I have a co-worker in Canada that marvels at the number of times I go to a fast food restaurant. Who can blame me? There is a delicious Wendy’s across the street from my office. I don’t go there that often by American standards–maybe once a week or once every two weeks. I still catch a lot of flak for it.
There are a lot of differences between American and Canadian Wendy’s. Yes, there is still a Baconator on the menu. However, there isn’t a delicious Dollar Menu. In the US, I was able to enjoy a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger for $1. Here, there is no such thing as a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger, just a Bacon Cheeseburger, which is twice as big and unhealthy as the sandwich I enjoyed in Atlanta, Georgia. That got me thinking that maybe Canadians have a misperception about American fast food because the Canadian experience has subtle differences. Within a week of this hypothesis, I walked into a McDonald’s and was struck dumbfounded. DUMBFOUNDED, I TELL YOU!
McDonald’s is widely regarded as the quintessential American restaurant. You hear about how McDonald’s preaches consistency worldwide in their restaurants. They buy entire crops of potatoes and entire flocks of cows and entire schools of whatever is used for McRib Sandwiches. This would lead the average Canadian to believe that going into a Canadian McDonald’s is the same as going into an American McDonald’s. It is not. Here is the difference and why Canadians think Americans are fat and lazy due to the amount of fast food they eat.
American menu item:
Canadian menu item:
I know these pictures aren’t huge, but take a close look. The American sandwich is called a “Big Mac” the Canadian sandwich is called the “DOUBLE BIG MAC’. Yes, that means Canadians can buy two Big Mac’s in one–sort of. Double the meat, cheese, lettuce with the same three pieces of bun and probably extra thousand island dressing. When I first saw the Double Big Mac in Toronto, I immediately called friends and relatives in the US. I asked them to go to McDonald’s as soon as possible to let me know if the Double Big Mac was on the menu. IT IS NOT. (At least not in Iowa, Georgia, Colorado, or Washington.) All these Canadians I work with think that I am scarfing down Double Big Macs two at a time at least three times a week! It suddenly explains a lot.
What is even more strange is the lack of athletics here versus the US. I can’t figure out how Canadian school kids get any exercise. It is a blessing and a curse for Canadians, I suppose. In the US, my high school had a football stadium that held a few thousand people. We also had a track, baseball, and soccer stadium. We had a basketball court with bleachers. We also offered volleyball and some other lame sports. All of this was funded by the wonderful American tax payers. In Canada, the tax money is used to educate students rather than put them in physical competition with one another. Maybe that is why Americans are perceived as dumb but strong. In Canada, there aren’t a bunch of stadiums at every school. In fact, i can’t remember seeing bleachers at ANY school. If there isn’t a school athletic program, how do kids get exercise and stay in shape? One guess is that kids stay in shape by running away from wolves in the snowy month of January. Another guess is that the socialized health system in Canada either pays for free liposuction OR doesn’t waste money on saving obese people’s health resulting in a survival-of-the-fittest situation. Another guess is that the moose in Canada feed on fat, lazy Canadians and leave the healthy ones to perpetuate the species–we all have natural predators.
To support this claim, I have joined a soccer team and a softball team in Canada. Most Canadians I have played with like to call it “baseball” instead of “softball”. How did I get on one of the teams? A friend said they knew me and that I wanted to play. “Is he any good?” “Well, he’s American.” Done deal, I was on the team. I’m sure if it were hockey or competitive ice fishing, I would not have made the team. But since it was a real sport, everyone knew that Americans were not quite as fat and lazy as the stereotype. Is that a contradiction? Anyway, I’m doing my best to dispell the myth of fast food and lazy Americans.
Did you know there are beaches in Florida? For those of you reading that are Canadian or from other non-US locations or from the less educated parts of Arkansas, Florida is in the southeastern US and is a raft trip away from Havana. The coast of Florida is covered with a sand-like substance that goes right into the water, which is pretty salty. What is the source of the salt? We may never know, but I suspect it has something to do with the lack of indoor plumbing available to fish and whales of the entire course of history. (*THAT* is why I don’t like swimming in natural bodies of water.) The beaches in Florida are very nice. People wear skimpy bathing suits, it is hot and you can get a great tan, and there are lots of bars and restaurants lining the beaches. My favorite beach is St. Pete Beach in the Tampa Bay area and I enjoyed going to the Undertow, next to the Don Cesar Hotel. If you are ever in the area, I suggest checking it out.
