Nonetheless, they had coffee and a few tables and chairs, so I started going there to study in the morning before my classes.
One morning, while I was looking at different items on the shelves, a bunch of huge muffins caught my eye. They were carrot muffins. Intrigued by its round shape and size, I picked one and bought it along with my coffee.
Back in my seat by the window, I opened the cling wrap around the muffin and took the first bite. The muffin was so huge that my mouth barely scraped the surface. I gave it another try, this time, with more force. Slowly, I succeeded in eating the muffin. But when the top round part of the muffin finished, there was no more place for my mouth to hold onto. As I removed the paper cover at the bottom to gain new access to my muffin, the muffin crumbled away, creating a big mess on the table.
It was such an ordeal to eat this muffin. And yet, there was something so satisfactory about it. I went back to this tiny “coffee shop” many times after that specifically to get the muffin.
This was one of my memorable experiences of culture shock during my first stay in Canada.