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Central Heating And Other Things You Only Love Once They’re Gone

Suzannah Windsor Freeman

This is a guest post from Suzannah Freeman at Write It Sideways. If you like to write and you want some great advice, Suzannah is one of the best out there.  She probably had no idea how often I read her blog until I typed these words. Enjoy!

by Suzannah Windsor Freeman

I read and learned and fretted more about Canada after I left than I ever did while I was home. ~Will Ferguson

Three years ago, my family and I moved from the shores of Lake Superior in northern Ontario, to South Australia.

It was a difficult decision, but one we felt was ultimately for the best.

Recently, someone asked me if I was starting to think of Australia as my home. I knew the right answer was supposed to be yes, but I couldn’t answer in the affirmative.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Australia. I love beaches and sunshine and emus and dolphins. I love that I don’t spend half an hour getting dressed to go outside for 10 minutes. And while I don’t love Vegemite, I have a healthy respect for its cultural significance.

However, after considerable time away from Canada, I now realize there are things about my home I couldn’t truly appreciate until they were gone.

They say the grass is always greener on the other side (which isn’t difficult–Australia is in the middle of a drought). Here are some of the things I’m beginning to miss about my home:

Snow, Ice, Cold

I know, some Canadians love snow, but I was never one of them.

When I was a kid, my school sat on top of a hill that became a veritable mountain of ice during winter.

I remember my classmates forming a human chain to drag each another up the hill toward the entrance. Sometimes, you’d nearly make it to the top and reach out toward those waiting hands, only to fall on your face and slide to the bottom once more.

Running-starts were encouraged, but often backfired.

I don’t miss the snow most days, but there are a few instances in which it could come in handy. Like the other day when it was 40 degrees Celsius and there was a raging bushfire on the edge of town.

If only we could have had one of those nice sub-zero, white-out moments at the crucial time.

Take that, bushfire!

Central Heating

I grew up in a house where the temperature was constant and my living room felt like a warm spring day, even in the middle of a snowstorm.

Funny enough, when I moved to South Australia, I had no idea how chilly it can get in winter. The houses here are built to keep heat out, not in, so central heating and double-glazed windows are uncommon.

It’s very strange to wake up in the middle of the night freezing your butt off, wondering why you decided to move to Australia in the first place.

French Directions on my Food

Most of you will know that Canada is officially bilingual.

Despite several years of compulsory school lessons, I don’t speak French (other than a few bonjours and chapeaus and ooo-la-las). Still, I kind of miss not having French labels and directions on all my food.

It’s one of those things you don’t even notice until it isn’t there anymore. I grew up seeing French on the back of everything, so there’s always some part of me that instinctively turns an Australian soup can expecting to see Mode d’emploi. I’m always disappointed.

I miss challenging myself to interpret the French side of the cereal box whilst I enjoy my breakfast.

Is that wrong?


Australians don’t beat around the bush; they say what they mean.

Canadians use the washroom. Aussies go to the toilet.

I remember in kindergarten when toilet was a dirty word. Having to say toilet in front of one’s peers was a fate worse than death. Consequently, I refrain from using the word whenever humanly possible.

Also, Australians refer to both the room and fixture as the toilet.

Hey, where’d you put my book?

In the toilet, Mate.

See what I mean? Totally wrong.

Finns and their Saunas

My hometown is almost entirely populated by Finnish people. Apparently, they think northern Ontario is very similar to Finland. It’s cold, it’s boreal, and they love it.

I’m not Finnish, but I do love sweating-it-out in a sauna, then jumping in the frigid lake.

I also miss meeting people named Jussi and Markku and Tuija and Heikki, which are all perfectly common names where I come from.

Most of all, I miss old Finnish ladies who make cabbage rolls and sell them at church bazaars.

In fact, I don’t remember the last time I encountered a good bazaar in Australia.

Completely Irresponsible Water Use

When you grow up near a lake like Superior, you never need to worry about water.

Australia, though surrounded by water on all sides, is the driest continent in the world. It actually feels cruel to stand on the parched ground, gazing at all that beautiful foamy sea, and know you can’t drink it.

We Canadians should definitely do more to conserve the water we’re so blessed to have, but I do miss being able to run through a sprinkler on a summer’s day, or rinse my car with a hose, or have a hot bath.

There’s no place like home

While I’m not in any hurry to race back to the great white north permanently, I do love when something reminds me of my home, and all the reasons I think its great.

O Canada. Maples, moose and mountains. The rich scent of poutine wafting from the kitchen. Anne of Green Gables. The fur trade. Newfies. Tundra. Heck, I’d even go as far as to say Celine Dion (but only when I’m feeling really sentimental).

Sometimes you have to let go of things before you can truly appreciate them.

Where’s home to you? Is the grass really greener on the other side?

What are you taking for granted today?


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  • Gordie January 20, 2010, 6:06 am

    I’ve been living in China for the past seven years and have slowly began missing my home New Zealand more and more. So, much so that I’m moving back in July. I think there are more push factors than pull factors for me going back. The two main reasons I’m going back is to escape the shocking air pollution here and to escape the rules that make it extremely difficult for foreigners to do business here.