My co-workers in the Washington DC area frequently talked about vacationing at the “beach”. However, they were not going to Florida. “Were they going all the way to California?” you are likely asking yourself. No, not California. “Were they going to Cancun, Mexico?” Excellent follow-up question, but also incorrect. “Were they going to Australia?” Now you are just being ridiculous–the plane ticket and the inconvenience of international travel make going to the beach in Australia highly impractical–plus they are in the Southern Hemisphere, so beach time in the US is wintertime in Australia. (That reminds me, does anyone else find it odd that the Summer Olympics in Sydney were actually played during the Australian winter? The Olympics are Northern Hemisphere biased.) People from Washington DC go to beaches in DELAWARE. I thought this was a joke. First, I didn’t know there were beaches in Delaware. Second, I didn’t think anyone actually went to Delaware intentionally. I doubt most people even know the capital of Delaware is Wilmington. HA! Trick–the capital is Dover. I am not making that up. There is really a city in this universe that is called Dover outside of the UK and it is the capital of Delaware. Third, I didn’t know that if there really were beaches in Delaware that they would be the sort of thing people would want to visit. It is far colder in Delaware than Florida. It is much more difficult to get a tan there. Evidence: Spring Breakers don’t pack up and head to Delaware in droves–they even prefer the Redneck Riviera (Panama City/Destin, Florida) to Delaware. When your beach is not as good as someplace called “Redneck Riviera”, you know it isn’t any good.
Remarkably, Toronto claims to have “beaches”, no matter hap ridiculous it makes Torontoids sound. There is a large body of mostly saltless water here (Lake Ontario). It is freezing and can get partially covered with icebergs in the winter. Also, winter lasts from October until April (give or take a week). This year it snowed twice in April. There is sand next to the lake, but since there aren’t any waves like in the ocean and not a large tidal effect, nor are there significant currents running through the lake, I don’t know where the sand came from. I have two theories: when the asteroid crashed into the Earth and made a big, lifeless void in North America that we now know as Boston, all the dust from the blast fell on Toronto. Over the years, Torontoids used their curling skills to sweep away all of the sand. They swept it towards Lake Ontario, and the sand just piled up there. Now they have beaches. Second theory: somebody bought sand and put it by the lake so they could claim to have a beach. Maybe there is a third possibility, but I have already rejected all other potential explanations.
Anyway, when I found out that Toronto had beaches, I laughed and laughed. I suggested that people here were using the Canadian definition of the word “beach” because I could not see a sane individual saying, “Hey, let’s go to the beach in Canada.” It makes no sense. I checked around and asked people if it ever gets hot in Toronto. The unanimous answer was that it DOES get hot in Toronto. But only for a limited amount of time. Limited? Try July and part of August. Also, I think they were using the Canadian definition of “hot”. In Toronto, they use the Celsius thermometer. 0 is freezing and 100 is boiling. In the US, Farenheit measurements are used. 32 degrees is freezing and something like 212 degrees is boiling. From now on, I think I am going to stick to the Kelvin scale. Freezing in Kelvin is 273.15 and boiling is 373.15. By using Kelvin, I can make sure I offend and confuse Americans and Canadians equally and stop playing favorites. I am used to going to the beach when it is AT LEAST 305 degrees Kelvin (32 C, 90 F). Unfortunately, it NEVER gets that hot here.
Example: yesterday it had to be about 297 degrees Kelvin (24 C, 75 F). I was outside with some co-workers and they were standing in the shade. I was actually cold because there was a breeze. I asked why they were in the shade and they said because it is so hot and they didn’t want to get sunburned. On that day, if I had a magnifying glass, I don’t think the sun would have been strong enough to burn an ant on the sidewalk. It was warm enough to make me feel like I should celebrate the temperature by wearing a short sleeve shirt, but not warm enough that I wished I was wearing shorts or a kilt.
Lesson: Hot is a VERY relative term. Torontoids go to the salt-free beaches in weather that I consider pleasant rather than hot. I will have to bring a jacket to the beach here and I can throw away the SPF 75 that I used in Florida. It is kind of worrying me about what they consider COLD here.
Writing this blog just made me think of another observation that I didn’t quite recognize. My thermostat in my home is in FARENHEIT not CELSIUS or KELVIN! How did this happen? Maybe I have a blackmarket American thermostat. Canadians must have a real problem with heating and air conditioning if they have to convert everything in their heads when they set the temperature of their homes. I am going to have to look into this and find out if other people in Canada have been subverted to American thermostat technology. If America can start a beachhead with thermostats, it won’t be long before the entire metric system and culture of Canada is infiltrated and defeated and all of Canada becomes North North Dakota.
