The 49th parallel -- the view from both sides
this hub answers a request from MissusSmith, a new hubber
I'd like to hear your views on the differences of Canadian society versus U.S. society.
I've read some of your writing about your experiences in the U.S. and find your view somewhat refreshing. Can you expand your view into a hub. What is the major difference between Canada and the U.S?
Suddenly I feel like I've just been tossed a sprung grenade.
My two countries
This request sounds like one of those “no way to win” scenarios set up to test one’s character. Will she have the strength of character to speak the truth, or will she waffle out of consideration for her American husband, American friends and American address, or prevaricate for her Canadian children, Canadian friends and Canadian address?
Believe me, it’s a close call.
Yes – there are major differences in our societies, and they are not the sort of things that one expects, things that jump out at you, that give you that “I’m in a foreign country” feeling. No – more subtle. It’s a bedrock kind of thing. The foundations are different.
Canadians love to laugh at themselves
A Patriotic Canadian's Love Poem to Canada
It's winter in Canada -- ah!
And the gentle breezes blow
Seventy miles an hour
At thirty-five below.
Oh, how I love Canada
When the snow's up to your butt.
You take a breath of winter
And your nose gets frozen shut.
Yes, the weather here is wonderful
So I guess I'll hang around.
I could never leave Canada;
I'm frozen to the friggin' ground!
a Canadian analogue to "as American as apple pie." The winner was "as Canadian as possible under the circumstances."
U.S. is the older of the two
For one thing, Canada is a younger country, only in
existence since 1867 (July 1 to be precise) -- one hundred and ten years after American independence. The part of the country I grew
up in, Alberta, has only been an official province since 1905. I've lived through more than half of Alberta's history. Have you lived half of your state's history?
Canada never had a
dramatic beginning – no revolution, no declaration of independence – more of a
slow maturing, a child growing up under the tender guidance of benevolent parents that one day wakes up ready
to go out on his own. Such an amicable
parting -- we're still part of the family.
As a result, Canadians don’t grow up listening to “THE STORY”
– you know, the snippets of history that make good drama (one if by land and
two if by sea,) and (I regret I have but one life to give for my country) and those national myths that replace truth
and reality in the country's psyche. (Did George Washington chop down that cherry tree? Was Abe Lincoln really more honest than any other lawyer of his time?)
Americans cling to their national icons. Canadians don't have any.
When there's a major social problem: Canadians turn to their government and demand they fix it. Americans turn to their government and demand they stay out of it.
One of those "only in America" phenomenons -- tea parties . Civil dissent and poor spelling in action.
Americans take their country (and themselves) very seriously
Despite a childhood filled with American broadcasting, American movies, American books, magazines, ideas -- nothing prepared me for how seriously Americans take themselves. If any one thing in my life in the U.S. strikes me as foreign and alien to my way of thinking, it is how intensely Americans cling to ideals, beliefs (real and imagined) and how quickly they rise to temper when questioned or challenged. Forgive me for saying so, but there are times when in the face of empty sloganism, I want to say, "Good God, people, try thinking for yourselves."
How Americans eat up this nationalism!
From afar, I heard it all but didn't really believe it to be true, all this politicking, tempests in tea-pots, wrapping oneself in the flag and claiming the high ground, this fuss and bother over every little thing.We dubbed you the Excited States of America, and shook our head at such foolish shenanigans.
Now here, living, working and writing in the U.S., I find myself limp with astonishment, witless in surprise. "You were serious about that?"
In Canada I'd often discuss and debate with those whose political views are different than mine. (A little left of center, a little right of left -- kind of middle of the road conservative liberal -- in other words, an uncommitted Canadian who votes in accordance with the issues.) Not even on the fieriest issues to pass during my lifetime -- les Seperatistes of Quebec for example -- would debate lead to hard feelings, and certainly never to being ordered out of someone's home due to my politics. Never would I feel afraid to speak my mind.
Not so in the U.S. One of my acquaintances, a woman who professes to be a staunch Republican (but is going back to school on Obama's education assistance programs; her children receive Medicaid; her husband, injured in a motorcycle accident gets Social Security and she's in a subsidized house on her state's program to assist low income families -- but definitely doesn't believe in socialism) shouted at me because I said I thought Sara Palin unfit to be President. I'm serious -- she shouted at me and called me names because I expressed an opinion. The apology two days later didn't do much to improve my estimation of her intellect.
