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Canadian NOT American

Surprisingly delicious and as addictive as any illegal drug.
Surprisingly delicious and as addictive as any illegal drug.

Chicken’N Waffles flavoured potato chips, two dollar and fifty cent wine, and state troopers who look like Smokey the Bear. What are; things you can only see in America.

As a tourist in the Caribbean and Europe, Canadians are sometimes confused with Americans. But not often, and not for long.

Living within an hour or so of the U.S. border, Canadians often like to make the trip south for a little break, and to shop.

We get a kick out of seeing alcohol on grocery store shelves, and an even bigger kick out of bringing a bottle or two of otherwise high-priced hooch across the border.

If you’re familiar with Michael Adams’ studies on the sociological differences between Canada and the U.S.A, which argues we are becoming more and more divergent when it comes to the values we espouse as nations, you will have some idea of the subtle differences that give these two North American countries decidedly distinct identities.

If you haven’t read the books, or thought much about it, let me give you my non-political, purely biased perspective.

U.S.A. vs Canada

1) Size matters in the U.S.  Meals are served on platter sized plates, drinks are served in gallon pail sized glasses, and the result is that the folks south of the border like their elastic waist bands way more than we do in the Great White North.

2) Food is a chemical and caloric shit-storm. If it’s palatable, it’s ok to eat. Welcome to the U.S.A.  Admittedly I did not seek out any ‘organic’ specialty stores, however, there were none visible during two days of driving to, through and around a major city.

3) The accent. First of all, in Canada, you’re out of luck in 99.9% of cases if you’re looking for grits. In the U.S., it’s pronounced ‘gree-its’, and they’re everywhere.

4) Americans love booze, but hate weed. Canada regulates booze like it’s crack-cocaine, and treats marijuana like it’s alcohol’s adorable little sister.

5) State troopers seem to have a permanent presence at convenience stores. They seem to be in a constant state of dehydration, lingering at the counter holding some giant beverage from the cooler. In Canada cops like coffee and donuts – they hang out at Tim Hortons.

6) American men all seem to have a hang-dog face and some terrible nasal condition which causes them to breath out of their half-open mouths. Canadian men are adorable, rugged lumberjacks underneath all of their please’s and thank you’s.

7) Brand names are big. If you don’t have at least one tagged on your body in the U.S., you’re an outcast. Canadians are slightly less attached to the thought of being walking billboards.

8) Salespeople in the U.S. are more aggressive, and smile while doing it. I’ve never seen so many over-the-hill women in heavy make-up and veneers this side of drag-night on Church Street as I did at the Macy’s cosmetic and fragrance counters.  I kept expecting the saleslady at  Estee Lauder to say, “All the better to eat you with my dear“.  She also happened to love every shade of lipstick I tried on, and held my chin firmly in her hands while applying it. Run. For. Your. Life.

9) Pizza. The US border cities definitely do it better. Crust that tastes like dough not cardboard, real cheese, and fresh herbs. Mom and pop shops always do pizza better.

10) Canadian highways, although aging and in a dismal state, are almost always more clean and maintained than U.S. interstates. “Tired”, was an adjective recently used to describe the infrastructure in New York state, and I would have to agree.

Each time a Canadian customs agent hands me back my passport and waves me through, I breath a deep sigh of relief. Canada is home, and I’m glad of it. Now, if we could just get our politicians to see the light…




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Friends With Benefits – I Don’t Think So

The flags of Canada and the United States of A...
The flags of Canada and the United States of America, flying side-by-side outside PGE Park in Portland, Oregon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Canada and the United States have flirted, used, abused, supported and stabbed one another in the back throughout the years.

We have a love/hate relationship. Americans like having neighbours who spell properly, and smile a lot.

Canadians like the sunny south and football. Perhaps we could also throw in the Rose Bowl parade, you know, just to make our American neighbours feel good.

It’s nice being neighbourly with the big guy on the block. Well, it used to be. The other global-guys are hitting their growth spurt, and the big guy isn’t so big any more. In fact, his fat-cat ways are catching  up, and, I hate to mention it, but he’s grown quite an economic disaster of a muffin-top.  A grand example of a sugar-daddy whose looks have slipped, and whose wallet isn’t fat enough.

This week, Diane Francis’s Merger of the Century was reviewed in the Toronto Star.  She argues, apparently pretty convincingly too, that should Canada and the United States jump the broom, both nations would stand to benefit.

To summarize, should this little marriage of two socially opposite neighbours happen, it would create an economy larger than the combined economic sway of China, Japan, France and Germany.

Francis describes our Canadian resources as, ‘mindboggling’. Trillions and trillions of dollars worth actually. I don’t think the average Canadian needs to read her book to understand just how rich we are. We may have to point out that our resources are in great, imminent danger of being destroyed by greedy BIG BUSINESS.  The very same big business that almost bankrupted North America in 2008. Yes, the very same big business that gobbled up the bail-out and learned absolutely nothing about innovation, or the fall-out of greed.

Beyond our  plethora of resources, Francis also sings the praises of our banking system, sophisticated social values, educations system (If ours is good, I shudder to think about the American system), and ‘law-abiding people’.

I would like to point out, that these are also precisely the reasons that intelligent Canadians would never wish to be more economically tangled with the United States than we are already obliged to be by virtue of our proximity.  Should a merger happen, it would leave the social, political and economic landscape of Canada a no-man’s land.

Much like the cover of the book that has our Canadian Maple Leaf gobbled up in the design of the famous stars and stripes, our social identity would be lost to the machine of capitalist greed, minus our so hard-won social system. In short, the big guy needs us now that the folly of his ways has seen the light of day.  The tough guy is looking to someone to clean up his mess.

Go ahead, take Francis’s argument for a ride, but be sure to read the other sides of the argument; Fire and Ice, and Death of the Liberal Class.  After all, you want a clear picture of just how very different our cultures are.

The reading may also inspire you to articulate our distinctly Canadian values in the face of the political shit-show that will surely be our next federal election.

Fracking? Pipelines? Bureaucratic Elitism? GMO farming and antibiotic infused livestock? Yes, we do have some rather overwhelming issues to tend to in our very own maple-syrup rich backyard, but we’d have a heck of a lot more problems if we get distracted by a  big, shiny, diamond engagement ring from the USA.