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Designing Abroad

03 02, 2018
Designing Abroad

Something I heard before embarking on my exciting trip to Canada was that the culture is very similar to that of New Zealand. I knew that there were some obvious differences like the Winters being colder and longer, driving on the other side of the road, and the food can generally be spicier; but ever since I arrived here I've come across all sorts of other challenges that I didn't expect:


  • Being asked my weight in pounds by practitioners and not having a clue.
  • Having to remember to write the date mm/dd/yy instead of dd/mm/yy. 
  • Setting an oven at 200, not knowing it's in Fahrenheit, and wondering why the food is still not cooked an hour later. 
  • Introducing myself as Jess and people mistaking it for Jeece, Chase, Jeff, or my all-time favourite: Juice.
  • Realising Realizing it's a bad idea to wash the car when it's -25C, because when you go to get inside the next morning, it's frozen shut.
  • Trying to understand Canadian lingo: "Can you grab me a two-six?" - Hands over a mickey. 
  • Or non-alcohol related: "The magazines are over by the chesterfield" - Goes to what looks like it could be a chesterfield but is actually a cabinet.


All that aside, I'd have to say my biggest learning experience has got to be using different units of measurement in my new graphic design role at orange door.


I have been using the metric system my entire life, so you can imagine how tough it can be to switch all of a sudden, especially in your job. My mind has had to think differently in order to comprehend how large or small something is when it's described to me, and I've had to get a little creative... using a mental image of a foot-long sub has come in handy more times than I'd care to admit. But for the moments when subs cannot help me, I can depend on my computer or phone's unit converter to figure out how long 5.75" is in millimetres (146mm in case you were curious).


Paper is another example of what is measured differently in New Zealand. We use paper sizes named A5, A4, A3, and so on, while measuring the weight/thickness of it in gsm (grams per square metre). On my first day at orange door, I remember the printer showing an error saying that there was no A3 sized paper in the machine, yet when I checked the tray, it was at least half full. After pressing a few buttons and taking the paper out and putting it back in again, I realised I should have been selecting 11x17, which is quite similar in size to A3!


Canada continues to show me how wonderfully different things are on this side of the Pacific. Another fine example would be the unique sensation of your nose hairs freezing together, which believe it or not, makes this experience so much more fulfilling and enriching than I ever thought it could be. Although I haven't mastered the use of pounds, feet or inches, it makes me happy that I'm getting used to living and working this way. I know that no matter where I end up in the world, I will be able to understand, and more importantly, use, both metric and imperial. No longer will I be the person undercooking her food or asking what size paper the office printer will accept: A4 or US Letter?

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