I took a few pictures to support my prior posts. I took a couple of pictures of Canadian goose protection in action and I also took a photo at the grocery store that exemplifies the consiracy to keep Canadians from buying milk in cartons. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong about what they put on their cartons of milk, but it is clearly ambiguous. I’ve never even heard of anyone using an abbreviated form of the word they are employing on the milk carton. I looked around, and I could not find this same stuff on bags of milk. That, my friends, is why it’s called a conspiracy. Lastly, to show the obsession Canadians have for milk pitchers, I have a photo that shows milk CARTONS but they still have special pitchers they use to hold milk cartons. I think this is a sign of successful brainwashing.
Being new to Canada and Toronto, I don’t have much experience with the social or cultural scene. Upon moving here a couple of months ago, my only observation was that I could watch hockey or curling at any time of day on at least three stations. There are minor league hockey games here. There are NHL games on at all times. Some broadcasts are in French, others are in English. There is also an abundance of curling on television. I expected when I watched the first of five matches that the competition would all be like the Olympics and pitting nation against nation in an effort to revive Cold War animosity. Then I remembered that I was in Canada and there was never a Cold War here, just Cold without the War part. Heck, Canadians can come and go between here and Havana. I guess Canadians love Communists. Personally, I have no problem with Communists. If it weren’t for the Commies, my great grandparents wouldn’t have fled Poland. Thanks, Marx, Lenin and Stalin! Keep up the good work, Fidel!
I digress… Curling is a huge sport here. I’m not sure how the television ratings are, but there are lots of corporate sponsors plastered all over. Monsanto was sponsoring one team, Ford sponsoring another. (Sidenote: glad to see that Ford has saved up enough money to spend a little on curling sponsorships. I hope the executives get good seats to the matches.) Four of the five matches I have seen were CLUB teams in Canada playing for the national championship or something. A couple of the matches were women’s teams. I don’t know why they don’t desegregate the sport. I think that with all those years of domestic service, women should be able to sweep their way to a championship in the men’s league. **I’M JUST KIDDING** But seriously, this is a game like shuffleboard–there isn’t a big test of strength, except for your ability to slide down the ice in bowling shoes while using a scrub brush to polish the ice in front of a stone and get it to strategically stop on a target. Why CAN’T women beat up on the men? If there is one thing I can accomplish in Canada, I am going to work towards integrating the men’s and women’s curling factions. It is important to the future of curling to bring equality to the masses. Even Capital One is onboard with this–see http://www.rocksandrings.com/, a kids program that promotes curling. I guess it helps keep kids off the mean streets of Halifax and out of the thug life while also teaching the skills necessary to keep a tidy kitchen, home, and city. No wonder Canada is so clean.
Another thought on curling: I have only seen white people play on television. I have not seen any immigrants or Inuits. Something to think about.
In addition to curling and hockey on television, Esra and I got out for a couple of live cultural experiences. We went to a theater production and we went to a comedy club.
The first weekend we decided to get out was when we went to the theater. Esra has been looking into arts organizations to network and locate a possible job opportunity. She stumbled upon http://blackandbluegala.eventbrite.com/. I was only informed that this was a modern dance company and it would be a unique performance. I had some high expectations because the producer sounded like a Russian immigrant and it was a touring company–not a bunch of locals that were going to be breakdancing on cardboard. Also, tickets to the event were $100 (Canadian) per person–we got ours comped, thank god. Normally, I would not drop a C-note on a dance performance and certainly not for a modern dance performance. I did NOT read the full description of the performance prior to arrival. During the day leading up to the performance, I was a little nervous about what to wear. The theater was next door to the Royal Ballet Academy and there was a reception planned there after the performance. It was my first time at something cultural in Canada, so I didn’t want to look like a slob, like when I would see stuff in the US. In Iowa, in 1991, I went to Cats in Cedar Rapids in a 10,000 seat stadium where I wore jeans and a tee shirt while eating a box of popcorn. I was hoping Toronto would be an upgrade over that.
