Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Americans and Canadians - Similarities and Differences

Hubby and I finally came home last night after four days in the US.

I must say this was one of the most tiring vacations we've had, and what's worse is that I also managed to hurt my hip somehow am now limping a bit, feeling a hundred-years-old. Oh, and this morning we found the garbage on the floor of the entry porch full of worms crawling all over, giving life to the garbage bags.

So tired and disgusted, I did nothing today. I'm really good at that, btw. And if anyone has a problem, I actually give out courses on doing nothing for $50 an hour, and that's the group rate!

So what did I find on my trip?
  • I found that while we speak the same language, we don't necessarily mean the same thing and that teenagers working in malls will always correct me when I ask about washrooms (I really do know it's bathrooms in the US, yet keep forgetting).
  • Similarly, when I order a sandwich, or any meal for that matter, I generally expect it to be of certain size, which is almost always double in the US.
  • I also noticed that smaller town folk are much nicer and more patient than big-city people, and that this is true in both Canada and the US.
  • I found that border crossing wait times are always much much much longer when crossing into the US than back into Canada despite fewer questions asked.
  • I found that miles are f*^%ing long.
  • Hotels are cheaper in the US.
  • US cable news network are really scary making Canadian news sound warm and fuzzy.
  • Businesses actually honour coupons in the US and don't start explaining why they can't accept this coupon or that.
  • For ordering tea, the default in the US is for iced tea, in Canada it's for tea - hot.
  • Pop in Canada = soda in the US = a soft-drink.
  • Americans display their Stars and Stripes flags all over (cars, houses, businesses), maybe more so because it was near 4th of July. Canadians, on the other hand, hardly ever display their Maple Leaf and this year even for Canada Day most flags were of other countries because of the world cup.
  • Our independence days are only four days apart.

So for all these similarities and for all these differences, a belated Happy Canada Day and Happy July 4th to us all.



fringes said...

Welcome back to your blog. Sorry about the worms. Yuck. Followed you from Flood's blog. Nice space you have here.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you need a vacation from your vacation! Hope you feel better in the morning.

Thanks for the comparisons. I'm always fascinated by perspectives and cultural differences. In a strange way, the differences help me see the commoness of people across the world.

erin said...

I'm surprised people in the Finger Lakes area called it soda -- I was under the impression that the pop/soda line was right around the Hudson River. At any rate, I grew up in the Rochester area and that beverage was *always* pop -- still is, as far as I know.

HLS said...

Why Can't Canadians express happiness on Canada Day? Why can't Canadians wave Maple Leaf Flags on Canada Day? Do Canadians really like Canada?

See my post " O Canada" on my blog

Jennifer said...

Hey :D

I've never been to Canada. It's on my list of places to visit. (It's a long list. I'll eventually make it to all the places)

Interesting note on the flags. There are four houses on my street. Three out of the 4 always have a flag up. We also get banner-type flags up on the fourth of July. As I think about it, you really do see flags all over.

Pop? Can I tease you like I tease my friend :D She calls soda Pop.

Sounds like you had a good time :D

Melly said...

Thanks Fringes.
Re worms, it was actually more like maggots. Absolutely horrifying!

Jason, you're so right. Mainly because the differences are so superficial.

Erin, you know what, I haven't tested it in the Finger Lakes. I'm just so used to it from other times I've been to the US - NY, LA, SF, LV, etc. So you're probably right.

Hls, I don't think Canadians don't express happiness about Canada Day, they just don't do it the same "flashy" way that Americans do.

Jennifer, Canada is enormous. You better narrow it down to a city, or a region. Say, the Rockies or Toronto (although go to Vancouver first, it's much prettier).
You can tease me all you want :)

Deborah said...

Happy Belated Canada Day, Melly. :)

In California, we call softdrinks "sodas." But my family in Colorado calls it Pop.

I'd love to see Toronto and Vancouver one day.

redchurch said...

We used 'pop' in Minnesota where I grew up... but I always considered MN to be very 'Canadian' - snow, hockey, and lots of "ya"s and "eh"s - all kinds of goofy dialect features.

Carter said...

For ordering tea, the default in the US is for iced tea, in Canada it's for tea - hot.

Pop in Canada = soda in the US = a soft-drink.

Not necessarily. South of Kentucky and East of the Mississippi River, we drink sweetea (all one word), and anything fizzy is a "coke". Welcome home.

Jean said...

Our Canadian exchange officer explained some of the fundamental differences in our two militaries sometime last year, and it was an eye-opening experience for me. Canadians come at a military point of view from an entirely different perspective. We are completely different in that respect (but we could stand to learn a few things from you).

