As an American-Canadian, I always find the first week of July somewhat jarring. Up here we celebrate Canada Day, while down south, the big holiday is Independence Day. Some relatives still wish me a “Happy Fourth of July,” even though it’s just a regular day here.
Since crossing the border from New York to Ontario 20+ years ago with all my worldly goods, I’ve adjusted to my new home, and can even pass for a Canadian, despite my lingering Noo Yawk accent. With all those years of Canadian experience under my Roots belt, I’m happy to share some tips with my American compatriots who may not be aware of what life is like north of the 49th parallel. (After all, some of you are threatening to move north if "Obamacare" becomes reality. The irony of this is not lost on us northerners.)
1. In Toronto, winter arrives in late October and doesn’t depart until April … or May. For the first time in your life, you’ll purchase long underwear, mittens and a toque (a practical, yet decidedly unattractive knitted cap). And you will wear them. Gladly.
2. You can count the number of years of Canadian residency by the salt rings on your boots (unless you live in Vancouver, where the people wear Birkenstock sandals all year, apparently).
3. Thanks to universal health care, you can say goodbye to HMOs, co-payments and deductibles, but you may have to wait in a queue, I mean, a line, no matter how high the balance in your bank account.
4. A check is a cheque, a two-dollar coin is a toonie, milk is sold in plastic bags (in Ontario anyway), and you boil water in an electric kettle from The Bay or Canadian Tire.
5. Starbucks is ubiquitous in cities, but every block seems to sport a Tim Hortons, where the drink of choice is a double-double.*
6. The geography stretches not from sea to shining sea, but from coast to coast to coast.
7. There’s no death penalty here. And it’s a mosaic, not a melting pot.
8. You’ll soon understand this sentence: "Gord, please pass me a serviette; I’ve spilled some poutine on the chesterfield."**
9. We have a prime minister and a Parliament; Queen Elizabeth II is our head of state.
10. And, last but not least, you’ll finally have to learn the metric system.
*A double-double is a coffee with two creams and two sugars.
**Translation: Gordon, please pass me a napkin. I’ve spilled some gravy-and-cheese-curd-covered French fries on the couch.