I was sort of out of place. It turns out that the performance was being done sans costumes. No costumes? Were the dancers wearing their street clothes? Borrowing clothes from the audience? No, they were completely naked. This was a bit of a shock at first, but it’s modern dance, so I figured that kind of nutty, shockingness is par for the course. There were three dancers: one female (the Russian) and two males. All nude. The performance started and I made several other new discoveries about the performance: no dialogue and no music. The entire performance was these three dancers modern-dancing all over a blank stage (no set), in dead silence with a single spotlight following them around. Modern dance is not ballet. It is not Dancing with the Stars. It is more like Shark Week. There is a lot of sprinting, running, jumping, spinning, and arm motions that look like a baseball pitcher (with no clothes or a baseball) or perhaps muscle spasms. The performance lasted an hour.
As soon as the show started, I knew I was in trouble. I calmed myself down and didn’t laugh when the dancers took their marks in the nude. My first thought upon seeing the dancers was “I need to lose weight”–several people at the reception made the same remark when we started comparing notes. As soon as they started “dancing”, I was biting my lip and tongue and pinching my leg to keep myself from laughing. Perhaps this was a bit too much culture for me and I am more of a Will Ferrell afficianado than a modern dance fanatic. There were running back and forth, chasing each other, and jumping in unison. I had no idea what was going on. I’ve seen my niece and nephew put on a similar performance when it is close to their bath times. There was no discernible story, just naked people getting some exercise. After the first five minutes, I had nearly chewed through my lip, so I decided it would be best if I closed my eyes. I couldn’t laugh because the whole theater was silent during the performance. Everyone would have heard me. I closed my eyes, but it didn’t really help. All you could heard was the pitter-patter of naked dancer’s feet as they modern-danced their way to fitness. I opened my eyes after 10 minutes and the dancing had calmed down. I think there was a story. I think it was about being monkeys in a love triangle, but then one monkey moves to the big city and has to take the subway to work and just doesn’t have time for the other monkeys. Instead, the monkey gets caught up in the corporate grind and lives life in the fast lane, like Michael J Fox (Canadian) in the award winning “Secret of My Success”. At the end, they all fell asleep, which was quite a plot twist. I thought they would just continue to exercise. I clapped at the end, even though I was perplexed. I think they set up the ending for a sequel. I expect that all Canadian culture must be similar to this experience. Surely Esra and I can’t be in town and on the internet for a DAY and find the only naked dance performance in town. Statistically, there must be at least thirty others going on at any given time. I think that’s a reasonable statistical assumption.
The next weekend, Esra and I hit the comedy club. Not much to tell about it. It was not all that funny. I had not heard of the headliner and he was an old timer. During his performance, it was obvious that he was having a tough time relating to a younger (younger than 60) crowd. The only funny bit of his had to do with his prostate cancer, which either really speaks to how much time he devoted to that bit or to how bad the rest of his act was so that cancer seemed funny. I felt slightly guilty. ANYWAY, there were like four opening acts and everyone made fun of the US. According to Canadians, Americans are all fat an lazy. It is kind of like the way Americans used to talk about Mexico in the 1980’s. According to Canadians, Americans are all fat and eat too much fast food. Everyone in the club laughed and laughed at the American jokes. I laughed too, because I didn’t want to be outed as an American because I was too fat to run away if they decided to mob me. The comics also talked a lot about pot and drugs and stuff–sort of standard fare for comedians these days. Except for the abundance of jokes about American and the distinct LACK of jokes about Canadians, it was just like going to a comedy club in the US without a good headliner.
I am trying to make my way to a Canadian sporting event, but I can’t read Canadian calendars very well. I thought there was a baseball game in town this weekend, but the home game I was targeting is NEXT weekend. You see, the time in Toronto is ahead by one week. Either that or I can’t use calendars. Isn’t this Canadian leap year? That might have something to do with it, too. Anyway, I’m going to try to get to a game. Apparently, I’ll be the only one in Canada trying to go to a baseball game intentionally. Cheapest seats are $14 (Canadian) and you can buy tickets in an alcohol-free section. (Why?) I’m also going to try out the subway for the first time when I go to a game. But that is a topic for another blog.
Outside of my office, there is a Canadian goose. Actually, there are two. I think they are married. According to Canadian law, a couple is considered to be in a common law marriage after only six months. I’m not sure how long these geese were a-courting, but they have a nest and have laid eggs next to a tree about 30 feet from the main entrance to my office building.
