Only in Canada (Until Someone Tells Me Otherwise)

23 Jun

O Canada! Go ahead and display those kitschy souvenirs at Niagara Falls.

I loved my recent jaunt over the border to Toronto (I’m sure I saw a border of maple leaves as I flew over Lake Ontario), and in just a few days there I could tell that some things were … well, just different:

— The neighborhoods look American until you get to a street with half-Tudor style or nouveau half-timbered homes here and there. God save the queen.

— At a chain coffee store, Urbana, on a hot, humid afternoon, the barista assumed that I wanted my black tea hot. Had to assure him that, yes, my English Breakfast would be fine over ice.

— There were ethnic faces wherever I went: Asian, African, Indian, Middle Eastern, to name a few.

— A Pakistani crowd marched down Yonge Street, waving flags and banners and shouting, “Musharraf has to go!”

— Canadian coins work a lot like American coins, but their appearance and texture is just different enough from Lincolns, Jeffersons, etc.

— An American tourist can definitely feel like she’s in a foreign country, yet take heart that English is spoken without any discernible accent. I am fascinated, though, by the Canadian pronunciation of “about” — “uh-boat,” with a little bit of “ew” on the second syllable. Did I hear “eh,” eh? Not a lot. But I was hanging around my South African-born relatives, who say Canadians recognize their accent immediately.

— Humidity that made 70 degrees Fahrenheit feel like 90. Not a purely Canadian phenomenon, I know, but a desert rat like me needs to mention it.

— Does every country have a different euphemism for a public toilet? Here it’s “washroom.” Maybe that means Canadians are better at washing their hands after using the facilities?

— Restaurants give you straws for your water glasses.

— Fireworks, anyone? It’s Victoria Day.

— Many American TV shows run a few weeks or months behind the schedule in the States. So I was watching the season finale of “The Event” with my cousin, who expressed how he couldn’t wait for the next season. Somehow the news of its cancellation hadn’t reached Canada, but I didn’t let on.

— Husky, fair-faced guys that look like John Candy.

— Herring!

— Signage almost everywhere that was in both English and French, acknowledging my proximity to Quebec.

I’m looking forward to my next run for the border, which will probably be Montreal.

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