For years Canadians have been concerned that proximity to our big brother, and exposure to American media and entertainment, has eroded Canadian culture. As a Canadian living in the U.S. I would like to put those fears to rest. After living in Texas for eleven years, I have noticed many differences in the cultural, political and economic arenas.
1. Political differences: For Canadians, Communism and Socialism are two different animals. Communism is simply another system of economics and politics and not an invention of the nameless one who dwells in that place that’s even hotter than Houston. One day, my then ten-year old son had a friend come over to “hang out”. They were engaged in some kind of video game in which there was a communist system in place. My son asked “What is Communism?” his friend answered simply… “Evil”. Needless to say we had a quick and intensive lesson in social studies, forms of government and world history.) During President Obama’s presidential campaign, there was a flaming, fear filled, email circulating that described in point form what he stood for and how that was communist. I laughed at each point scrolled past and declared at the end, “He’s not a Communist! He’s Canadian!”
Royal Bank of Canada’s previous logo (the crown was removed). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
2.Economic differences: The banking system is another area which Canadians and Americans differ. I don’t know how many times my family has sent cheques (note the French spelling) and / or money orders drawn on the Royal Bank of Canada that American bank tellers will turn their noses up at, then charge half the cheque total in service fees to deposit. Yes…. Even money orders… technically already paid for and considered CASH are subjected to huge processing fees. When I relay this information to my father, who was an employee of the Royal Bank of Canada for more than 30 years, (one of the largest and richest banks in the world) he exclaims with incredulity “The Royal Bank could eat those little buggers for breakfast!” Canadians can make deposits through the automated banking system as well as take money out. It’s very handy. Envelopes are provided and we just slip them in like you do your cash at the grocery store self -check out. Also when we sign the back of a cheque, the tellers really don’t care that it’s right on the line. Sometimes Canadian cheques don’t even have lines. Anywhere will do. Canadians are such slackers.
3. Canadians earn less and are taxed more. Yes, this sucks, but this it’s to be expected in a large country with a smaller population that has more social programs in place. (note: SOCIAL programs, NOT Communist) One of the benefits of this however, is that our school systems update their playground equipment to meet safety standards every three years. This is done over summer vacation and believe it or not, requires no fundraising event to do so. Schools only do fundraising for fun, extra activities like if the kids want to spend a little more on a field trip or more decorations for prom or something. (As an aside, three field trips a year are MANDATORY, more are encouraged. The school system in which my kids are currently enrolled, the students are lucky if they get one.) As a result of getting paid less, having higher cost of living, and getting taxed more, Canadians have a lot less disposable income. Because we have less disposable income Canadians eat out less. Because Canadians eat out less, the restaurant business is more competitive, more restaurants go out of business and therefore…Canadians are skinnier.
4. Public health care, that certainly is a hot potato, isn’t it? One day my neighbor said to me, “I’d be supportive of public health care, but I like the freedom to just call my doctor and see him whenever I want.” Stunned by this statement, I had to explain to her that yes, Canadians call their doctors and make appointments and there is no difference. Not only that but after experiencing emergency hospital visits in both countries, again, there is no difference in the wait time. I’ve had to wait hours in both systems. The misrepresentations with regard to public health care is pure propaganda circulated, I’m quite certain, by those who stand to lose the most money. Who would that be pray tell? Why, the health insurance companies of course!
5. On a lighter note, Canadians in general are a little more easy going, for one thing we love to laugh at ourselves and we laugh even louder watching our American cousins laugh at us.
After living in the US for so many years when I return home I DO hear that we sound like the McKenzie brothers, we DO have a tendency to apologize for everything even if we aren’t at fault. (I catch myself apologizing at the grocery store all the time when other shoppers bang into my cart when walking on what would be for them, the “wrong” side of the isle.) Americans are generally more outspoken than Canadians. If an American thinks you’re odd, they are more apt to let you know. If a Canadian thinks you’re odd, they’ll say, “Isn’t that….Interesting!” and sit a little further away from you on the bus.
6. Canadian humor is definitely different; I think Americans might call us “weird”. I wonder sometimes if this has something to do with our closer ties to Britain. Canadians are a strange combination of dry and wacky.
7. Canadians say “eh?” and Americans say “huh?” Personally I’ve never been one to say “eh?” very often, but boy when I visit home I sure hear it a lot! My daughter especially loves to point it out when relatives come to visit. In the south, pretty much everybody says “y’all “ or “all y’all”. I love explaining to my Canadian family and friends that “y’all” is singular and “all y’all” is plural. I have found actually that these terms can be very handy at times, especially at parties or while addressing large groups.
8. This one is a no brainer. Canadians are hockey fans and Americans are football fans.
While Canadians also love football (I remember my parents bundling up in parkas with thermoses of hot coffee to go to a CFL football game,) but our PASSION is hockey. Canadian hockey moms rival American football moms with regard to dedication (5 am hockey practice) however, I have never heard a hockey mom say she was going to keep her son back from starting school an extra year so that he’s bigger for the sport. Twice I had football moms ask me if I was going to hold my son back an extra year from kindergarten so that he’d be bigger for football when he was in high school. . Now THAT’S dedication!
9. Canada is “multicultural” and America is a “melting pot”: I remember my grade 12 social studies teacher going over this with us in school. At the time I thought “ho hum, whatever that means”. When immigrants come to Canada they keep a lot of their traditions and customs. This, some Canadians argue may not necessarily be a good thing. Again, there is a fear of erosion of the culture that can be considered “Canadian”. I remember several years ago a controversy over a Sikh man who joined the Mounted Police and was permitted to wear a turban over the traditional Mounties hat. A turban was made for him in the Mountie colors but people were still not too happy about this. I suspect this would have been a non-issue in the US. Of course I don’t know for certain, but I suspect that an immigrant in the US would have been expected to conform to the uniform that was provided without any “buts” about it.
Pierre Trudeau speaking at a fundraising meeting for the Liberal Party at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montréal, Québec. Cropped version of File:Pierre_Elliot_Trudeau.jpg Français : Pierre Elliott Trudeau lors d’une campagne de fonds pour le parti Libéral du Canada à l’hôtel Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth à Montréal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In 1977 the Parliament of Canada under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau passed the Human Rights Act. “The purpose of this Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, to the principle that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.” (In 2005 Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same sex marriage.) The Human Rights Act may be at the apex of discussion and dissention in certain areas concerning the preservation of cultural heritage; however I believe it is a big step in the right direction with regards to basic morality and overall human rights. It’s not perfect, but nothing ever is.
10. Both Americans and Canadians are very proud of their respective countries. Canadians used to be quieter and more subtle in their pride but at the same time fiercely loyal. I have noticed in the last few years that Canadians are “showing the love” in more obvious ways. I see a lot more flags flying now when I visit home. Canadian television programing is becoming more obvious in displaying signs of pride and I also notice a lot more Canadians voicing that pride both in words and actions. I view this as a good thing. Canada is a country worth shouting about! The social programs (not communist), and government policies regarding human rights demonstrates the generosity of the hearts of her people, and shines as an example to all. America is the Land of the Free and the Brave, and Canada is the Land of Love and Tolerance. What a formidable couple we make.