The Canadian goose is the national bird of Canada. I did not know this. In America, they land in parks and at my old office and poop on everything and they even chase people from time to time. They are very hostile–even militant birds. I heard that Canada was going to send a flock (actually a gaggle) to Libya. In America, the bald eagle is the national bird. Did you know that Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird? That notion was rejected. Apparently, the forefathers of the United States decided they didn’t want two delicious animals to represent bordering countries. It is okay for Americans to eat Canada’s national bird, but the Canadian goose is a protected animal within Canada. This means that the birds that laid eggs outside my office can’t be touched. The area 15 feet around the birds has been roped off and nobody is allowed near the nest. Officials from the government have to get a permit to come out and relocate the birds and the nest. We are not allowed to eat the eggs. I guess Canadian eggs are also protected, even though they aren’t geese yet. Heck, for all we know, there could be alligators inside those eggs until they hatch. Why take that chance? Canadians are THAT trusting.
Until the birds are relocated, the male continues to guard the nest and drop green poop everywhere. He watches all us suckers walk into work in the morning and leave at night while he just lives off Jaques Q. Taxpayer’s nickle.
Speaking of nickles… it is taking me a while to get used to Canadian money. I suppose if you lived here long enough, you would know how much change to carry around with you to avoid getting more change. The big adjustment is that there are no one dollar bills. If you buy something that costs $0.25 (and then pay the 14% sales tax), you get a couple of quarters, some pennies, and two $2 coins. Yes, they have $1 and $2 coins in Canada instead of paper money. The lowest denomination of paper money is $5. The money is all very colorful, which is great unless you are colorblind. $5 = blue, $10 = purple, $20 = green, $50 is pink (even though they call it red), and $100 is the majestic color of brown. I would like to have been there when they decided which colors to make the different denominations. How did PURPLE wind up on such a common denomination? Personally, I would have gone with blue, green and red first. Since red is on the national flag, I’d probably start with that on the $5. The only other color on the Canadian flag is white, so you can’t really have a white-on-white paper money unless you also give all citizens access to portable/pocket-size blacklights so they can make sure they have the white-on-white money and not just a blank piece of paper. Maybe that is why they got rid of the $1 bill. I think the real reason they got rid of the $1 bill is because of the strong lobbying efforts of strippers. Think about it–the smallest paper bill that can be used to tip is $5. If I was a US stripper, I’d immediately apply for my Canadian work permit. I’m sure they also lobbied to make sure it is an offense to have drunk old men to throw $1 and $2 coins at you in any combination.
Also, I’ve heard there are still $500 bills in circulation, but my diligent research says that the latest printing only issued notes up to $100. The 6th Prime Minister of Canada appears on that note. Oddly, the $20 features a foreigner–the Queen of England. I think that Canadians sometimes forget that they celebrate Canada Day (or Pre-American Independence Day) on July 1, commemorating the establishment of Canada as a country of its own, which was achieved in 1867. Maybe the Brits have hypnotized everyone except the Quebecardashians into thinking they are still a snowy part of the UK.
Speaking of holidays…Canadians are doing a poor job of marketing their advantage over US holidays. I think Canadians intentionally tried to pre-empt US holidays in order to attract more immigrants. In Canada, Family Day is celebrated about the time of Presidents Day; Victoria is celebrated a week before Memorial Day; Canada is 3 days before US Independence Day; Canadian Thanksgiving is nearly a month before US Thanksgiving. I have frequently inquired as to when I should celebrate Canadian New Year, but apparently it is the same in both countries. That certainly saves on the cost of printing calendars.
The more I am here, the more subtle differences I am finding between US and Canadian culture. I must remember my roots and avoid being completely assimilated.
The other day, Esra and I went to a party at the house of some new friends. It was a great time and I learned a lot about Canadians. I learned that Canadians think that I have a southern accent. I asked if “southern” meant any American accent and they said I sound like I just came off of a ranch where I was herding cattle. That’s funny–I started to notice that I have an accent when I moved here, but I sound like I have a little bit of a Minnesota accent. I sound like an extra from the movie Fargo. I guess that is from growing up in Iowa. (Canadians, like most Americans, don’t know where Iowa is. It is about 300 miles west of Chicago and it is not Idaho. Iowa has corn and pigs, Idaho has potatoes and white supremacists.) Still, the Canadian attendees at the party thought I had a southern drawl. After a little while, I slipped into a Texas-southern accent and NOBODY NOTICED! Apparently, all Americans sound the same to Canadians. What is the real difference between Canadian English and American English? First, some Canadians sound like they have a French accent because a lot of them speak French if they are from Quebec. The Quebecardashians make no effort to blend in with the rest of Canada and it shows in their French accents. Second, all other Canadians have a slightly French accent. Any word with “ou” in it is pronounced like the French use it–sort of like a “w” sound, such as in the French word for “yes” (oui). The word “about” sounds completely ridiculous to me here. It sounds like they aren’t even trying to be serious when they talk to me and use that word. I have a hard time containing my giggles and snickers. Other words that sound different are “been”, “process”, “hockey”, and “eh”. I watched the award winning hit feature film Strange Brew repeatedly before my move to Toronto, but was disappointed to find out that nobody says “took” (a winter hat) or “hoser”, although I try to work those into conversation as much as possible.
