The Daily Sampler Abroad – Things That Kind of Sucked in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Hey, so, a lot of people are not going to like this entry. In fact, it’s even hard for me to post, because I know what it’s like to have my home picked on. It’s not fun, and you think, “EFF YOU, JERK!” I also want to be honest about my experiences. If you can’t be honest, why write a blog, right? That being said, if you live in Halifax, and you want to comment on my observations, please do. I hope it won’t just be with the above comment, but with your own point view or discussion-starter. This is your town, and I’ve just been a visitor here for nine months. A lot of times, I’ve wanted to engage in conversations about Halifax on Twitter or in the media, but truthfully, I felt like it wasn’t my place. Here I can say it.. and it’s up to you if you want to respond.

I just have to say, if you were living in another country for a year, BELIEVE ME, you’d find things you both love and hate, too. It’s human nature. A lot of the time, it’s personal preference. Sometimes it’s cultural. Many of my observations are tongue-in-cheek, so just take it with a grain of salt, eh? I promised a full report of our time here, and a full report ye shall receive.

Halifax is a very cool, very beautiful place with a lot of potential. I actually felt a lot of the time like I appreciated it way more than the people who live here. I also think there are some serious (and not so serious) issues. Just embrace the potential- there is plenty of it here….

Unprofessional Workplace and Business Behavior – Time and time again, we were shocked by the general indifferent attitude of many professionals in Halifax. Does this speak for ALL Haligonians in business? Of course not. But, whether it was at my husband’s work (can’t comment fully on that still,) trying to get anything accomplished in the world, (i.e., you go to Bell to ask a question about your Bell phone bill, but they inform you they “don’t have that information,”) or other such nonsense, we found it hard to accomplish things that should otherwise be relatively simple. We actually found it easier to get help in southern Italy, and if you know anything about southern Italy, you know efficiency isn’t what they’re known for. If we could create an overall motto for so many companies we dealt with, it would be “It’s not my problem, but good luck.” Always polite.

Not a Friendly Place for Women – Early in our stay, I was again, shocked to hear about instances of frequent sexual harassment and misconduct, violent cat-calling and grabbing on the streets of Halifax, and the discussion of “rape culture” in Nova Scotia. The glaringly obvious instance was the now-infamous Saint Mary’s “rape-chant” (you can Google that one on your own,) videotaped and virally shared worldwide. I didn’t even think much of that, because college kids often make really bad decisions, I get that. It was after reading comments online, hearing talk radio discussions, and experiencing that harassment myself when my worries were confirmed; some citizens (men) of Halifax genuinely treat women like second class citizens. What is this, Iran? I sometimes felt uncomfortable walking the streets during the day without my husband. Definitely not what I expected from a populous Canadian city.

The Pedestrian Issue – Halifax has an epidemic of pedestrian-car collisions. Everyone is understandably up in arms about it. Let me just go ahead and tell you why this is happening, and how you can fix it. I also want you to think about all the large metropolitan cities across North America, and how those cities somehow get by without daily pedestrian road kill. It CAN be a reality! One- the crosswalks in the middle of otherwise busy roadways are ill-placed, and dangerous. Drivers can’t always see the pedestrians, and many pedestrians fail to use common sense, darting out into oncoming traffic. Yes, pedestrians have the right of way, always, but it is not the drivers fault when pedestrians fail to use their head and their eyes to decide when a good time might be to cross safely (for themselves and traffic.) So they leap out, either unannounced or after pressing the crossing button, regardless of whether or not they might cause a crash by doing so. I’ve been on the end of this, at least a handful of times. Pay attention. Look both ways. It’s the first thing we’re taught in the world. That’s the first solution. Second- crosswalks should be better designed. I know there have been times as a newcomer, I didn’t even see the crosswalk until I was already driving across it. I liken driving in Halifax to the Nintendo game ‘Paperboy’. There’s always something coming at you. Also- get OFF YOUR PHONES, in cars or on the street! That should be a requirement in every nation of the world.

Nothing to do in Winter – What I mean is, if you are a visitor or tourist that happens to be visiting Nova Scotia during the January-April period, you can forget tours, wine tasting, whale watching, attending certain restaurants, or any other kind of sight-seeing you might have wanted to do. Hubs and I made the mistake of not seeing everything we wanted to in the fall. There were almost no options for exploring Nova Scotia in early spring because everything is closed until May, too late for us. Disappointing!

