Things have changed since we were in Canada last year and were surprised to hear that motorists now honk the minute the traffic light turns green.
It seemed strange at first to hear someone impatiently honking on the road in quiet Mississauga that has zero noise pollution, and then it brought back happy memories of Bengaluru, south India, where you must be nimble and fast and keep your hand pressed down on the car horn to make people jump out of the way.
“It’s the immigrants,” said a friend’s friend, who is himself an immigrant, with a studied disdain when we pointed out the bad driving habit.
When we were shopping in Walmart, my wife said, “Did you notice, the kids working at the grocery checkouts are mostly Asian and Blacks?”
She said the year before it was mainly White kids working at the retail outlets during the summer holidays.
The Uber driver who picked us up from Pearson Airport was a Canadian of Somali origin named Ken, who was happy to see that the petrol prices were cheaper in Mississauga, where we planned to Airbnb for the holidays.
“I will fill up before I go back (to Scarborough),” he said.
Petro-Canada had a sign showing that petrol was 124.3 and my wife and I who are both bad in math, looked at each other. “How much is gas?” she asked Ken and he said, “1.24/litre.” (That works out to Dh3.5/litre).
The Airbnb landlord turned out to be a jolly Canadian-Chinese named Jeff.
He and his wife had bought this detached house about eight years ago, then turned it into an Airbnb and moved to Milton, another township about 30 minutes away by road.
The walk-in basement where we would be crashing out for a month was nicely renovated and it has wooden flooring. There is even a rice cooker.
The fridge was stocked with eggs, bread, butter, milk and there was heavenly-tasting Japanese brown rice tea called "Genmaicha" near the kettle.
One day we found an elderly Chinese woman in our very green and lush backyard that has a crab apple tree, pointing to the branches over her head and tapping her stomach.
When I looked up, the other tree branches were full of blackberries. I believe they are good for losing weight and protecting against stomach ulcers.
I plucked a couple of blackberries for the woman, who turned out to be the gardener, and from that day onwards we always eat a handful of the berries from the tree before we head out for house hunting.
“We are slowly taking over the cities,” said the relator, who is originally from the subcontinent.
A corner strip mall had a desi dance hall and a speakeasy, a vegetarian restaurant that served exorbitantly priced dosa and idli, an Afghan kebab eatery and a shisha shop called “Haze”.
What is lacking in Mississauga, with its large Arab population, is a decent shawarma shop. The shawarma we ate was sad and over-priced. A Lebanese bank executive, however, said the falafel at the eateries are “not too bad”.
The immigrants are pouring in year after year, attracted by the quality of life and health care facilities, and it is they who are keeping Canada’s economy ticking, specially the real estate sector.
Unlike earlier, where the main sources of newcomers to Canada were Europe and the US, today about 62 per cent were born in Asia (Philippines, India, China), including the Middle East.
Speaking of health care facilities, never have a medical emergency while in Canada; the waiting time in the emergency unit will turn you into a medical tourist and make you head for Asian hospitals.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.