9 Things About Growing Up In Canada That Were So Different On The East & West Coast

What the hell is a Sobeys? 🤔

Left: Ashley Harris and her brother on BC Ferries. Right: Narcity writer Ashley Harris.

Left: Ashley Harris and her brother on BC Ferries. Right: Narcity writer Ashley Harris.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.

Canada is one big country, and nothing highlights that more than comparing how different the lifestyles of the East Coast and West Coast are.

When Morgan Leet and I first started working together, we discovered that our Canadian childhoods were hilariously different from each other.

While Morgan reminisced about snow day fun and singing "Farewell To Nova Scotia" at the top of her lungs in the classroom — I couldn't relate.

On the flip side, whenever I mentioned school earthquake drills or going to Thrifty's, she was super confused.

Morgan was born in Nova Scotia and lived all over the province before moving to New Brunswick in junior high (for West Coasters, that means middle school).

She moved to B.C. in September and is now the Vancouver editor for Narcity — and is quickly learning all about her new home.

I am a born and raised Vancouverite, and proud of it! I've explored every inch of my home city and am the staff writer for Narcity in Vancouver.

Throughout our time working together, Morgan and I have laughed endlessly about the weird differences in our upbringings.

There have been many questions, like "What the hell is a Sobeys?" and "You had to do WHAT in school?"

Both of us would argue which coast is ultimately the best to be raised on. Even though we both grew up with salt in the air and enjoyed an ocean breeze, we had two very different vibes.

To prove it, we both have explained nine things that show there is a massive difference between growing up on the East Coast and the West Coast.

You can decide — which coastal Canadian childhood sounds more fun?

Grocery shopping with our parents

Ashley: I actually loved grocery shopping as a kid and I think it was because sometimes the grocery store would have a mini grocery cart I could push around and pretend to do my own grocery shopping in. We had lots of options growing up in B.C. — Save on Foods, Wholefoods, Safeway and Thrifty's. Some of these stores even had live lobster tanks and I would just sit and stare at what I thought at the time was a grocery store aquarium.

Morgan: Thankfully, living in Ontario for four years prepared me for this difference. Anytime I would go to the grocery store with my parents, we would say that we were going to Sobeys. It didn't even matter if we were actually going to the grocery store called Sobeys — it's just what we called all of them. Because the store started in Nova Scotia, a lot of families actually did this too. We had limited options for shopping but loved our trips to Sobeys. It does exist in other places, but on the East Coast, it's the go-to. Walking into a Sobeys still gives me childhood nostalgia that West Coasters will just never have.

After-school treats

Ashley: I lived for after-school treats growing up. Honestly, it was the best part of my day. A White Spot chocolate milkshake with whipped cream on top was an extra special treat that I could never forget.

Morgan: I will never forget the sweet smell of garlic fingers with some donair sauce after a long day in the classroom. When I went off to university in Ottawa I was hit with the biggest reality check ever — that garlic fingers only exist in Atlantic Canda. To my great dismay, I had to survive years without a tasty garlic finger dipped in that delicious donair sauce. Now, living in B.C., I once again have to accept that my snack life will never be the same.

Weekend activities

Ashley: Growing up in Vancouver, B.C., I was so lucky to be surrounded by beautiful nature, the Pacific Ocean and so many mountains. Weekend activities meant hopping on a ferry to Victoria, B.C., for the day or a quick trip to ski the mountains in Whistler. In the summer, it wasn't unusual for my family to take me on a trip to the Okanagan for a weekend, where we could swim in the lake all day long.

Ashley Harris and her brother on BC Ferries.Ashley Harris | Narcity

Morgan: Nova Scotia is called "Canada's Ocean Playground" for a reason. My childhood was spent out on the Atlantic Ocean — sailing, surfing, kayaking and swimming. Ever since I was little my dad and grandfather would take my siblings and me out on the water, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Morgan Leet, her father, grandfather, and brother sailing in Nova Scotia. Morgan Leet | Narcity

For a lot of my childhood, I grew up in pretty small communities. I could run around with friends in the summer until late at night, without any worries that come along with living in bigger Canadian cities.

