Friday, October 14, 2011

Weird and Wonderful Nova Scotia Quirks

Here is a list of different things that we've noticed about our new home so far and we'll keep adding to it as we go. Not all the differences are bad or's just a different way of doing things and after all, these people have been here a long time!

There is a slight accent. It's a very very soft newfie with regular English words.

People honk at out of province plates as a way of being friendly. This kind of threw me at first but now I don't notice.

Banks are open really terrible old fashioned hours. Here in the valley it's 10-4 Monday to Friday. I think there may be some later hours open till 6 and a TD in New Minas open 12-4 on Saturdays but I still have to confirm that. No 8-8 banking and certainly no Sunday banking. It's a bit of a pain if you work 8-5 because it means the bank is basically never open. There is Money Mart though if you don't mind paying 3%. DO NOT USE the Cash Store. They wanted to charge us nearly $50 in fees to cash 2 cheques and at Moneymart it came to about $15. Still, having your pay direct deposited is a good idea if you can.

Roads are lumpy. Seriously lumpy. You see a sign telling you that there are bumps ahead and wonder exactly which ones they're talking about. Not all roads are bad, just some areas are much worse than others. The main highways are pretty good. Worst roads in Canada from our drive across though...Ontario.

Street signs tell you the roads that come off the one you're on but not the name of the one you're on so it's easy to get lost if you're a newcommer. I think the hwy's guys just assume that you turned onto this road so you must have seen a sign at some point and know where you are. Well, house and street signage is hit and miss so we're constantly getting turned around. Also, they sign intersections in small signs and often right at the intersection, not before, so if you don't know that's your turn you blow past it and have to turn around and come back again. And the street signs and maps don't always agree. It could be signed Bridge Street when you map says Hwy 10. I don't know if having a GPS would help but we have been around long enough now to have a good idea of where things are so we don't even really notice anymore.

School buses here for the kids are free. Woo Hoo!

Kings County, while closer to the cities and having good shopping, is very much a paper pushers delight. They have regulations for everything. I'm not kidding, the SPCA came by yesterday to give me a hand out about our dog. Her house must be 6x8 feet with a hallway and sleeping area, doors 11x13, insulated...... she must be walked twice per day for 20 minutes, given 20 feet of tether and not allowed outside for more than 16 hours at one time.... good grief! Do they think we have no common sense. It turns out that even though she sleeps inside, if she is out for 20 minutes she needs a dog house.
The county rules for building, zoning, permits, and other home building things are tight and well defined in Kings County. In contrast, Annapolis county is much looser and there are properties with no zoning at all. Depending on what you want to do with your property and how close to the city you want to be this choice of counties really can be a deciding factor. Property taxes also vary greatly, being perhaps 4 times larger in the HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality) than in other areas. I'd estimate that depending on your home, land size and zoning, an average property bill in rural areas will cost you $500-$600 per year whereas it will cost you $1200 in a town or village (because water and sewer are provided) and maybe $2000 in HRM. That's very subjective though so do please check it out.

On the subject of signs, they sometimes tell you the next town instead of the final destination of that road, so have a map with you.

Sales tax is 15% here and provincial income tax is higher than other provinces. But if you have children they get free dental under 10 years old and your Child Tax Credits have a provincial bonus. All in all we'll come out ahead by a couple of hundred dollars a year on our taxes.

Gas is cheaper than Montreal and northern Ontario but about the same as Vancouver Island. Not really that cheap. But not as bad as Europe.

Milk is super expensive in the Maritimes. From the moment you enter New Brunswick the milk quotas start and you'll be paying on average $7 for a 4 litre jug. Or bags if you prefer . Remember those milk bags from the 70's and 80's...they still have them here in Nova Scotia. You can usually find milk in plastic jugs too but they're not transparent like in BC. 2 litre jugs will cost you about $4.35. So be warned.

Meat is relatively expensive here but fair quality as supermarkets go. Buying from a local farmer is definitely the way to go as it's better and cheaper. Some butchers locally also are good value for money.

There are lots of small farm markets and stands in towns and villages all over the valley. Most are great. But we went to Evans and found it was really not nice so I'd recommend avoiding it. Otherwise these little markets are great for seasonal produce.

Health care is of course free and you can call to request forms to register in Nova Scotia. There are no provincial premiums so that saves us $108 per month over BC. Your previous provinces health care covers you for 3 months after you move here.