    I too have become used to central heating in the winter and know I’m going to freeze my bollocks off the first winter I’m there, but I still think it will be worth it. 🙂

    • Suzannah January 20, 2010, 2:59 pm

      Yes, you will miss the central heating. Definitely 😉 Must be nice to know you’re on your way home, though.

  • Boris Bachmann January 20, 2010, 6:40 am

    Ice storm and a snow day here… I don’t mind it so much, but Australia sounds pretty good right now.

  • John Bardos - JetSetCitizen January 20, 2010, 7:25 am

    I miss reading the French on cereal boxes too! Maybe it is time to go home.

    Central heating definitely is nice. That is also missing in Japan. Temperatures here are about 20 degrees warmer in winter but it still feels much colder.

    • Suzannah January 20, 2010, 3:09 pm

      There’s just something about those French ingredients. They sound so much more sophisticated 😉

  • Hayden Tompkins January 20, 2010, 7:55 am

    This reminds me of a YouTube song I fell in love with called “Canadian, Please” as in, “you know that you want to be Canadian, please”.

    It has lyrics like, “We invented the zipper, we’ve got expertise!”

    I actually feel the same way you do, but about Miami. I was happy living there, but I was also happy to leave. (There are a TON of people there.)

    But I miss the culture and vibe, the food and dancing. There is no other city like it in the world and sometimes I miss it.

    • Suzannah January 20, 2010, 3:00 pm

      I’ll have to check out that song now! At least Miami is close enough that you can get there with relative ease. You can’t drive to Australia!

  • Jim Gaudet January 20, 2010, 8:31 am

    I have been in Costa Rica for about a year and honestly don’t miss the US too much. Mainly, some of the normal things like you. I would like to have water every day and not have the electricity go out every time it rains…

    • Suzannah January 20, 2010, 3:08 pm

      Water, yes. I miss it too!

  • Todd January 20, 2010, 8:35 am

    Oh, Suzannah… I’m going through this right now as well. I am from Washington State (the green side). I’ve lived out of the state before (I was a Navy brat), but WA was always home. The smell of rain (it rains all the time there… if you’re from California, you wouldn’t like it there). There are awesome coffee stands on every corner. Pacific salmon. Oh, and how I love fly fishing for trout.

    Alas, we move to Texas. Now, I like it here. There is a lot of cool things to do here. (Californians, it’s super hot & humid here, and we all own guns… you wouldn’t like it). It’s not coffee, but there is Tex-Mex food on every corner, so that’s not a bad thing.

    With that said, it’s not home.

    • Suzannah January 20, 2010, 3:01 pm

      There are good and bad things about any place you’ll live. I think it’s just a matter of always wanting to be in the place you’re not.

  • Suzannah January 20, 2010, 9:47 am

    Hey all,

    It’s 2:20 am here in Australia, and I’m up with my cranky baby, so I thought I’d check in here. I’m thoroughly enjoying reading your comments so far. Seems like there are a number of you who’ve been in the same boat. Keep ’em coming!

    • Josh Hanagarne January 20, 2010, 11:53 am

      Suzannah, go back to bed! We’ll be here when you wake up at a sensible hour.:)

      • Suzannah January 20, 2010, 3:02 pm

        Ha ha, was up again at 5 am with screaming baby. Gotta love coffee.

  • Srinivas Rao January 20, 2010, 10:00 am

    We’ve been getting hammered with heavy rain here in LA for the last 2 days. Normally we have the most perfect weather on the planet. It’s always warm and sunny. I guess I’ve really taken that for granted. No more :).

    • Suzannah January 20, 2010, 3:08 pm

      Yeah, I’m often tempted to take the weather in Australia for granted, too 🙂

  • Ayelet January 20, 2010, 11:11 am

    Hey Suzannah,

    I totally get where you’re coming from. We’re coming on 7 months here in Munich and there are several things I miss about the US: good customer service, the perpetual sunny-ness of Denver, English everywhere, etc.

    At the same time, I don’t miss the need to have a car to go anywhere (mass transit is AWESOME here), friends and family, taxes not being included in the cost of things, and how lazy I get there. 🙂

    In any case, there’s gotta be some kind of adventure in our lives to look back to when we’re 80+!

    • Suzannah January 20, 2010, 3:04 pm

      Customer service–there’s another good point. There’s no tipping in Australia, so I find the service at restaurants really poor by comparison. Of course, that’s not to say Canadians are only polite when you pay them to be 😉

  • Adam Di Stefano January 20, 2010, 11:14 am

    I was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. After graduating university, I moved to Connecticut. Despite being only 6 hours away from home, I still missed it.

    I missed seeing mountains of snow in my front yard. I missed it when six inches of snow didn’t shut a city down. I missed speaking French. I missed political issues that were uniquely Canadian/Quebecois. I missed the multiculturalism of the big city.

