Yesterday I returned from my visit to my brother and his family in the Seattle area. It was great to spend some time with them, and they have plenty of room (especially when it’s just me and not a whole slew of family members descending upon them, as sometimes happens). I also picked up a new Macbook Pro (woo-hoo!), and hopefully will be posting entries from that computer from one of the many, friendly coffeehouses that seem to be designed for just such an activity sometime soon.
Pam is still out of town, now staying with her brother and his family in Western Mass. I’ve checked the fish and can’t find the one that was sick; I fear that a crow may have come and gotten him, but I can’t be sure. In the meantime, I’m cooking, doing laundry and trying to keep the place reasonably clean. With a beautiful day like today, it is hard to resist the urge to simply go and sit in the park. Fortunately, it’s just a bit too chilly to just sit.
As the comments on my post: A Beautiful Day and Career Counseling from the Pointy-Haired Boss have suggested, my work with the strategist at Career Management company have had hit a rocky patch. I’m sure this will all work out in the end, but I’m not used to being the ‘problem customer’ in any business relationship. If they are run as well as they should be, it should still work out in my favor.
Advice to US Visitors
Its been a long time since I explored the whole US to Canada experience. Part of it is that I’m settling down, I suppose. In just 2 months, we’ll have been here 2 years(!)
Nevertheless, with an upcoming flood of US relatives due to visit my friend Matt for his wedding, he is compiling some ‘Advice to Americans’, with some tips and FAQs for those who may not have been to Canada before. Some are as simple as ‘Do I need a voltage convertor?’ or ‘Will my Cell Phone still work?’ (No, you won’t need one, and Yes, but it’ll cost you some hefty roaming charges), so I thought a little bit about things that I’d add, and couldn’t come up with much. Is this because I’m starting to forget the way things used to be and am taking differences for granted? Here are my additions, for the record:
- Watch out for some vocabulary differences, like ‘Parkade’ instead of ‘Parking Garage’, and ‘Homo’ instead of ‘Whole Milk’.
- The temperature in Centigrade can really take some getting used to. (is 10 degrees hot? Is it cold?)
- Be careful about using credit cards. They often employ a terrible exchange rate (which is slowly but surely moving toward 1 US dollar = 1 Canadian dollar these days) and also can charge a ‘service charge’ for each purchase. Better to convert as much money as you can to cash, if you feel comfortable doing that.
- Most pedestrians obey crosswalk signs to a surprising degree of strictness. It’s just the way it’s done here. (I’ll bet I get some disagreement on that point…)
- Expect surveys. You’ll get surveyed on everything. Not just hotel rooms, but tourist attractions, and even some stores and restaurants. Unlike the somewhat cynical view they are viewed within the US, Canadians take surveys very seriously, and are surprised that others don’t. I can’t explain why this is the case, but it was true years ago when we went on our honeymoon in Nova Scotia, and it’s still true today.
- Sometimes restaurants and clubs look worse on the outside than they actually are on the inside. I have no idea why, but this is frequently the case. Don’t let it stop you from exploring some shops and eateries that look a little dicey. Chances are they just have a little worn façade, but the tables and kitchen are fine.
- Unlike the US, in Canada, buses are not just for the poor and marginal members of society. Here, everyone uses them, so don’t be afraid to.
- Don’t be surprised if you see an Adult Bookstore in a relatively nice area. Unlike the US, where they only occupy the worst areas of town that one should never be caught in after dark, they are better integrated into society here. That’s doesn’t mean that you’ll see them in really nice areas of town, but don’t assume just because you see a Porn purveyor in the neighborhood that the whole block is a slum.
- Iced Tea here is always sweetened. Forget about trying to get some without sugar added. I hope this will change some day.
- In the US, which was supposed to be ‘the melting pot’, people still seem to define others by where they came from. A coworker is not just a coworker, they are a Chinese or Indian coworker, and people from the US inevitably ask someone from Asia where they are from, and are surprised when someone who is clearly from Asia doesn’t speak with an accent. That’s not the case here. If you work or interact with someone who is of Chinese, East Indian or some other decent, they are frequently Canadian, born here and with no trace of an accent. Remarking on someone’s lack of an accent may brand you as ignorant, an American, a bigot, or all of the above.
That’s all I could think of for the moment. Most of the other differences I remembered that I had to adjust to (aspects of banking, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments) were the sort of thing that applies to living here, rather than visiting.