To the more ignorant of us, Canada seems like that Little Country That Could, our benign neighbor to the north that does little and says even less. Kind of like a second America that we actually don’t know anything about, except for maybe the fact that they say “eh” a lot and pronounce words like “out” and “about”….umm, differently.
The truth is, my fellow Americans, that we’re totally missing out. Canada is like just another state and yet a completely different world all at the same time. Its economy doesn’t just piggyback off of ours; they have their own that is separate and distinct. They have a subtly different set of customs and culture, one that is unique to them, and it’s time it was exposed (at least, as much as one little-known blogger can do) and celebrated.
In my travels there throughout both childhood and so far as an adult, I’ve noticed some areas in which Canada not only matches but actually surpasses the States. Barely scratching the surface I’ve listed some of them off the top of my head here, in no particular order…
1. Tim Hortons. Hands down, do not pass go, go directly to Timmy’s first thing in the morning. They have something for everyone; donuts, yogurt cups with fruit, muffins, bagels, sodas, smoothies, lattes, and of course, “Coffee-flavored coffee!”
Not that I’m a coffee-drinker or anything, but I did fill up on my share of Boston Cremes (normally I’m not much for custard filling but this was *damn good* – I think the secret is a slight hint of butterscotch) and vanilla yogurt with raspberries and strawberries on top.
2. Smoke-free, child-free lounge sections. This is a recently new development, and it is a surprising one, given that it seems like everybody smokes in Canada. (Well, given their winters, that’s almost all there is to do, besides watch hockey – that stereotype is true, and it’s a sacred cow.) Imagine my pleasant surprise when, upon walking into a restaurant, the host(ess) instead of asking you “smoking or non?” says “table or lounge?” Hint: take the lounge, unless you want to run the risk of being disturbed by children. Canada is like the US in 1985 – there still is more than a shred of common decency left and parents still do live up to their title where childrearing is concerned, but you do have a fair share of American breeders living there and these days you just never know. So, you can now enjoy your dinner without being pestered by someone else’s cute little angels without having to suffocate from the haze that tends to hang in the lounges of the States.
3. Radio stations. Even in the most remote, hick areas where the all-there-is-to-do-is-watch-hockey-on-satellite concept is an unavoidable reality, the radio stations are infinitely hipper than their counterparts in the most cosmopolitan metroplexes south of the border. Really. I had waaaay better luck with Saskatoon, Saskatchewan airwaves than I can ever find in Dallas-Ft Worth these days. Fewer commercials and less of that annoying and pointless signal compression are also happy bonuses. I actually read somewhere that the radio station programming is government-mandated to include a certain percentage of native Canadian music. This means that you get exposed to a lot of neat stuff that wouldn’t see the light of day in the States, and I think Canada is intangibly richer for it.
4. Canadian music. So, not only do the radio stations play a greater variety than the monotonous playlists that perpetually repeat across American airwaves, but the music itself is also just plain…better. It has more heart, more soul, less processing, and less of a dollar sign motive. There is more variety, a sense of common-sense earthiness, and more of a genuine spirit. It’s more organic and less fancy. You don’t have to try to decipher layers of compressed, over-produced vocal tracks to figure out which is the real melody. The music is simple but not simplistic in that it does not insult one’s intelligence like American pop has the tendency to do. The Tragically Hip is just one example of proof that there is subtle but profound genius lying under the surface of the seeming simplicity. Canada surpasses America’s music talent in many instances. Just go to an outdoor Tea Party concert…you’ll see what I mean.
5. Shopping. Not to be some co-opting locust consumer whose greatest goal in life is to spend every waking moment in a mall, and nor do I plan my vacation destinations by how their reviews stack up against each other in terms of their shopping potential, but I do notice a stark difference between Canadian and Stateside malls. I’m not exactly sure I can put my finger on it, but I’ll do my best. I think it has to do with the individual stores themselves. Or maybe it’s the low-key vibe, the NON-need to consume endlessly, but rather to shop when necessary for the things one truly needs. Canadians don’t usually put on clicky high heels and designer clothes and make shopping at the mall a status symbol or a socially elite event. And they don’t rudely smack into you with their SUV-sized strollers while gabbing on their cellphone (without so much as an apology to you but rather a borderline glare at you that it was your fault for being there in the first place) in the process. Maybe I’m way out of line and the charm of a Canadian mall is its lack of in-your-face scrolling advertising for medical group-clinics that provide elective services. I don’t know. Whatever it is, I’ll do my shopping up there.
Not that I’m some anti-American who is into bashing the country every chance I get, mind you. It’s just that some things are truly better in other places and that the good ol’ US of A isn’t (and can’t be) No #1 in everything all the time. I’m sure that I haven’t done Canadians much justice, as I admit that it’s been too long since I’ve been there for an extended stay and I’m too ignorant to be aware of some of the other great gems the country has to offer. But suffice it to say that it’s more than just a big white land of nothingness with a Maple Leaf on its flag. That’s just not what it’s all a-boot…eh? 😉