When Morgan Leet and I started working together, we found our Canadian childhoods were hilarious to each other.
As Morgan reminisced about the fun of snow days and sang “Farewell To Nova Scotia” loudly in the classroom – I couldn’t understand.
On the other hand, whenever I mentioned earthquake drills at school 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 college).
She moved to British Columbia in September and is now managing editor of Narcity in Vancouver – and is quickly learning all about her new home.
I’m a born and raised Vancouverite, and I’m proud of it! I’ve explored every square inch of my hometown and am the editor of Narcity in Vancouver.
Throughout our time working together, Morgan and I laughed endlessly at the odd differences in our upbringings.
There were a lot of questions, like “What’s a Sobeys?” and “WHAT did you have to do in school?”
We would both argue on which coast is ultimately the best to be raised on. Even though we both grew up with salt in the air and enjoyed the ocean breeze, we had two very different vibes.
To prove it, we both explained nine things that show there’s a huge difference between growing up on the East Coast and growing up on the West Coast.
You can decide – which coastal Canadian childhood looks the most fun?
Shopping with our parents
Ashley: I actually loved grocery shopping as a kid and I think it was because sometimes the grocery store had a mini grocery cart that I could push around and pretend to do my own shopping. We had lots of options growing up in BC – Save Foods, Wholefoods, Safeway and Thrifty’s. Some of these stores even had live lobster tanks and I would just sit and watch what I thought at the time was a grocery store aquarium.
Morgan: Fortunately, living in Ontario for four years prepared me for this difference. Every time I went grocery shopping with my parents, we said we were going to Sobeys. It didn’t even matter if we actually went to the grocery store called Sobeys – that’s just what we called them all. Because the store started in Nova Scotia, so did a lot of families. We had limited options for shopping but loved our trips to Sobeys. It exists in other places, but on the east coast, it is the reference. Walking into a Sobeys still gives me a childhood nostalgia that West Coasters will 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 added treat that I could never forget.
Morgan: I will never forget the sweet smell of garlic fingers with donair sauce after a long day in class. When I went to college in Ottawa, I was hit with the greatest reality check of all time – that garlic fingers only exist in Atlantic Canada. Much to my dismay, I had to survive years without a tasty finger of garlic dipped in that delicious donair sauce. Now, living in British Columbia, I once again have to accept that my snacking life will never be the same.
Ashley: Growing up in Vancouver, BC, I was blessed to be surrounded by beautiful nature, the Pacific Ocean, and so many mountains. Weekend activities meant hopping on a ferry to Victoria, BC for the day or a quick excursion to ski in the Whistler Mountains. In the summer, it was not uncommon for my family to take me on a trip to the Okanagan for a weekend, where we could swim in the lake all day.
Ashley Harris and her brother on BC Ferries.Ashley Harris | Narcity
Morgan: Nova Scotia is called “Canada’s ocean playground” for a reason. I spent my childhood on the Atlantic Ocean — sailing, surfing, kayaking and swimming. Since I was little, my father and grandfather took my siblings and me out on the water, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Morgan Leet, his father, grandfather and brother sail in Nova Scotia. Morgan Leet | Narcity
For much of my childhood, I grew up in very small communities. I could run with friends in the summer late into the night, without the hassles that come with living in big Canadian cities.
Ashley: This one is pretty funny because I think every West Cost kid had at least a pair of rubber rain boots with their own personal umbrella. They don’t call it Raincouver for no reason and all the kids who grew up there know that.
Morgan: The weather on the East Coast is known to be unpredictable, to say the least. It’s almost as if there are seven different seasons in the year, which is far more than Vancouver’s two weather options – rainy or very hot. To survive a Nova Scotia childhood, you’ll ride to school in a full snowsuit and three different pairs of shoes for the day, with an umbrella handy.
Ashley: Snow days used to happen about twice a year in Vancouver, BC, which is if we were lucky. Pretty much if we had snow sticking to the ground any day in winter, we would have a snow day. I remember having those days when I was a kid because it didn’t happen often, but when it did he would go up the local hills with our sleds and play in the snow all day.
Morgan: When I think of some of my favorite childhood memories, I think of snow days. It also didn’t happen when there was just a sprinkle of snow; we had to wait out massive thunderstorms so we could stay home after school (everyone remembers White Juan, right?). Luckily, they happened quite frequently on the East Coast. We gathered our friends and sometimes had a huge snowball fight. Other times the snow was bad enough that we lost power and had to get the board games out by candlelight.
Ashley: Growing up in Vancouver, you are in an earthquake zone. The schools have taken this issue very seriously. I know we often did earthquake drills where we learned how to prepare and reduce the risk of injury if it were to happen.
Morgan: When I heard that West Coasters had to do earthquake drills, I was super surprised. Makes sense of course, given the risk, but it wasn’t even something I thought about growing up on the East Coast. We had the typical fire and lockdown drills, and that was about it.
Ashley: Field trips were definitely my favorite 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 boyfriend all day was the best thing about it. In high school, some geography field trips meant exploring attraction stops on the Sea to Sky Highway and venturing out to Whistler for the day.
Morgan: Every child looks forward to the day of the excursion. One of my all time favorites was in Halifax, going to see Theodore Tugboat. While other kids in Canada got to watch it on TV, we actually got to see a real Theadore – and it was life changing for me as an 8 year old.
The songs we had to learn
Ashley: Learning French was really important for kids growing up in British Columbia. Not to mention the French I learned, I wouldn’t even be able to form a French sentence for you by now. Although I remember “Frère Jacques” (hope I’m not alone on this one).
Morgan: Growing up in Nova Scotia, you learn things a little differently. I remember every year I had to sing “Farewell To Nova Scotia” with my whole class. It’s the most maritime song of all time, and I still know it by heart. Maritime music was a big part of my childhood and remains a way I connect with other Nova Scotians when I find them.
Ashley: I hope no one has forgotten this place, but I vividly remember attending a few birthday parties at Go Bananas, which was basically like a giant playground for kids. Also, laser tag and Playland at PNE were a few other birthday party classics, all of which came with a slice of cheese or pepperoni pizza, Crush sodas, and ice cream cake.
Morgan: The problem with the east coast is that there is not much to do. Especially in rural Nova Scotia—where I lived for much of my childhood—there is virtually nothing. It was always a classic to go to the local farm and spend the day with animals. Can he get more countries than that?