Tourist season is well and truly upon us for another year, and with it comes an influx of visitors to our fair province. I spent a lot of time working in the hospitality industry, so here are a few tips to help those visiting us make their stay that much more enjoyable.
Driving: First of all, welcome to British Columbia! I congratulate you on your decision to vacation here, as we really have a lot to offer. Just look at the beautiful scenery, the spectacular views, and the abundant wildlife around almost every corner; but not if it means slowing your car or camper down to a pace that an arthritic tortoise could probably manage. You’ll notice that we have thoughtfully provided picnic areas, pull-outs, and parks in places with the most incredible views. Please do make use of them, if only to prevent you being overtaken by a succession of drivers making rude hand gestures and mouthing obscenities (seriously, local drivers, don’t do that: honking your horn loudly and repeatedly is sufficient).
Wildlife: Speaking of our abundant wildlife, you will encounter many signs along our highways advising you to look out for deer, moose, and bears. Please note that these signs are in no way a guarantee that you will encounter these magnificent creatures: they are a warning, not a promise, and there will not be a refund if you fail to see one. The creatures you are most likely to see in abundance are mosquitoes and blackflies, and locals will happily recommend the best antihistamines, anti-itch creams, and bug sprays, while delighting you with stories of horrific bites they’ve sustained over the years.
Currency: Boy oh boy, our banknotes sure are colourful, aren’t they, especially when compared with their drab and uniform American cousins. However tempting it may be, though, please do not make references to “Monopoly money” or “funny money” when handing over Canadian cash. Anyone who has worked for more than about a week in an industry that caters to tourists has already heard these comments, many times over, and the polite smile they attach to their face when hearing them yet again does not mean “I, too, share your opinion”; it means “I am seconds away from lunging across this counter and shoving Sir John A. MacDonald where the sun doesn’t shine.”
Language: English and French are the two official languages of Canada, but if you speak French then I should warn you that the chances of encountering a native who speaks the language fluently diminish rapidly the further you get from Ontario and Quebec. If you’re fortunate you might meet someone who remembers a smattering of high school French, along with phrases picked up from cereal boxes, which isn’t terribly helpful unless you want to know if something is faible en gras, gratis, or a source très élevée de fibres. Also, to avoid disappointment, please do not expect any Canadian to pronounce the word “about” as “aboot”. Most people who pronounce “about” in that fashion live in a country called Scotland, and if you expected to be there instead of here then you need to switch travel agents.
Food: You will quickly notice that we really, really love French fries; so much so that poutine has almost become our national dish. By all means try poutine during your stay; whether you try it more than once depends entirely on how healthy your heart is. Know your limit, stay within it.
With that, happy travels; and I hope your time here is incroyablement délicieuses!