I recently spent some time in Ontario, Canada for a business trip. I’d been to Canada before but only for very brief visits. This time I had a whole week though so I was able to thoroughly engulf myself in the whole culture and society. I know us American’s sometimes are not the most well liked when we visit a foreign country because we seem either dumb or elitist or arrogant. So here are six general things I learned that might help you assimilate easier in case you ever need to travel to Canada. I have a lot of Canadian friends that subscribe and read this blog too, so please don’t hesitate to help out if there’s anything you’d like to add.
1. Canadians can speak a lot of languages. Even though the national language is Canadian, like a lot of foreign countries, most of the people are capable of and willing to speak English when talking to Americans. They’re pretty good at it too, except some of them are hard to understand when saying words like “out” and “about” and “trout” and “pout”. One guy said he was “out and about” and I thought he said he was “oat in a boat” and I got confused and pretended I got a phone call and had to excuse myself. In Canadian they also call the bathroom the washroom instead of the restroom which is confusing because it implies people are washing in there instead of resting and bathing and for the first several days there I didn’t know where to go to the bathroom. There’s also a lot of people in Canada that speak French which is weird because I didn’t think Canada was anywhere near France.
2. Canadians are really nice. I mean really nice! Maybe the nicest people I’ve ever met. I’d heard that about Canadians before but now I’ve confirmed it’s most definitely true. Every last one of them that I bumped into was super nice, even the one I bumped into with my car apologized for getting in my way. I bet the two Gopher’s from the Warner Brother’s cartoons were Canadian. Sure, I haven’t traveled extensively, only to Mexico and a few tropical islands and now Canada so I’m sure there are some mean Canadians out there. Probably not very many though. Even the Canadian Border Agents were really nice. They were very polite and smiley and happy to see me as opposed to the U. S. Border Agents who seemed very snarly and mean and had a lot of scary attack dogs around.
3. Canadians have money that’s very colorful and some of it has little plastic windows where you can see through the money. It’s pretty weird and you can waste a lot of time looking through the plastic part to see what the world looks like through money. They also have weird names for some of their money like Loonies and Toonies. When I first got there I went into a bank to exchange $40 and had this conversation:
Me: Hi, can you exchange out some American money for me? Just an assortment, but include some quarters please, as I need to pay parking meters.
Teller: Would you like any Loonies and Toonies?
Me: Excuse me?
Teller: Would you like any Loonies and Toonies?
Me: (panic) Uhhhh….. je ne don’t speaké…. uhhh…. Canadian… eh?
Teller: Yeah, I’ll just give you some bills.
4. Canadians use something called the Metric System. I know, I have recollections of this stuff being taught to us in the 1970’s too. On the highways Canadians are allowed to drive 100 which I really liked because it was super fast and I could get places quickly even though most of the locals didn’t seem to be driving that fast. But I got a bunch of speeding tickets while I was there too which I didn’t understand because I thought I was only going 100. Maybe the police aren’t as nice as the rest of the Canadians. The whole metric system is really weird though, apparently people there think it’s easier to measure and count everything in increments of 10’s rather than dozens and 4’s and 8’s and 16’s and the difference between 32 and 212. I don’t get it.
5. Canadian cities are very clean and safe with not a lot of vagrant types or homeless people. In one city I actually saw a female city worker climb out of a white official city work truck and pick up two or three leaves from the side of the road. I thought that maybe she was just working extra hard or that maybe she was working on a craft or something that needed some leaves. The cities also seemed very safe and a man on the radio said there were only about 500 homicides in Canada last year which I thought couldn’t be right since there were probably at least that many in Chicago alone during the same period. So I called up the radio station to ask if he had made a mistake and he said no, but then he was so nice and said I was the 12th caller and I ended up winning two tickets to a Maple Leafs game which was pretty cool.
6. It’s hard to buy wine in Canada which is weird because I’d always heard that Canadians liked to drink. In the U.S. the average grocery store has an aisle the length of two football fields full of wine. In Canada, if you can find a grocery store that actually sells wine, it’s in these little mini-stores inside the grocery store which are about as big as a bathroom and you have to actually talk to the clerk and pretend to be a sophisticated sommelier American while you are frantically scanning the shelves to find the cheapest wine they sell. They also sell some of their wine in Milk Cartons. On the other hand on every corner are these giant stores called “BEER STORE” so apparently they’d rather have you drinking beer than wine. I didn’t see a single place to buy actual liquor though. Maybe that’s why there are not very many vagrant types or homeless people.
So that’s all you need to know about traveling to Canada! Oh, and make sure your passport is up to date.