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About this Journal
In October 2000, my wife and I moved from New Hampshire to Ottawa, Ontario and thus began our great adventure in the land of Canada. This journal records some of our observations of the differences north of the border...

In July 2005, we made the difficult decision to move back to the US (specifically Burlington, Vermont). We have absolutely loved Ottawa and our time in Canada. We have worked here, played here, had our daughter born here, met wonderful people and had a fantastic time. We would probably stay here forever... were it not for the fact that it is too far from our family throughout New England.

And so one chapter ends and a new one begins. I'll keep this weblog online, though, as a record of our time in Canada.

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Apr. 17th, 2008 @ 07:38 pm Great blog - "We Move To Canada"
While I no longer update this "North of 45" blog any more, I happened to stumble upon the blog "We Move To Canada" which chronicles the adventures of two people who decided back to leave New York City and move to Canada (scroll to the bottom to see how it all began). I haven't read much of the blog, but what I did read seemed to give a entertaining view of the process of moving to Canada... as well as the American perspective of living in Canada. Well worth a read, in my opinion.

UPDATE: Laura Kaminker, the author of the blog I mention here (and that is now known simply as "wmtc"), contacted me to let me know they had actually decided to move to Canada back in 2003 and started the process then.  July 2004 was when she started the blog.
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Aug. 31st, 2007 @ 04:11 pm How to talk like a Canadian - a 12-step program
Current Mood: amusedamused
Back in June 2007, a podcaster I know expressed interest in attending a conference in Canada, but said his "Canadian was a bit rusty" on a mailing list of podcasters.  It was the next day at 5:15am when I read this, and wrote the following post.  Other podcasters in Canada enjoyed it, added their tips, and then asked when I was going to blog it.  It's been on my list for a while and I just figured this was something fun to post before the Labo(u)r Day holiday.  I'll post my 12-step program first, along with a summary of initial comments from some Canadians after that.  Please feel free to leave your own.

On 6/6/07, <name> <snip> wrote:
Sounds like a fun event. I'd love to go but my Canadian is a bit rusty

To help, I'll provide a basic recipe for how to talk like a Canadian (from the perspective of an American working for a Canadian company):

1.   End every 4th or 5th sentence with the very fast question "eh?", as in "That sounds like a good plan, eh?"  (And yes, even after leaving Canada 2 years ago, my ~5 years there infected me and you will still here this occasionally in my FIR reports or my own podcast.)

2. Practice a slightly different intonation of vowels and emphasis on different syllables.  The oft-cited and extreme case is where "abOUT" becomes more like "abOOT". One I run into all the time is where the American "praw-CESS" become "PRO-cess" (with stronger emphasis on first).

3. Never say "I went to college" as that implies a lower-level, more trade-type school.  Say instead "I went to university" even if the school you went to was, in fact, called a College.

4. Drop out "the" in certain key phrases like "the accident victim was sent to hospital" versus "to the hospital".  You won't really have any idea where you should drop out the "the", so just do it randomly.

5. Realize that the capital of Canada is, in fact, Ottawa, despite the opinions of those who live within the greater Toronto area.

6. They have a "Prime Minister" instead of a President. Their current one is Stephen Harper who is basically a more polite version of George Bush with nicer hair.  He probably won't last long - and they at least have a system where they can bring down governments they don't like.

7. Learn about hockey, as it will factor into many if not most conversations.  As a point of reference, despite the fact that it is June and 80 degrees out, the Ottawa Senators were just now playing the Anaheim (yes, as in Disneyland and California) Ducks (formerly "Mighty Ducks") in this little contest they call the "Stanley Cup".  The Ducks just won last night, so be prepared for intense hand-wringing and concern that an American team won (even though all NHL teams are pretty much just a different group of Canadian, Czechs, Finns and Russians with a few token Americans thrown in) and of course the view from the Torontonians that the Maple Leafs would have done better.  Realize, too, that all the discussion will shift to analysis of the games and of the season and then into preparations for the next season which will start in a month or two.  Also realize that while most Americans might be playing baseball, football or soccer right now, many Canadians are playing "ball hockey" which is essentially hockey without the ice... this helps them prepare for hockey season which will start in a month or two as soon as everyone returns from their summer "cottages".

8. Obsess about the US and what Americans think about Canada and the latest Canadian political moves. (Even though 99% of Americans generally don't think about Canada at all and would be hard-pressed to provided any information whatsoever about Canadian politics or who is in charge.)

9. Remind any American who uses the term "American" that the term is arrogant and forgets the fact that "the Americas" also includes Canada, Mexico and a host of other countries.

10.  Complain about the health care system. Everyone has a story of their great aunt Millie who had to wait eight months to get an MRI scan.  (Don't point out that they could just buy more MRI machines - and whatever you do, don't bring up the massive spreadsheets you have to maintain under the US system to ensure adequate reimbursement, the large out-of-pocket expenses you have to spend or the massive gaps in coverage... let them continue to suffer under the delusion that its better down here.)

