In this increasingly connected world, things start to look similar wherever you go. I can buy the same handcrafted goods in a store in Victoria that I can buy on the street in Mexico.

However, after living in Innsbruck for a while, I have noticed that there are some interesting, and usually inexplicable, differences between Canada (NA) and Austria (EU). Most are little things, but of course it is those little things that can have a big impact in daily life.

So here is my list, so far, of what I consider notable differences. Mostly this leads to frequent questions of why, why, why. If you have any answers, do let me know.

Better in Canada

  • The first thing I have to comment on in Austria are the beds. What, what, what are they thinking? Beds for two people (Queen or King equivalent) have two mattresses. You can’t, as far as I can see, buy a single mattress that spans the whole bed-frame. As well, the comforters are only wide enough for one person, so each person sleeps under their own comforter. Can you see where I am going with this? If you want to snuggle up to your partner, you have to either squish together or lie on a very uncomfortable split in the bed. And then you have to do an Olympic- quality maneuver to get both of you under two blankets so that you don’t freeze. So my real questions are: Don’t these people like each other? And is this causing a decline in the population?
  • Bank pin numbers. O.K., so you know how I said it is the little things that makes life tricky? Well, here is one of them. In Canada I can walk into any branch of my bank and CHOOSE my pin number. Here, it is assigned and unchangeable. So now, after probably 15 years of the same code (yeah, yeah security issues…whatever), I have to remember a new one. Yes, I am old and crotchety and resistant to change. But it still pisses me off since I know that the technology exists to offer the customer this convenience.
  • Helmet laws. Everyone rides a bike here (and I mean everyone, including 90 year old women doing their daily shopping.) No one over the age of 10 wears a helmet. And every time I see a wee child screaming by on one of those Razor scooters with a bare head ready to be crushed on the sidewalk, I just cringe. I guess because the Europeans are so healthy with their exercise, appropriate weight and mostly organic food, they need to push the envelop a bit to even things out (See Smoking below.)
  • Smoking. Good GOD get it together Austria. Italy can ban smoking indoors but you can’t? Disgusting. Enough said.

Better in Austria

  • Top of the list has to be the dairy products and deli meats. Oh my goodness, the cheeses and meats are incredible. I will never be able to buy a package of Maple Leaf bacon again after the thin, smoked bliss of Tirolean-made Speck. And Appenzeller, which I could only find in Canada at specialty stores like Ottavio’s, is available here at every corner convenience shop. Of course, Canada certainly gives Austria a run for their money when it comes to a hearty steak, but for deli meats and cheese, there is no comparison. Simply heaven.
  • A close second, which might be related to the first, is the pizza. It is thin crusted and wood-fired and amazingly flavourful. With millions of Italians in North America, why did they not bring over the original pizza? They took a delicious dish and made it into a doughy, bland, greasy, gut-churning mess. Even ‘thin-crust’ in Canada doesn’t even remotely resemble the pizza here. So weird.
  • A sense of style. Since I pretty much have no style (unless ‘Boring and Monotone’ can be classified as a style), I’m a bit out of my element commenting on this. But still. It is not just that there are such great clothes to buy in the stores. It is the way they are put together with layering and mixing and contrasting (and, of course, scarves). It is a complete mystery to me, which I can only hope to one day unravel.

Interesting…But Which is Better?

  • Smaller living spaces. I think everyone knows that Europeans are completely happy living in smaller spaces than North Americans.  Of course, from an environmental perspective, this is much, much better. And the cleaning is certainly less of a chore in 1300 sq. feet than 3000. Plus it forces you to cull your crap often, which I firmly believe is a healthy thing for all humans. From a sanity perspective, though, NA wins hands down with the multiple bathrooms and plenty of rooms for storage and just hiding out from the family. I’m still undecided.

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