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Shopping in Canada

I was so concerned before my trip about being able to figure out what the current temperature was outside (Multiply degrees in C by 9, then divide by 5, then add 32 to get degrees in F), that I never really stopped to think about the actual act of grocery shopping in another country.

So, here’s a few things I’ve learned so far that might be of help to other travelers:

  • Become familiar with the currency and the conversion rate. I’m fortunate that Canada uses the Canadian Dollar and so the denominations are all the same with the exception of using a one dollar and two dollar coin instead of bills. This morning, I had $10 in loonies and toonies in my purse! Also remember that when you go to convert money back to US currency, most places won’t take coins, even if they are the dollar and two dollar coins. The Canadian dollar is worth about US$1.03, so it’s nearly an even exchange. I can easily convert in my head to figure out how much I’m spending in US Dollars. (And it’s not pretty. Wow, stuff is expensive here!)
  • Learn the Metric system. I wanted to buy some cheese for sandwiches, and I stared gobsmacked at the signs for a good 10 minutes “$2.09/100g”. What’s 100g? 100g is a little less than 1/4 of a pound. So, if you wanted “one pound” of cheese, you’d need to order 100-500g. Fortunately, the deli scale at the Safeway measured in both pounds and grams, so when I explained I was a poor confused American who wanted a half pound of cheese, she was able to measure it out in pound format.
  • Be prepared to spend more money on “American” items. I didn’t come with any toiletries because I wanted to save on the room in my suitcase. I sort of wish I had brought some along, anyway. I still haven’t bought any body wash, because I haven’t been able to justify the CDN$6.99 (US$6.70) for a bottle of body wash. I’ve been using the crappy bar of soap I snagged from the hotel in Winnipeg. I usually get the cheap store brands for around US$2.50….that kind of stuff doesn’t exist here. I also couldn’t find my cheap shampoo. I use the VO5 .99 stuff because it’s good and it’s inexpensive. I couldn’t find VO5, but I did find Suave shampoo in the same strawberry scent I usually get. CDN$2.53 for a double pack of the Shampoo/Conditioner. Not a bad price, but not the brand I usually get. I wonder how much space/weight a bottle of body wash would have taken up? Oh well, too late now! I wonder if Bath and Body Works ships to Canada?
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