    After two years, I moved back to Montreal. I’ve now been back for close to two years, and y’know what? Sometimes I miss Connecticut.

    I miss never hitting traffic. I miss not having to shovel my car out of the lot. I miss being a stone’s throw away from the Atlantic.

    And this doesn’t even take into account the people. Nostalgia’s part of life, and missing things is good for you. It reminds us of the positive.

    Thanks for writing this, Suzannah.

    • Suzannah January 20, 2010, 3:07 pm

      Another Canadian! You’re right, I think the very act of missing things helps us to be appreciative of what we have at the moment.

  • Vandy Massey January 20, 2010, 11:50 am

    After 13 years in the UK I get more and more homesick for South Africa every time I see photographs of wildlife and the beautiful landscapes.

    There were many things we always meant to do while we were there, some of which we crammed in during our last weeks once we knew we were leaving. But there are some places I would still like to visit, having missed the opportunity because we thought we could do it another day.

    Things I miss – the dusty smell of Africa, driving into a cool swimming pool on a hot summer day, the sounds of the insects in the long grass in summer, oh dear, now I’m off….

    • Suzannah January 20, 2010, 3:05 pm

      Absolutely. You often don’t see the beauty of home until you leave it. The smells, the sights and sounds.

  • soultravelers3 January 20, 2010, 3:47 pm

    I really enjoyed this on a few levels! My Grandfather is Canadian and I have the fondest childhood memories of regularly visiting my Canadian Great Grandparents in Ontario.Magical to me.

    We’ve also been on an open ended, nonstop world tour as a family since 2006 & this is our 4th winter in the same tiny village in Southern Spain where my daughter goes to the local school & takes flamenco lessons & such to immerse in her 2nd language.

    Even in California we have central heating & I must admit, January is the month I get tired of those chilly nights (luckily we will be swimming in the pool out back by March & snow skiing is only an hour away in Granada).

    Still, our travels & winters in Spain (next winter it will be Malaysia so my daughter can immerse in her 3rd language Mandarin Chinese) have changed us mightily.

    We adore the beauty of California & are more convinced than ever that it is one of the prettiest places on the planet, but we actually feel more at home on the road, in Spain & in Europe.

    • Suzannah January 20, 2010, 9:31 pm

      Interesting. I’d love to do some world travelling one day, as well.

  • paulandrewrussell January 20, 2010, 7:24 pm

    I’m from England and have been living here in Newfoundland, Canada fro six years now. I miss the green English countryside. I miss fish, chips and mushy peas, silly really. I miss the sunshine in winter. I miss sandy beaches and seaside amusements.

    I like Canada but not the winter. I like the freedom here, the wide open spaces and the wildlife. I only miss England occasionally, think of Canada as my home now.

    • Suzannah January 20, 2010, 9:29 pm

      Yes, Canadian winters are harsh. Probably even worse in Newfoundland than Ontario. I don’t envy you!

  • Dave Doolin January 20, 2010, 8:43 pm

    You had me all the way to Celine Dion.

    Then you lost me.

    Fair enough. I get homesick for Tennessee occasionally. But not Garth Brooks!

    I know exactly what you mean about heating too. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve shut down the back of my apartment. I don’t want to heat it. Too cold! Ridiculous!

    • Suzannah January 20, 2010, 9:28 pm

      Is it safer to say I get homesick for being able to say how much I can’t stand hearing Celine Dion on the radio??

  • Suzannah January 21, 2010, 1:47 am

    Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments. I loved hearing all the stories about your own homes, and what you miss about them (or don’t miss).

    Josh–thanks again for having me here. Your readers are fantastic!

    • Josh Hanagarne January 21, 2010, 8:39 am

      thank YOU. And you’re right. It’s a great crowd.

  • Ric January 21, 2010, 5:51 am

    I have a very tiny, but amazing photo of a little girl, bundled up in her pink snowsuit, peering out from an igloo she’d made in Ingrid’s front yard.
    Remember being there, Suzannah?
    Canada misses you too!
    Enjoy the sunshine. I’m going to turn up the heat.

  • Anony Mouse May 12, 2011, 7:33 am

    Hello – agree with you 100% on the poor (or absent) heating in Australian accomodation. Just moved back here (after 15 years in London) and am completely struggling with the cold houses here. 12 degrees in my bedroom feels like a freezer and I am not having a decent sleep. There is one gas heater (Rinnai) in the lounge room – and I am only warm if I sit right next to it. All other rooms in the house are useless as they are too cold. This means I have at least 4 more months of this – and it completely negates the weather advantages I came back here for. I cannot function in such a cold house, and having poor sleep just adds to a miserable welcome to Sydney. I have to reconsider whether I want to live long term here with no central heating – when I wake up with a temperature of 35.1 degrees this is not healthy. Cannot function like this and already I am looking to take a holiday to Bali to escape the cold house ! Probably going back to the UK to be honest – the cold houses are a big and unwelcome shock, and it seems my body needs the comfort of central heating to avoid hypothermia.