Also at the party, I learned a lot about the Canadian government. First, they DO have a government. Each province has a Premier and there is a Prime Minister for the country. Second, there are FIVE major political parties in Canada. It made me think about my flawed American mentality regarding politics. In the US, there is a stupid two party system. This goes hand in hand with the willingness for Americans to believe that everything is in absolutes–there is always a right and a wrong, good and evil, black and white, US and USSR, Marlon Brando and Pee-Wee Herman. In Canadian politics, there is more of a willingness to accept that there is a grey area. Parties are lucky if they capture 30% of the vote (from what I’ve heard) and parties can not usually control a majority of the votes in the Canadian Model UN committee (or Congress or Parliament or Diet or Legislature–I’ll use Canadrome until I find out the real name) so they have to work together to get anything done. Instead of using two parties where one is right and the other is wrong and it is always one side versus the other, in Canada it is more like Larry, Mo and Curly (or Shemp or Jo, depending on the era). A party’s alliance with other parties could change at the drop of a hat or hammer to the face and alliances may not always be consistent.
My second lesson about Canadian government is about Election Day. In the US, I consistently marked the first week of November as a reminder of when I would not vote. I knew that the election was sometime around then, but I always chose not to vote because I wasn’t going to pick between the lesser of two evils. Lots of people said, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the results.” However, I always counter with, “If you had the option of eating fresh dog poop or day old dog poop, which would you choose?” I prefer not to eat dog poop. When someone starts serving stuffed pork chops or even Taco Bell beef-ish burritos, I’ll pick out what I want to eat. Hasn’t anyone considered that the American elections are like picking what dog poop you prefer? Perhaps someone will figure out that we should stop offering dog poop and offer something more appealing. (Full disclosure: I *did* vote in the 2010 election because I actually liked a specific candidate. I won’t say who I voted for, but let’s just say they are now the president.) ANYWAY, there is NO specific election day in Canada. Also, there are no term limits or even terms at all in Canada. How do they decide when to have an election? Canada has an election coming up in May. The Canadrome can call for a vote to decide whether they have confidence in the current Prime Minister or not. This is usually done when the public approval ratings for the incumbent are way down and other parties think they can unseat the Prime Minister. If they vote to have an election, it takes place in a couple of months after the decision! There is no year-long campaign, there isn’t time to bash each other mercilessly in the press and get into a candidate’s elementary school transcript. I suppose that Canadians must be slightly more knowledgable about their government so they can decide who to back in just 2 months time. Or maybe the candidates are tightly aligned with their party’s platform, so a vote for a candidate is a vote for the party platform.
Thirdly, most Prime Ministers have been from Quebec. Quebec is the French-style part of Canada. They are the ones responsible for having big road signs and less reading content on Rice Krispie boxes because everything in Canada has to be in both French and English since Quebecardashians are illiterate in English. Somehow, they stay unified enough to cast all their votes in one specific way and dictate who the Prime Minister will be. There has never been a Prime Minister from Vancouver, British Columbia, which is probably the second or third largest city in Canada and one of the fastest growing cities. There has also never been a Prime Minister from the Yukon Territory, which is the home of Ice Road Truckers. The Quebecardashians have a party called “Bloc de Quebec” or something along those lines (I don’t know how to spell it and was too lazy to look it up) and they are pro-anti-Canada. Pro-anti-Canada? Yes, they are pro about being anti-Canada. They would love to declare independence, but they just opt not to. Maybe it is because they don’t have any natural resources, natural boundaries, or port cities and would both freeze and starve to death on their own. Maybe they just like to stir up trouble. I have no idea what their problem is with the rest of Canada. Maybe they are waiting for French-Canadian Napoleon to lead them out of the oppressive dictatorship that is Canada. Ironically, Canada is led by a Prime Minister largely chosen by the very people looking to escape the tyrannical Dark Ages of the Prime Minister. Sort of seems like a Catch-22. I wonder if that book or hit movie has been translated into French and if any Quebecardashians have read it so they can understand that I am calling their pro-anti-Canadianism a paradox.