The Price of…Well, Everything – This is a cultural difference, I suppose. Living in Halifax feels unnecessarily expensive. It’s like living in say, Chicago, but it’s not Chicago. I get that it’s Canada, and there’s already all that built in sales tax and stuff, but the general price of milk, eggs, cheese, fish(!), seafood(!), a mediocre meal at a restaurant, one beer- basically anything that might be important to an enjoyable life, is a hefty expense. It’s no wonder young people are leaving in droves, no one can afford to have much of a life here, I imagine, much less an apartment or house, car, etc. There are so many things we wanted to see and try that we ended up forgetting because it didn’t seem worth the price.

The Restaurant Scene – This will probably make people even more mad than the rape culture thing. I’m sorry, but when it came to value and quality, I think the restaurant scene in Halifax didn’t measure up. Some places had quality, but that quality was at a steep price, and one we ended up finding wasn’t worth it.  It’s a cost vs. quality thing. We are the type that are happy to pay more for a meal we enjoy, rave about for weeks, and can’t wait to return for more of, but that just wasn’t what we got. We did have some nice meals. We had about three total, that I even remember. I had very high hopes, thinking of a city on the water, with all the potential of fresh fish and seafood, local ingredients, and a seemingly very committed local restaurant community. What I found was a bunch of decent food for the price of fine dining. Salads for $19. Burgers for $16. I mean, I don’t know. I’m absolutely willing to pay more for food that is out of this world, but when it’s just okay, it makes me want to just stay home and cook, (and that says something, if you know me.)

The Garbage and Recycling Program – I’m all for recycling. Duh, who isn’t? The garbage collection every other week is hard for us. We produce a lot, and I’m happy to take most of the responsibility for that. I have a bit of a paper towel problem. Just the same, waiting two weeks to get rid of the smelly fish carcass in our compost? Unbearable. The amount of separating and colored bags and such should earn Haligonians the option of putting out both garbage and recycling, every week. Or yeah, animals will get into it! #commonsense

The Dentist – Do you like paying separately for the dentist’s exam? The cleaning? The polishing? No? Then don’t come to Halifax. Also, make sure you have 3.5 hours to spare.

The Wind – I have never resided in a windier locale. There were two nights when the 95 year old house we were renting literally shook. And then our bed shook as well. It was frightening. It’s never just raining, it’s usually hurricaning. I know Halifax can’t help it.


The Cliques – Before we came, some people who live here told us a little about what to expect, including that, most people basically stick to hanging out with their family and small group of friends unit. Understandable/normal. However, when you are new in town, married adults without children, the options are limited when trying to meet new people, and we never really felt anyone was that eager to branch out and get to know us. Not that people weren’t polite. Polite and welcoming are two different things. We also probably could have tried harder. Let’s call it even.

A Lack and Slow Gathering of Information and/or Products – As mentioned before, things move extra slow here. You need a part for a dryer from Sears? They can have it shipped in, within three to four weeks. From Sears. There’s a hazardous nuclear waste spill down the street? They’ll investigate fully in the morning. No further information provided. A fuel leak and potential environmental hazard at your house? Two weeks to get the right person to come out and investigate. And you? You have no say in any of it.

The Importance Perspective – One day, on Twitter, I saw four people desperately retweet a photo of a bike that had been stolen somewhere in downtown Halifax. Sad? Of course. You would have thought that bike contained the cure for cancer. Meanwhile, that same day, a felon alcoholic was released to the community for the second time after killing two people previously while drunk driving. He admitted that he will definitely, definitely drink and drive again. He literally said that. Advice to the public? Just look out for him, K? Be safe. Good luck. The same thing happened weeks earlier with a violent sex offender who was being relocated to a halfway house on the Dalhousie University campus. Again- the offender was “nearly certain to commit again.” But, it’ll maybe be okay. No one else seemed worried. I guess that bike was pretty special.

Not So Nice – While we were in Halifax, we had our car keyed, broken into (money and iPod stolen,) car hit, and neighbors that plugged in their outdoor holiday decorations into our porch outlet, without asking. While we were out of the country for an entire month. We’ve met plenty of perfectly nice people here, but we’ve also run into the people who will take advantage just because you have a Michigan license plate.


  • $12 cover charges (Hell no.)
  • No free refills (That’s a big one for hubs.)
  • Remember when it was harder to get a cell phone plan than a Social Insurance Number?
  • The Metric system (Personal preference, I can’t add.)
  • How you can’t fly to Hamilton, Ontario, November-May (I would have paid extra.)
  • Government controlled alcohol sales (And government hiked alcohol prices.)

Hate me yet? If it weren’t for these things, we’d surely move here forever.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s