A couple of times I've been in the uncomfortable position of feeling afraid -- yes afraid for my physical safety after asserting my opinions. (In this case my thoughts that the U.S. uses the same arguments as Britain once did to justify "policing" the world: without us there will be a blood-bath; we are maintaining order in the world; we are bringing democracy/civilization/christian salvation/whatever to those lacking these qualities -- sorry, irrelevant to this argument.) Yes, the response to the thought that the elite had any motives beyond an altruistic desire to save the rest of mankind was met with suggestions as to what part of my anatomy could best contain my thoughts and did I need help in stowing them there. And these were supposedly educated, intelligent people.
One final example: the City of North Port, here in Florida recently mandated that all garbage pick up should be done from one side of the street only. Well! -- this was definitely an infringement on the civil rights of our fine residents, possibly unconstitutional and "What do we pay taxes for anyway?" Demonstrations were arranged; petitions began, circulated and signed; marches on City Hall commenced; angry interviews on television aired. And if someone said, "Look folks, what's the big deal? It will save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can walk your garbage bin across the road," they were in danger of getting a black eye. I'm not making this up.
One mustn't speak out in the land of the free. It's becoming increasingly dangerous to do so.
So, yes -- the biggest difference in our two societies is how Americans pick sides, join a team (or so it seems), take a stand and once publicly stated that becomes the prevailing directive of life, immutable and unchangeable -- even when it is contrary to their own best interests!
I've never before lived in such an angry country. I want to climb a high mountain with a giant loudspeaker and shout "Chill out, will ya! None of this is really of any importance at all. Stop being so mad -- and mean-minded. Life goes on no matter what."
Canadians already know that. We replace our government like used bed sheets, and nothing really changes. We're just as indebted. Our politicians are just as corrupt. The little guy gets screwed while the big guys gets rich -- and if you're not sure which role you play in this game, here's a hint. Look down -- if you can see your own hands you are the screwee, not the screwer.
But trust me --your hyperbole, rhetoric, marching, chanting, shouting, yelling, (voting), team picking, slogan repeating, constitution pounding, name calling, and tea-partying won't make any difference at all. That is the big lie. So chill. Have a cold one. (Now that's Canadian.)
Statistics show that 71% of American students graduate from high school, compared to 79% of Canadian students so it's likely -- should Canadians take up the practice -- signs in Canada wouldn't show superior spelling. (Though we'd put all the U's back in labour, humour, neighbour.)
- How to be an Ugly American -- an outsider's view
A tongue in cheek look at the American way, as seen by an alien in your midst.
- This Canuck receives an education on the qualities that make Glenn Beck
One promise I made to myself was that I would not write about Glenn Beck. I would not join the chorus of those that a) despise the man and all he stands for or b) consider him a modern day prophet and...
- Lynda's guide for Americans in Alberta
Alberta has four times the population ratio of American residents than the rest of Canada -- can't tell you why, but if you're thinking of moving there or visiting, here's my personal list of hints to help you fit in.
- How one country implemented gun control and shot itself in the foot.
In 1995 Canadian Parliament enacted Bill C-68, The Firearms Act and set into motion one of the most expensive comedies ever to play on the world stage.
Canadians tend to be better informed about the rest of the world -- all of it. Americans seem to have decided if it didn't happen here, it's of no importance, unless we have troops in the place, and then it's an act against us.
I asked one or two Americans -- my neighbors here in Florida (and yes I accept that Florida is a very conservative, RED state, and not necessarily representative of the entire country -- I make do with what's available. And this article is supposed to be on the light-side -- remember?) about this insular point of view. One fellow said, "We figure if we mind our own business then they'll leave us alone, too."
I bit my tongue so badly it bled. Definitely what America is famous for -- minding it's own business. Oh, sorry -- it slipped out.
But it's true that Canadians know a fair bit about what's happening in Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and the U.S., as well as home, and discuss it -- openly and without fear of being hit, and or losing friends if someone doesn't share our views. Statistics show Canadians travel outside of their country more than Americans do. Canadians are more likely to speak a second language than Americans. Canadians are more likely to study abroad than Americans.