So far, that is all that I have learned about the government. It doesn’t seem in danger of a coup. Things are pretty stable. Perhaps America could learn something about cooperation from Canada and the benefits of not being like Quebec. Also, I am a little insulted that some Canadians think I sound like George Bush.
I recently went to the grocery store in Toronto. I was hungry and that seemed like the best place to get food. The past few weeks I had just been eating at restaurants. I quickly learned that Popeye’s is an upscale chicken restaurant here that delivers food to your house. Wendy’s is good, but there is no dollar menu in Canada. Maybe it is the exchange rate. Maybe beef-like patties are very rare here. It was getting expensive to keep going to restaurants, so I figured I should start using the refrigerator in the new apartment for something more than storing socks and DVDs.
The grocery store in Canada is deceptively similar in appearance to a grocery store in the United States. There are a few differences. First, they don’t sell beer, wine or liquor in grocery stores. I also found out that I can’t pull into a 7 Eleven and pick up an ice cold 40 of King Cobra. All liquor is sold in state (I mean province) owned stores. Beer is sold in a place called the Beer Store. You can get all kinds of liquor at LCBO stores. I don’t know what LCBO stands for. I think it stands for Liquor Canada Backwards Obbreviation, but only if Canadians are terrible spellers. Maybe it stands for Lending Canadians Beer Occassionally. Or Lemmings Can Beat Orthepedists. I’m just not sure.
Another difference is milk. 30 Rock recently did an episode in which two characters went to Toronto and complained that Canadians sell milk in bags. I thought that was the funniest joke I’d heard about Canada in the history of Canada and milk. It turns out that is WASN’T a joke! Milk is really sold in bags! Milk is sold in a large bag containing four 1-liter (litre) bags of milk. Just plain sandwich bags. No zip lock. No drink box straw. So you buy these bags of milk, bring them home and put the entire bag in a “milk pitcher”, cut the corner off of the bag of milk, and pour it onto your cereal or into your coffee. I don’t know what the deal is with milk pitchers–I didn’t see any at the store, but I can only guess they are expensive. The whole milk bag thing is likely a conspiracy between the milk cow farmers and the milk pitcher manufacturing conglomerate–you can’t have one without the other. What is really odd is that you can buy milk in a carton, but a carton of milk costs almost TWICE as much as a bag of milk. Apparently, milk cartons are very expensive in Canada. Even MORE odd is that orange juice is sold right next to milk and it comes in cartons and jugs, but there isn’t an upcharge for the carton or jug. Orange juice is NOT sold in bags. Canadians think that bags of milk are perfectly normal. They are so funny here.
Soda costs about the same here as in the US. Diet Coke is only half Diet Coke. It says Diet Coke on one side and the other side it said Coke Diete. Even though packages are the same size here for all food products, they have to print everything in both English and French, so I don’t get the same reading content on my food in Canada as in the United States. I feel cheated. I hope the merchanising people in Canada get paid half as much as in the US because they only have to write 50% as much as an American Rice Krispie Cereal Box author. Maybe Canadian merchandisers can make up a few bucks on being good French translaters. Mountain Dew in Canada does not contain caffeine. My uncle that works for Pepsi told me to stock up on Mt Dew before setting foot in Canada because of this difference. I thought it was a joke. Turns out it is true! On the plus side, there is a bodega-like mini-mart accross the street from me that sells three-year old Mt Dew that still contains caffeine. I might buy all of it and have a monopoly in Toronto.
Lastly, I am afraid of Canadian candy bars. Mars in Canada is Milky Way in the US. I don’t know if a US Mars bar is a Canadian Milky Way. I haven’t seen anything even called a Milky Way here. They have three or four different kinds of Kit-Kat bars and I haven’t cracked the code on them yet. There are also a bunch of candy bars I don’t recognize at all and am afraid to try. Coffee Crunch? Seriously? Who would eat a crunchy piece of coffee? It sounds like something I could get in a Starbuck’s dumpster. I am considering creating a Canadian to American candy thesaurus, but that would mean I am flying blind and tasting potentially cabbage-filled candy bars. Maybe chocolate Easter eggs are filled with tripe here. That reminds me–everything here that DOESN’T contain peanuts clearly advertises it in a big anti-peanut symbol. I guess Canadians are severely allergic to peanuts. Because of this, I carry a pocket full of peanuts around with me at all times in case I get mugged–I’ll just throw peanuts into a mugger’s face while I make a speedy getaway.