As for the differences you discuss, you'll find some of those same differences regionally in the US (pop is a more Mid-Western term for us, for instance -- I didn't hear it called anything else until I moved to Massachussetts when I was 19. Now, I default to "coke" no matter what the flavor and specify brand.

Having been born and raised in Iowa, I learned to like my tea straight up (no matter whether is was iced or hot), so when I order tea down here, and they ask if I want sweet or unsweet, I say "UN" as distinctly as possible and leave "sweet" off, because I can't count how many times I've specified "UNsweet" and wound up sending it back.

I think we've been much more demonstrative with our flag since September 11.

Sorry about the maggots. That is so gross.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Melly,
I go to the washroom and get my soda from a pop machine. I've moved too often to too many places I think. :)

Fred Charles said...

Yes, the flags usually pop out for the Fourth and anytime there is a terrorist attack ;)

I spent two weeks in China adopting my daughter. I knew I was back in the states when people started being rude to me again.

Melly said...

Deborah, you should just drive up to Vancouver. I drove to SF and LA when I lived there. It's fun!

Eric, so you think there's a Canadian influence along the 49th, eh? :)

Carter, sweetea??? Oh, no, one more thing to remember :)
But is sweetea hot or cold?

Jean, that's very interesting. I would like to hear more about the military approaches differences.
And as it turns out from what people are saying, seems it is indeed regional. Is sweetea hot or cold though?
Yeah, the maggots were a real bummer. I still shudder at the thought.

Sounds like you have moved quite a bit, Liz :)

Fred, you know what, I've learnt that even rude is cultural. What one might consider a completely acceptable behaviour, say, in Italy, might be deemed rude in Canada.
I haven't been to China, but having been to Chinatown (which of course makes me an expert in Chinese culture ;), I've noticed that concepts of personal space are rather different from what I'm used to.

Tess said...

Melly - I'm a Canuck too, and have found much the same similarities/differences as you. Did you like the Finger Lakes? We used to go camping there on Labour Day every year - down near Watkins Glen. And always loved the ride.

redchurch said...


"Eric, so you think there's a Canadian influence along the 49th, eh? :)"

That, and Minnesota was largely settled by Scandinavians, influencing the dialect and culture significantly.

The irony is I now live in Texas where everything is 'Coke' (even Pepsi). And I have to remind everyone that the Dallas Stars were once the Minnesota NorthStars.

I don't miss what is affectionately called 'Minnesota Nice' (too often fake) but I do miss the snow!

Melly said...

Tess, a BC gal :)
I soooo miss Vancouver, you have no idea. Vancouver and BC. The mountains, the green, even the rain.
Oh, the drive to Watkings Glen was amazing. Hubby was especially enjoying it, wishing we would have a performance car!

Eric, "I don't miss what is affectionately called 'Minnesota Nice' (too often fake)" - I really do understand you and often feel the same about my fellow country men. Can't really be helped when a person is as straight forward as we are, I guess.

Jean said...

As far as I know, sweetea is always cold.

I'll try to put something together and maybe email you some of the military observations (I think I have an email somewhere...wanders around looking).

briliantdonkey said...

hmmmm learn something new everyday........forget 5 things old everyday too but i choose to ignore that.....never Knew that in some places(even here in US) they call all sodas,,,,,COKE(even pepsi),,,,,,,so how do you order a pepsi????

Far as i know sweet tea is always cold at least here in florida.... If someone orders hot tea it is always UNsweet usually with lemon on the side and a spoon to add sugar if they like..... I am not a big tea drinker period, but how anyone drinks it unsweet is beyond me... Welcome back melly


Melly said...

Jean, got your email. Thanks :)

INKcogKNEEdough, yes, indeed, interesting stuff - ain't it? ;)
I have no idea how you would order a pepsi in an all coke area...
mmmm... laughing :)

bekbek said...

I teased my American boyfriend (now husband) about all the U.S. flags here. "Don't they already KNOW what country they're in? Do they have to put up reminders in case they feel lost or something?"

Then we went back across the border to Canada, and wouldn't you know, all of a sudden I saw Canadian flags everywhere. It was very strange! I just hadn't noticed them before. But I still think you're (we're) right and it's a bit more extreme South of the border.

After five years, I say "pop" and "bathroom." Every now and then I am caught off guard by the words coming from my own mouth, and I feel instantly homesick. It's always the little things, eh?

So... just how noisy WAS the World Cup final in your neighborhood?!

Melly said...

BekBek, it wasn't that noisy as I live in more of a Greek neighberhood, so only a few honking cars, but Little Italy was insane! :)