11. Get and use your Facebook account.  If you are Canadian, you have to have one. (http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=2398302130 )

12. Be polite.  Be very polite.  (Unless, of course, you are engaged in a televised political debate or are getting into an argument about hockey.)

If you follow this 12-step program, you should have little problem talking and interacting with Canadians.

A couple of Canadian podcasters indicated that the list should also include these facts:
  • Canadians don't talk about guns because they don't have/carry/need guns.
  • Canadians have real beer.
  • Canadians generally don't talk about murder or drugs because those generally aren't issues.
  • Many Canadians will nod their heads and be polite to US colleagues, but once they're out of earshot they will say things like "could that guy be any more of a Yank?"
  • Canadian money comes in multiple colo(u)rs, not just all green. They also have a $1 coin ("loonie") and a $2 coin ("toonie").
  • When you go into a restaurant in Canada, never ask for the check (which they spell "cheque"). A check means you're getting money. Ask for the "bill".

Finally, once podcaster suggested that you weren't a true Canadian until you could understand the sentence: "Please pass me a serviette. I've spilled poutine on the chesterfield." (The scary aspect, of course, is that the sentence made perfect sense to me.

In any event, I hope you've enjoyed this little trip through the common language that divides our two nations and that it might help you should you ever journey to the great white north.

Comments and additional examples are certainly welcome. Please just do the Canadian thing and be polite, eh?

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Oct. 18th, 2005 @ 01:12 pm Missing Rona...
Rona logoOne of the more subtle things we have found ourselves missing upon our return to the US is, well, Rona.  It is somewhat wired into our nature that we are always working on different projects around the house and so we naturally wind up at home improvement stores.  Of course, we have Home Depot (as we did in Canada) but it's just not the same.

On the surface, both stores are very similar, but we found Rona better in a number of ways.  On a base level, Rona seemed to usually be cheaper. But more than that, they seemed to have a wider range of selections.  If Home Depot had 10 types of door knobs, for instance, Rona would have 20 with better colors.  The setup of the Rona store also seemed a bit friendlier.  We just found the shopping "experience" much more pleasant than Home Depot.  Now, however, we no longer have that choice.... and we do miss it!
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Jul. 25th, 2005 @ 02:43 pm Northern border disputes...
Current Mood: amusedamused
Entertaining to see that Canada has border disputes, too... although it's over a piece of rock in the high Arctic...
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Jul. 11th, 2005 @ 05:03 pm Leaving the Great White North.... eh?
As I recently discussed in my main weblog, we are moving back into the old USA again... leaving the land we have come to so enjoy. I'll keep posting here from time to time as I still have many thoughts to record. I also know that as we move back to the US, we'll be seeing differences from the opposite angle, and so that may be interesting for those who read this. Anyway, it's been a great place to be and I would encourage anyone to visit Ottawa.

Now, a new chapter begins...
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Jun. 8th, 2005 @ 09:28 pm You just gotta love Ottawa...
You have to love a place where you learn that a colleague sent an e-mail like this:
"i'm out for the day, another farmer protest in downtown ottawa, gotta drive my tractor to support them."
Ahhhh, Ottawa.... the nation's capital... but yet you drive 10 minutes out of downtown and you are surrounded by farms....
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May. 10th, 2005 @ 07:11 am Watching a government slowly fall...
When I was a bit younger, I used to help maintain the land around several cabins in northern New Hampshire and would occasionally fell large trees. With a very tall and straight tree, there is a moment after you have made the final upper cut when the tree just sort of hangs there for a second. It has nothing left to keep it upright and in a few seconds it succumbs to gravity and begins its descent. But for those few seconds, time enters an extreme slow-motion state as all observers hold their breath and watch the fall begin (hoping of course, that it falls in the desired direction).

In large part this seems to be the current state of the Canadian government. As a political junkie, it has been absolutely fascinating to watch the slow death spiral of the current Canadian government. There is talk now of an election as early as next month. All the four major political parties are sharpening their claws (and tongues) and preparing to do battle. The end of the current government could come in a no-confidence vote in the next few days - or in the next weeks.

Whatever transpires, it is something completely foreign to someone from the US. While there have been numerous times when many of us would like to get rid of the US government in power, it just cannot (easily, anyway) happen within our system. Yes, on very rare occasions there have been attempts to remove the leader (i.e. the attempted impeachment of President Clinton), but even if the leader were removed, the party in power would continue to govern (albeit perhaps less effectively). This whole concept of "bringing down the government" that is possible within a parliamentary system of government is just so different from that which we know.

It does make for interesting political theatre, though...
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Apr. 14th, 2005 @ 10:32 pm The taxman cometh... and cometh again...
Current Mood: taxed
Tomorrow is "Tax Day" for the tax man in the grand old USA. Canada's equivalent gets their day in the sun on April 30th. Straddling both worlds means, of course, that you have to fill out forms for both governments.

