9 Things I didn’t know about Manitoba until I got here

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You will never really know a place until you’ve lived in it. Just like you, I scoured the internet for information about Manitoba before I moved here. But even the most diligent research could not tell me about (or prepare me for) the following nine things:

  1. Manitobans have a charitable spirit

    Manitoba routinely donates more per capita than any other province. In fact, it is in the top five for North America (Best 20 things about Manitoba, Tom Stoukas, Winnipeg Sun). Most Manitobans are dedicated to their community. Volunteering is a way of life.

  2. It really has two seasons: winter and construction!

    Manitobans joke about it but once you are here, you’ll definitely feel that it’s about accurate. Summer won’t be complete without road construction, as the city starts repairing potholes and other damage wrought by the winter months. Drivers and commuters can expect a lot of re-routing, heavy traffic, and “drive-slowly” signs along the roads when it’s construction season.

  3. “Pegcentricities”

    • Bus culture – I like commuting, so the first set of “cultural norms” I learned were those surrounding bussing. In my humble opinion, it is where you will most feel that Winnipeg is a “big small town.” Here are a few things I learned:
      • Always check bus schedules before you leave. They are subject to change.
      • Always be early. I add a five minute allowance to the prescribed time on Navigo. So if it says the bus will arrive at 8:30, I should be at the bus stop by 8:25 or earlier.
      • Small talk at the bus stop is common. Weather is usually the topic of the day.
      • Leave the front seats (the ones immediately after the driver) for passengers with baby carriages, and the elderly or disabled with wheelchairs or walkers.
      • If you are near the aforementioned front seats, be ready to pull the seats up to leave space for carriages, wheelchairs or walkers.
      • Move towards the exit before the bus stops if you intend to get off (after you ring the bell).
    • Lagimodière, Des Meurons, Cockburn, and St. Vital – if there’s anything that can immediately tag you as a newcomer, it’s the wrong pronunciation of these places in Winnipeg (as this blog Winnipeg O’ My Heart points out). So here’s your cheat sheet: Lagimodière Boulevard (lahz-mo-dee-air), Des Meurons (day-meu-rohn), Cockburn (coh-burn), and St. Vital (vih-TAL).
    • Socials – Have you ever bought a ticket to a “social”? A social is a uniquely Manitoba-grown concept. It is a fundraising activity for a wedding or a community cause. And just like most parties, it will have food and wine, except that you may have to pay for them (there’s also music and dancing, and they’re for free!). A ticket gets you an entry for a raffle which could be for prizes, or for a 50/50 draw.
  4. The prairies are mind-blowingly beautiful!

    In my first year in Manitoba, my family took a road trip to Banff. Nothing could prepare me for 14 hours of extremely clear skies and the vast expanse of tall prairie grass (and yellow Canola fields) gracefully waving in the wind. At one point, we passed by gigantic, white windmills, looking imposing against the electric blue backdrop of Manitoba skies. It is amazing scenery unlike anything in the world.

  5. It experiences tornadoes

    Everyone gets warned about Manitoba’s legendary winters so I braced myself for a lot of cold weather. What I wasn’t prepared for were thunderstorms and tornadoes in summer! Based on Environment Canada research, Southern Prairie provinces, and southern Ontario to southern Quebec are the two most active tornado corridors in Canada. These usually occur in the summer and are formed from severe thunderstorms. But don’t worry. Tornadoes are rare occurrences. Also, measures to keep buildings and homes tornado-proof are part of the National Building Code of Canada and are strictly observed (especially in the tornado-prone areas).

  6. Neighborhoods place a high value on manicured lawns

    Having a clean, well-maintained and weed-free front lawn is taken as a sign that you are going to be a good neighbor (just kidding!). But seriously, Manitobans take great pride in keeping their lawns well-manicured. Especially in the summer, many homeowners get busy mowing, weeding, planting and tending gardens.

  7. Manitobans really love a good deal

    Manitobans are a practical bunch. They love sales, bargains, discounts, tax-free days, deals of the week and other promotions. And who doesn’t?

    Did you know that every Tuesday, movies are almost half-price (check your favorite moviehouse for admission prices)? Of course, nothing beats free movies at the park or at the beach in summer (Asssiniboine Park events). Want to know more ways to save? Check out the blog Save Money in Winnipeg.

  8. Mosquitoes and forest tent caterpillars

    Summer ushers in mosquito season in Manitoba. But not to worry, scheduled fogging takes these pesky insects away. And as long as you are armed with bug spray, you can go on enjoying the great outdoors (and it is truly beautiful in summer!).

    Last May, I was alarmed at the sight of a tree being overrun by caterpillars! Forest tent caterpillars typically infest the city once every 10 to 15 years, but when an infestation hits, it can last two to three years (5 things to know about forest tent caterpillars, CBC News). But aside from grossing you out, these caterpillars will cause you no harm. However, they can cause tree deaths (they eat the leaves). Spraying insecticides such as permethrin, pyrethroid, or malathion stops the infestation.

  9. It is historic

    Winnipeg was known as the “Chicago of the North” around the turn of the century. Between 1880 and 1900, it was a gateway to Canada’s west. Winnipeg played a key role as a centre of grain and wholesale trade, finance and manufacturing.

    An amazing reminder of this period is the Exchange District, which was designated as a national historic site in 1997. In my first week in Manitoba, I joined a tour of the area, discovering its 150 heritage buildings. I came out of the experience having a renewed sense of pride for Winnipeggers and for Manitobans in general. From a cold, alien place, it became an authentic city steeped in history and pride.

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