I lay the reason for this at the feet of the American news media. The coverage of world happenings aside from those locales of specific American interest such as Iraq and Afghanistan, is next to nil. And I do mean nil.
This leaves Americans poorly equipped to decide the truth of matters as presented to them. If they are told their health care is the best in the world, they blindly repeat it -- without knowledge of reality.
In fact, I find sloganism the bane of rational thought for many Americans. If it's American. it's "the best" and that's an end to it.
"Proud to be an American" is slapped across every fifth or sixth bumper sticker I see here. And that's great; good for you; three cheers; rah! rah!-- except understand that others may be equally proud of their own home, culture, country. Unlike the American mind-set, one does not have to believe theirs the biggest and best to be proud. Strangely enough, many Americans seem to think that what they believe is automatically the truth, and anyone who believes otherwise is automatically wrong..And if you don't agree -- we can't be friends and get out of my house!! Very much an American trait -- sorry to say.
This need of Americans to believe themselves the biggest, the best, the greatest in all things and in all ways is something uniquely theirs. Another major difference between my two home countries.
Canadians don't need to be the biggest (actually land-wise Canada's second biggest in the world; population-wise barely makes state status) or the best, or the greatest. Canadians are proud of their country -- yes -- but don't make a big deal about it. You wouldn't find yourself in a fist fight because you insulted Canada.
A Canadian would be unlikely to suggest if you didn't listen to him, he'd tote a gun to ensure you did. (Even though Canada does have a higher rate of gun ownership than the U.S.) A Canadian doesn't feel so attached to the political party of his choice he'd refuse to associate with you because you held different views.
So, I can honestly say these two ideas are more of the ideology that seperates us.
But the truth is, we have so much more in common than we do differences. I think I might write another hub about Canada and the U.S. -- and how much we share.
I've written other hubs on this subject and I've linked them to the right for convenience, should you want to learn more -- and then write a damn good rebuttal. I hope someone does.
You might be Canadian if:
- You design your kids' Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.
- You take the kids trick or treating in a blizzard
- You have more miles on your snowblower than your car.
- You have 10 favourite recipes for moose meat.
- You have Canadian Tire money in your wallet. (Or you know what this means.)
- You live in a house that has no front step, yet the door is one meter above the ground.
- Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled in with snow.
- You owe more money on your snowmobile than your car.
- Your snowblower gets stuck on the roof.
- You call Montana (or Maine) "going south."
- You frequently clean grease off your barbeque so the bears won’t prowl on your deck.
- You know which leaves make good toilet paper.
- You find -40C a little chilly.
- The trunk of your car doubles as a deep freezer.
- You attend a formal event in your best clothes, your finest jewelry and your Sorels. (Sorels are snow boots made up of a rubberized outer layer and a thick felt inner boot. We aren't sure but we think Sorels may be the origin of Big Foot legends.)
- You know 4 seasons – Winter, Still Winter, almost Winter and Construction.
- The municipality buys a Zamboni before a bus.
- You actually get these jokes.
