My first trip outside of Canada was during a family vacation to Disneyland. I was twelve and ecstatic to be travel to another country. The US seemed new and exciting, a foreign culture with foreign habits. I’ve gone back to the US a few times since and now it doesn’t really feel all that foreign and exotic. Coming from Alberta I don’t have to cross an ocean to get there (except visiting Hawaii), we share a common language, common customs and mannerisms. When I pull out my passport at the border, sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m in another country, but Canada and the US are very different. Eventually something will occur during my travels to make me realize that I’m not in Canada anymore. These aren’t big political or social observations, but little quirks which remind me I’m in a foreign country. These may not apply for every city/town/state, etc… but they’ve all occurred for me.
No French on products.
In Canada there’s a language law that requires information on products to be listed in English and French. Names, ingredients, nutritional value (when applicable) are in English and French. At home I’ll use some Fresh Cucumber/Eau Douce De Concombre hand lotion. Picking up a bottle of coke or a bag of chips in the US and not seeing French is very weird to me.
In Canada money it’s easy to distinguish one bill from the other because each denomination is a different colour. In the US it’s the same colour, and I know some of the bills are different colours but they don’t stand out. I’ve gone to pay for something in the US and instead of pulling out a twenty like I want, I pull out a one dollar bill. Canada has a one and two dollar coins; in the US they have one dollar bills. I remember getting some one dollar coins when I was in Seattle, but I was given odd looks when I used them to pay for something. I haven’t used an American one dollar coin since.
Okay thanks to the global society of the Internet I’m used to American spelling. Color versus Colour, Check versus Cheque, etc. Often I’ll flip back between American and Canadian spelling. There’s also different terminlogy between our countries, such as saying freeway (US) instead of highway (Canada).
Miles and Distance.
Driving in the US I’d see a speed sign on the highway saying “80″ and think that’s slow. It would take a minute for me to remember that the speed is posted in miles. Thankfully the cars I drove had kilometres and miles on the speed gauge. Gauging distance was also difficult. When seeing a sign saying “Salt Lake City – 125″ I’d have to remember it’s 125 miles away not 125 kilometres away. This means everything is twice as far as I’d originally thought.
In Seattle I watched a weather reporter on TV that said, “Today’s high will be 68 with a possible low of 58. All I could think was “is that hot? Should I wear shorts? Maybe that’s cold, and I should bring a jacket.” Fahrenheit confuses me. Now I have an iPod with an app for temperature conversion.
In Canada if you get an ice tea, usually it’s sweetened. In the US it’s usually unsweetened. You have to ask for it to be sweetened if you want it. I like my ice tea either way.
The CRTC has a law in Canadian that requires 30% of programs on radio and TV have to contain Canadian content. Listening to a radio station in Canada you’ll hear a lot of Canadian bands and artists. A station in the US American station and you won’t hear as much Canadian artists, at least not 30% worth.
Different Stores and Restaurants.
We all have MacDonald’s and Wal-Mart, but there are chain stores and restaurants that we don’t have in Canada. I got addicted to the wedge fries at Jack-In-Box. I know these fries are probably not that great, but the fact I can’t get them in Canada made them really appealing. After going to a Bath & Body Works in Las Vegas I became convinced we needed the stores in Canada. Now there’s a Bath & Body works 15 minutes from my house.
Before my friend and I went to Seattle my mother warned me she had heard all sorts of crazy horror stories about driving in The US. The exits wouldn’t be labelled, everyone on the road is a maniac with a gun. But I didn’t find this. Exits were marked well in advance and some drivers may have been crazy/idiots but I’m sure you can find that anywhere. I’ve seen more bad drivers in Edmonton than in the US. I love that US drivers actually follow the ‘stay right except to pass rule’ and drove the posted speed limit, not 10 miles/20km under it.
In the US if you get a burger from a non-fast food restaurant you’ll be asked how you want it cooked. In Canada there’s one way to have a burger, cooked. Rare, medium rare, etc are not provided as options. If you’re getting a steak you can have it rare or whatnot. But it throws me off when I get a hamburger in the US and I’m asked how I want it cooked… I always respond with well done.
Are there any other little differences you’ve noticed between Canada and the US when travelling?