The outfits

Ashley: This one is pretty funny because I think every West Cost kid had at least a pair of rubber rain boots along with their own personal umbrella. They don't call it Raincouver for no reason and every kid that grew up there knows that.

Morgan: East Coast weather is known to be unpredictable, to say the least. It's almost like there are seven different seasons in the year, which is way more than Vancouver's two weather options— rainy or super hot. To survive a Nova Scotia childhood you'll be rolling up to school in a full snowsuit and three different pairs of shoes for the day, with an umbrella at hand.

Snow days

Ashley: Snow days would happen about twice a year in Vancouver, B.C. That is — if we were lucky. Pretty much if we got snow that stuck to the ground any day in winter, we got a snow day. I remember living for these days as a kid because it didn't happen often, but when it did, he would hit up the local hills with our sleds and play in the snow the whole day.

Morgan: When I think about some of my favourite childhood memories, I think of snow days. It didn't happen when there was just a sprinkle of snow either; we needed to wait for massive storms to get to stay home from school (everyone remembers White Juan, right?). Luckily, they happened pretty frequently on the East Coast. We would gather our friends and have a huge snowball fight sometimes. Other times the snow was bad enough that we lost power and had to pull out the board games under candlelight.

Disaster drills

Ashley: Growing up in Vancouver, you are in an earthquake zone. Schools took this matter very seriously. I know we did earthquake drills often where we would learn how to be prepared and reduce the risk of injury if one were to happen.

Morgan: When I heard that West Coasters had to do earthquake drills, I was super surprised. It makes sense of course, given the risk, but wasn't even something I thought of while growing up on the East Coast. We had the typical fire and lockdown drills, and that's about it.

Field trips

Ashley: Field trips were definitely my favourite type of school day. We had some really fun trips with my elementary school like Science World and the Vancouver Aquarium. Sitting on a school bus and chatting with your buddy the entire day was the best thing about it. In high school, some geography field trips meant exploring the Sea to Sky Highway attraction stops and adventuring in Whistler for the day.

Morgan: Every kid waits anxiously for the day of the field trip. One of my all-time favourites was in Halifax, going to see Theodore Tugboat. While other kids in Canada got to watch him on TV, we actually got to see a real-life Theadore — and it was life-changing for the 8-year-old me.

The songs we had to learn

Ashley: Learning French was really emphasized for kids growing up in B.C. Not to say any of the French I learned stuck — to this day I would not even be able to form a sentence in French for you. Although, I do remember "Frère Jacques" (hopefully I am not alone on this one).

Morgan: Growing up in Nova Scotia you learn things a little differently. I remember every year having to sing "Farewell To Nova Scotia" with my entire class. It's the most Maritime song ever, and I still know it by heart. Maritime music was a huge part of my childhood and is still a way I connect with other Nova Scotians when I find them.

Birthday parties

Ashley: I hope no one forgot about this place but I definitely remember attending a couple of birthday parties at Go Bananas, which was basically like a giant playground for kids. Also, laser tag and Playland at the PNE were a few more birthday party classics, all accompanied by either a slice of cheese or pepperoni pizza, Crush sodas and an ice cream cake.

Morgan: The thing about the East Coast is that there's not much to actually do. Especially in rural Nova Scotia — where I lived for a lot of my childhood — there's basically nothing. It was always a classic to go to the local farm though, and spend the day with some animals. Can it get any more country than that?

Morgan Leet
Morgan Leet is an Editor for Narcity Media focused on interprovincial travel, and is based in Vancouver.
Ashley Harris
Staff Writer
Ashley Harris was a Staff Writer for Narcity Canada's Western Desk focused on restaurants in Vancouver, and is based in Vancouver, British Columbia.