Canada -- ten little provinces and three territories
TOP 10 REASONS TO LIVE IN BRITISH COLUMBIA
2. Vancouver: 1.5 million people and two bridges.
3. The local hero is a pot-smoking snowboarder.
4. The local wine doesn't taste like malt vinegar.
5. Your $400,000 Vancouver home is just 5 hours from downtown.
6. A university with a nude beach.
7. You can throw a rock and hit three Starbucks locations.
8. If a cop pulls you over, just offer them some of your hash.
9. There's always some sort of deforestation protest going on.
TOP 10 REASONS TO LIVE IN ALBERTA
1. Big Rock between you and B.C.
2. Ottawa who?
3. Tax is 7 percent instead of approximately 200 percent for the rest of the country.
4. The Premier is a fat, alcoholic who is easy to make fun of.
5. Flames vs. Oilers.
6. Stamps vs. Eskies.
7. You can exploit almost any natural resource you can think of.
8. You live in the only province that could actually afford to be it's own country.
9. The Americans below you are all in anti-government militia groups.
10. You can attempt to murder your rich oil tycoon husband and get away with it.
TOP 10 REASONS TO LIVE IN SASKATCHEWAN
1. You never run out of wheat.
3. Cruise control takes on a whole new meaning.
4. Your province is really easy to draw.
5. You never have to worry about roll-back if you have a standard.
6. It takes you two weeks to walk to your neighbor's house.
7. YOUR Roughriders survived.
8. You can watch the dog run away from home for hours.
9. People will assume you live on a farm.
10. Buying a huge John Deere mower makes sense.
TOP 10 REASONS TO LIVE IN MANITOBA
1. You wake up one morning to find you suddenly have beachfront property.
2. Amusing town names like "Flin Flon" and "Winnipeg".
3. All your local bands make it big and move to Toronto.
4. The only province to ever violently rebel against the federal government.
5. Hundreds of huge, horribly frigid lakes.
6. Nothing compares to a wicked Winnipeg winter.
7. You don't need a car, just take the canoe to work.
8. You can be an Easterner or a Westerner depending on your mood.
9. Because of your license plate, you are still friendly even when you cut someone off.
10. Pass the time watching trucks and barns float by.
TOP 10 REASONS TO LIVE IN ONTARIO
1. You live in the center of the universe.
2. Your $400,000 Toronto home is actually a dump.
3. You and you alone decide who will win the federal election.
4. There's no such thing as an Ontario Separatist. Separate from what? You are the centre of the universe.
5. Your grandparents sold booze to the States during Prohibition.
6. Lots of tourists come to Toronto because they mistakenly believe it's a cool city.
7. The only province with hard-core American-style crime.
8. Much Music's Speaker's Corner - rant and rave on national TV for a dollar.
9. Baseball fans park on your front lawn and pee on the side of your house.
10. Mike Harris: basically a sober Ralph Klein.
TOP 10 REASONS TO LIVE IN QUEBEC
1. Everybody assumes you're an asshole.
2. Racism is socially acceptable.
3. The only province to ever kidnap federal politicians.
4. You can take bets with your friends on which English neighbor will move out next.
5. Other provinces basically bribe you to stay in Canada.
6. The FLQ.
7. Your hockey team is made up entirely of dirty French guys who can't skate.
8. The province with the oldest, nastiest hookers.
9. NON-smokers are the outcasts.
10. You can blame all your problems on the "Anglo bastards".
TOP 10 REASONS TO LIVE IN NEW BRUNSWICK
1. You are sandwiched between French assholes and drunken Celtic fiddlers.
2. One way or another, the government gets 98 percent of your income.
3. You're poor, but not as poor as the Newfies.
4. When listing the provinces, everyone forgets to mention yours.
5. The economy is based on fish, cows, and ferrying Ontario motorists to Boston.
6. No one ever blames anything on New Brunswick.
7. You have French people, but they don't want to kill you.
8. Everybody has a Grandfather who runs a lighthouse.
9. Just as charming as Maine, but with more unemployed fishermen.
10. You probably live in a small seaside cottage with no television.
TOP 10 REASONS TO LIVE IN NOVA SCOTIA
1. The only place in North America to get bombed in the war by a moron who set ammunition ship on fire. (Halifax Explosion)