Tomorrow I plan on relaxing and exploring Canadian television to find the differences. I wonder if Canadian Hannah Montana is available in French.
A few months ago, I got a new job in Toronto. It was a tough choice–I was looking at a position in Toronto or Sao Paulo. Toronto was the best career move for me and I enthusiastically accepted the job.
On the downside, I was moving from Atlanta, Georgia in the US. After growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I vowed never to live where it snowed ever ever ever again. I think I had an allergy to either snowflakes or ice scrapers and I did not want to relive those old days in the cold. When I was growing up, I had to stand outside and wait for the school bus, which arrived at 7:10am. I am not an early riser, so I would frequently/daily be late getting ready for school. This meant that I often went straight from the shower to the school bus stop (putting on clothes somewhere along the way). With wet hair on an exceptionally cold Iowa morning, my hair could freeze. Even worse, if it was REALLY cold, my runny nose would freeze and the snot would make my nostrils stick together. Very few people can empathize with this situation. Despite my possible allergic reaction, I opted to go to Toronto after hearing so many great non-weather-related things.
I had never been to Canada before taking the new job. I knew nothing about the country. I frequently refered to Canada as America Lite. I didn’t know holidays, didn’t know how much gas cost, or if cars drove on the left or right side of the road. I didn’t know what kind of government there was or if it was necessary, if Canada has a standing army, or owning a hockey stick was mandatory.
Here is what I immediately learned:
Gas costs about twice as much as in the United States. I couldn’t do the math very quickly in my head–to figure out gas prices, I would have to take Canadian dollars and convert them into US dollars to get the price right, then I would have to convert liters (or litres) into gallons. That is far too many calculations, so instead I just filled up my car with gas after I drove around until I was nearly empty. I filled up and said, “It seems like it costs twice as much to fill up my tank with gas!” They have all flavors of gas here, from high octane to low octane and they even have diesel. I use low octane because it is cheap and I am not driving in NASCAR.
To avoid high gas costs, I thought I would utilize the subway/train system in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). There is a train station a block from my new apartment and a couple of blocks from my office. I live in downtown and I work out in Mississauga, a northwestern suburb of Toronto. Unfortunately, I also learned something about Toronto trains: they are not all run by Toronto. Toronto trains run 24/7 within the city of Toronto. Outside the city, the trains are run by whatever suburb they are in. The geniuses at the Department of Trains in Mississauga decided that trains would only run going towards downtown Toronto in the morning and trains would only run from downtown Toronto to Mississauga in the evening. In other words, the trains were great for commuters that are going downtown, but not for someone doing the opposite. The weird part is that the trains go from Mississauga to downtown and make stops along the way, then COME BACK to Mississauga completely empty and without making stops so they can make another run from Mississauga to downtown! I am not sure who did the financials on this, but it seems like they should enjoy taking my money and giving me a ride from downtown to one of their pre-existing stops along the way. I mean–they were going to pass by my stop anyway, right? Why not just drop me off? Or I could take one of their classes on “How to Jump Safely from a Moving Train” and exit somewhere near my target destination. I haven’t heard back from the Department of Trains about my idea(s), so I am driving to work.
The traffic here isn’t bad. It is nothing compared to Atlanta. I live about 20 miles from work. I don’t know how to convert it into kilometers. If I have to convert stuff like this, I usually just guess, so let’s say it is 50km. It takes me 25-30 minutes to drive here on a good day. In Atlanta, that would take me at least an hour. I can’t even make it through one of my favorite podcasts in a single drive! Even on bad days, traffic isn’t terrible. People in Toronto perceive their own traffic as bad. I think they should all go to Monterrey, Mexico for a day and drive around, then go to Atlanta and drive around. Everyone would quickly learn that Toronto is to traffic what Ex-Lax is to the digestive system and Atlanta is Immodium. Monterrey is like mixing the two together–never sure what is going on, but you want to be close to a bathroom.
Next post will be about my trip to the grocery store.