Heating your house is done by wood, electric, furnace oil or a combination. Natural gas is still relatively rare. Oil tanks must be replaced every 10 years and firewood is about $200 per cord delivered for hardwood or $100 if you cut it yourself.

High speed internet is really slow in the country and smaller towns. But in the city there is fibre optic and it's slowly making it's way out to other areas. We're keeping our fingers crossed. It costs about the same as other places in Canada and you can bundle you tv and phone together.

Cell coverage is actually not bad all things considered and you have a good range of companies to choose from.

If you're touring around you'll see the occasional "Look-Off" that we discovered is a scenic view or Look-Out.

There are some unusual regional recipes. My friend Pam gave me an awesome book of them and the history that goes with them. I'll have to go find it and share some with you. The book is lovely and very interesting. Now where did I put that.....??

The road surfaces can be red or black/grey. Sometimes both on the same road.

Libraries are all interconnected so you can order a book that's at another branch, very nice.

You don't buy school supplies for Elementary kids, just pay the school a fee of about $40, for us anyways. And Kindergarten is called Primary in NS.

There's some confusion regarding dinner/lunch and supper/dinner and I haven't figured that one out yet.

Most roads do not have embedded cats eyes or reflectors.

There are graveyards EVERYWHERE! Little 6 person family plots to full churchyards right on the main road. It's really quite different from a city where the cemetery is hidden behind trees and bushes and has flat stones. Here most of the stones are upright, looking more like olde England. Some properties come with their own cemeteries too. At least they make for quiet neighbours.

Fences. There aren't any. About 90% of yards do not have a boundary fence. Our back yard and those of our 4 adjoining neighbours just blend together into one large space. Looks nice, but I wonder about the practicality. Maybe neighbours don't worry about property rights so much here. I'm not sure. Either way I'm going to build a run for the dog so she has an enclosed place to go.


  1. My experienc is all from cape breton. They have STONG accents up there. And you can sti see peopl burning coal for heat! People are super frindly though!

    as for dinner and supper, its a mariener/naval thing. The noon meal is dinner, and the evening meal is supper, all the coast guard boats ivebeen on go that way too. Same for fishermen


  2. Hi Elizabeth,

    This entry is particularly interesting to me. I had read about some of the differences, like the no fence thing and property taxes varying all over the place. You know when I'm on viewpoint or mls, sometimes you can see the property on a google earth image ... well, that's when I noticed the state of the roads. I thought now that looks really bad ... poor paving job with different coloured surfaces, potholes, windy narrow streets, but at least flat, with no real major drop offs. I wonder how the Cabot Trail would be then ? Yikers !! Milk in a bag ... oh no, gone back in a time capsule ... bahaha ! Don't get the dog house bit either if it sleeps inside overnight. Ours does too. Oh well, differences for sure. Next idea to write about are the positives there versus B.C. Please, please have a bunch !

    Thanks for sharing ... Cheers, Helga

  3. Hi Just wanted to let you know I love your blog! I'm an ex-NS myself, living in Victoria BC and really hoping to move back for schooling next year with hubby and two kids. I'm wondering how your kids are settling in? My daughter is 9 and introverted and she has a hard time making friends. But still, NS lures me in - I love everything about it, except perhaps the weather. I find your writings lovely and eclectic and I'm sending you virtual support in all your dreams and happy homesteading! All the best, Linnaea and co.

  4. Helga, the cabot trail is actually an excellent road! At least it was 3years ago when i did it


  5. Thanks Nick ... good to know. I've read about it in travel books and it sure looks like it offers some of the worlds best scenery.


  6. Not all the roads are bad. Hwy 10 is half good and half abominable. And yes the Cabot Trail seems to be well maintained from what we've heard.

    Hi Linnaea. Our 10 year old is quite inverted and our 8 year old is quite outgoing. Meghan (8) had not to man problems fitting in and making friends both at school and in the neighbourhood. Kate (10) has a couple of friends at school and one friend that she'd already met at church before starting school so that helped a lot! The thinks that helped Kate were having 1 familiar person in her class and having an activity outside school to keep her busy like horse riding lessons and Kung Fu that she really enjoys. I was actually more worried about the teenage boys as they had problems adjusting before but this time there were few problems. I wonder if it's because they know that this is our second to last move. From here it's just a matter of buying our own place.

  7. Yes, I hope this dream happens for you. At least it must seem more within reach compared to Vancouver Island - and from the sounds of it very fertile too! I am glad to hear your children are settling in nicely, even your "innie". Your family's strength and ingenuity really impress me! Cheers and best wishes, Linnaea