2. The province is shaped like the male genitalia.
3. Everyone can play the fiddle. The ones who can't, think they can.
4. If someone asks if you're a Newfie, you are allowed to kick their ass.
5. The local hero is an insane, fiddle playing, sexual pervert homo.
6. The province that produced Rita MacNeil, the world's largest land mammal.
7. You are the "only" reason Anne Murray makes money.
8. You can pretend you have Scottish heritage as an excuse to get drunk and wear a kilt.
9. The economy is based on lobster and fiddle music.
10. Even though it smells like dead sea animals, Halifax is considered Canada's most beautiful city.
TOP 10 REASONS TO LIVE ON PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
1. Even though more people live on Vancouver Island, you still got the big ass bridge.
2. You can walk across the province in half an hour.
3. You were probably once an extra on "Road to Avonlea".
4. This is where all those tiny red potatoes come from.
5. The economy is based on fish, potatoes, and CBC TV shows.
6. Tourists arrive, see the "Anne of Green Gables" house, then promptly leave.
7. You can drive across the province in two minutes.
8. It doesn't matter to you if Quebec separates.
9. You don't share a border with the Americans, or with anyone for that matter.
10. You can confuse ships by turning your porch lights on and off at night.
TOP 10 REASONS TO LIVE IN NEWFOUNDLAND
1. The poorest, drunkest province in Confederation.
2. If Quebec Separates, you will float off to sea.
3. In the rare case when someone moves to the Rock, you can make them kiss a dead cod.
4. The economy is based on fish, seafood, and fish-related products.
5. If you do something stupid, you have a built-in excuse.
6. You & only you understand the meaning of Great Big Sea's lyrics.
7. The workday is about two hours long.
8. You are credited with many great inventions, like the solar-powered flashlight and the screen door for submarines.
9. If someone asks if you're from Cape Breton, you are allowed to kick their ass.
10. It is socially acceptable to wear your hip waders on your wedding day.
The Excited States of America (All 50 of 'em)
Alabama: Yes, We Have Electricity
Alaska: 11,623 Eskimos Can't Be Wrong!
Arizona: But It's a Dry Heat
Arkansas: Literacy Ain't Everything
California: By 30, Our Women Have More Plastic Than Your Honda.
Colorado: If You Don't Ski, Don't Bother
Connecticut: Like Massachusetts, Only The Kennedys Don't Own It Yet.
Delaware: We Really Do Like The Chemicals In Our Water
Florida: Ask Us About Our Grandkids
Georgia: We Put The "Fun" In Fundamentalist Extremism
Hawaii: Haka Tiki Mou Sha'ami Leeki Toru (Death To Mainland Scum, But Leave Your Money)
Idaho: More Than Just Potatoes...Well Okay, We're Not, But The Potatoes Sure Are Real Good
Illinois: Please Don't Pronounce the "S"
Indiana: 2 Billion Years Tidal Wave Free
Iowa: We Do Amazing Things With Corn
Kansas: First Of The Rectangle States
Kentucky: Five Million People; Fifteen Last Names
Louisiana: We're Not ALL Drunk Cajun Wackos, But That's Our Tourism Campaign
Maine: We're Really Cold, But We Have Cheap Lobster
Maryland: If You Can Dream It, We Can Tax It
Massachusetts: Our Taxes Are Lower Than Sweden's (For Most Tax Brackets)
Michigan: First Line Of Defense Against The Canadians
Minnesota: 10,000 Lakes And 10,000,000,000,000 Mosquitoes
Mississippi: Come Feel Better About Your Own State
Missouri: Your Federal Flood Relief Tax Dollars At Work
Montana: Land Of The Big Sky, The Unabomber, Right-Wing Crazies,& Very Little Else
Nebraska: Ask About Our State Motto Contest
Nevada: Whores and Poker -- WOO-EEE!!!
New Hampshire: Go Away And Leave Us Alone
New Jersey: You Want A ##$%##! Motto? I Got Yer ##$%##! Motto Right Here!
New Mexico: Lizards Make Excellent Pets
New York: You Have The Right To Remain Silent, You Have The Right to An Attorney...
North Carolina: Tobacco IS A Vegetable
North Dakota: We Really Are One Of The 50 States!
Ohio: At Least We're Not Michigan
Oklahoma: Like The Play, Only No Singing
Oregon: Spotted Owl... It's What's For Dinner
Pennsylvania: Cook With Coal
Rhode Island: We're Not REALLY An Island
South Carolina: Remember The Civil War? We Didn't Actually Surrender
South Dakota: Closer Than North Dakota
Tennessee: The Educashun State
Texas: Si, Hablo Ingles (Yes, I Speak English)
Utah: Our Jesus Is Better Than Your Jesus
Vermont: Yep, syrup!
Virginia: Who Says Government Stiffs And Slackjaw Yokels Don't Mix?
Washington: Help! We're Overrun By Nerds And Slackers!
Washington, D.C.: Wanna Be Mayor?
West Virginia: One Big Happy Family...Really!
Wisconsin: Come Cut The Cheese
Wyoming: Where Men Are Men...and the sheep are scared!
Homeland Security Request
As we all know, the Taliban considers it a sin for a man to see a naked woman who is not his wife. So, this Sunday at 2:00 PM Eastern time all American women are asked to walk out of their house completely naked to help weed out any neighbourhood terrorists. Circling your block for one hour is recommended for this anti- terrorist effort.
All men are to position themselves in lawn chairs in front of their house to prove they are not Taliban, demonstrate that they think it's okay to see nude women other than their wife and to show support for all American women.
And since the Taliban also does not approve of alcohol, a cold six-pack at your side is further proof of your anti-Taliban sentiment.
Homeland Security appreciates your efforts to root out terrorists and applauds your participation in this anti-terrorist activity.
God Bless America!
Another big difference: There are more jokes to be found about Canadians than Americans. As I mentioned before, Canadians love to laugh at themselves, whereas Americans take it rather badly when you poke fun at them. I wonder why. Don't believe me -- go online and check it out.
How many Canadians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Four to form a Parliamentary study committee to decide how to solve the problem, one Francophone to complain that I didn't translate this joke into French, one Native Canadian to protest that the interests of Native Canadians have been overlooked, one woman from the National Action Committee On the Status Of Women to say that women have been underrepresented in the process, one to go over the border to the Niagara Falls Factory Outlet Mall and buy a new bulb and not pay duty on it on the way back, one to actually screw it in, one to collect taxes on the whole procedure so the government can afford it, one to buy a case of Molson for everybody to drink, and one to drop the puck.
I am Canadian
My name is Bob, and I am Canadian.
I am a minority in Vancouver, Banff, and every casino in this country. I was born in 1972, yet I am responsible for some Native's great great grandfather who screwed himself out of his land in the 1800's.
I pay import tax on cars made in Ontario.
I am allowed to skydive and smoke, but not allowed too drive without a seat belt.
All the money I make up until mid July must go to paying taxes. I live and work among people who believe Americans are ignorant.
These same people cannot name this country's new Territory.
Although I am sometimes forced to live on Kraft Dinner and don't have a pot to piss in, I sleep well knowing that I've helped purchase a nice six figure home in Vancouver for some unskilled Chinese refugee.
Although they are unpatriotic and constantly try to separate, Quebec still provides my nation's Prime Ministers. 95% of my nation's international conflicts are over fish.
I'm supposed to call black people African Canadians, although I'm sure none of them have ever been to Africa, or east of Halifax for that matter.
I believe that paying a 200% tax on alcohol is fair. I believe that same tax on gasoline is also fair. Even if I have no idea what happened to that old rifle my grandfather gave me when I was 14, I will be considered a criminal if I don't register it.
I DO know Jeff from Toronto.
I often badmouth the United States, and then vacation there three times a year. I'm led to believe that some lazy ass unionized broom pusher who makes $30 an hour is underpaid and therefore must go on strike, but paying $10 an hour to someone who works 12 hour shifts at forty below on an oil rig is fair.
I believe that paying $30 million for 3 stripes (The Voice of Fire) by the National Art Gallery was a good purchase, even though 99% of this country didn't want it, or will ever see it.
When I look at my pay stub and realize that I take home a third of what I actually make, I say "Oh well, at least we have better health care than the Americans" I must bail out farmers when their crops are too wet or too dry, because I control the rain.
My National Anthem has versions in both official languages, and I don't know either of them.
Canada is the highest taxed nation in North America, the biggest military buffer for the United States, and the number one destination for fleeing boat people.
I am not an angry white male. I am an angry broke taxpayer. My name is Bob, and I am Canadian.
The last word
A final note from the author:
I found this a difficult request to fill as I love both countries and have close ties and friends in each, and have no wish to insult anyone. However, I was asked and I've given the best, the most honest answer I could. I hope, Missus Smith, you feel your request was fully answered.
Love to all and God Bless America and God Bless Canada.
More by this Author
A sequel to the Hub, The Myth of Perpetual Growth, we take China as a case study and examine the COST of economic growth. A shocking look at the state of affairs in China.
Alberta has four times the population ratio of American residents than the rest of Canada -- can't tell you why, but if you're thinking of moving there or visting, here's my personal list of hints to help you fit in.
Kevin Newell is using the latest in hydroponic technology to operate his organic vegetable farm. He shares his methods with us.