Every time I hear a Canadian complain about their tax forms I have to laugh. The Canadian tax forms are not quite as simple as some jokesters would have it... but almost. Look at it this way: you have already paid a very sizable whack of your income to the CCRA throughout the year. You cannot deduct hardly anything outside of what you have put in to RRSPs (Canadian equivalents of IRAs), a percentage of your charitable donations and various other odd things.

At the end of the day, it's really a very simple calculation. You have made X. You have already paid taxes of Y. You had a few measley deductions of Z and therefore should really have only paid Y-W, so here is W back to you. Thank you for playing. By paying the gov't throughout the year you have enabled them to continue paying various advertising agencies large sums of money. Thank you and have a nice day.

Compare that to US tax forms which seem to merely be an accretion of more and more crazy different laws with each year and government adding more to the insanity. I swear that each year the TurboTax interview gets longer and longer with even more legislation and forms that I have never even heard of. Do you want to claim the xxxxxxx exemption? Are you eligible for the yyyyyyy credit? Do you bicycle one-handed on Tuesdays when the moon is blue? If so, add the value of line 34 on form 2543 to the value of line 403 on form 1554 then divide by line 32a on form 1043 and insert into line 34 on form 1040 unless of course you like to eat broccoli in which case you need to insert the value into line 45 on form 1041.

You have to wonder if the US Congress is getting kickbacks from Intuit, H&R Block and the rest of the tax preparation industry just to make the process more difficult.

The kicker for us (and pretty much every other American in Canada), of course, is that we usually do not owe any US taxes! Between the foreign income exclusion, the exchange rate, and the fact that we have already paid a huge amount of taxes to the Canadian government, the end result is that you would have to be making an extremely large amount of money in Canada (or the exchange rate would have to keep firing higher) to even start remotely worrying about US taxes. (I have heard the same thing from folks living in European countries with high tax rates.)

But still, each year, we have to fill out our 73 pieces of paperwork and mail the whole thing back to the US government. (And no, you can't e-file it because one of the forms you have to file for your foreign income can't work over the e-file mechanism.)

Fun, fun, fun.... (well, not really)
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Apr. 12th, 2005 @ 06:40 am It's "the American thing" in action...
It is morning. I put my bag down in my cube, get my computer out, plug it in and start getting ready for the day. Over the top of the cubicle walls I see two colleagues walking toward my aisle heading, I know, down to the cafeteria to get a morning cup of coffee. As they came by my cube opening I nodded to them and mumbled a quick "Hey" as I turned back to getting my notebook out of my bag.

They stopped. Turned to me. Stared at me expectantly.

I suddenly noticed this. Looked from side-to-side with the "deer caught in the headlights" look - thinking to myself "What do they want?"

Then I realized and said to them "Oh, sorry... it's just the 'American' thing." Which then started an interesting discussion of cultural differences.

You see, my experience here in Ottawa is that when two people pass each other in a hallway, on a bike path, walkway or any other place, they might nod to each other or maybe perhaps flash a quick wave or hand gesture. But say something? Verbalize that greeting? Nope. (Of course there are exceptions, but in general this seems to be true.)

Now contrast that to the USA - or at least to New England where I grew up. In my experience people may certainly nod or wave but they are just as apt to do that in conjunction with saying something... often an abbreviated version of "Hey" (which I know folks for whom it is an extremely fast greeting that sounds almost like "Heyp") or something like a fast "Hello" or " 'lo" (which I've heard a "p" on the end as well). Or a time-related saying like "morning" or "morn" or "evening" or "good day".

The key point is that the greeting is purely a verbalization of the nod. It's not a request for attention. It's not intended to interrupt what the other person is doing. It's just a verbal wave/nod/acknowledgement. It's a friendly acknowledgement of the other's existence that is just said in passing without meaning anything else than just that. Typically in the States you might just verbally acknowledge back (or not) and just go on.

Up here. though, I've found that this does mark me as an American. Perhaps it is all about respect of others' spaces. I'm not sure. But if a Canadian says something to you in passing, it is usually because they want to ask you something.

I have a vague memory from early days here in Canada of this behaviour really irritating someone with whom I worked. I honestly don't recall who it was (and if I did I probably wouldn't write it here!) but I do recall winding up having a conversation around the issue and finding out that everytime I walked by their cube my verbal greeting would interrupt their train of thought. It did make me much more sensitive to the behaviour and I recall trying to reduce my verbal greetings a bit. Obviously that didn't stick.

Ah, the little things that are so different.
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Apr. 11th, 2005 @ 08:40 am The Nanaimo Bar is now in Wikipedia...
Nice to see that the Nanaimo Bar now has an entry in Wikipedia. When I wrote my posting on unique Canadian cuisine (or the lack thereof) back in November, there was not yet an entry. Good to see.

On that same topic, I do see that there is an entry for poutine (which I note that mendel has assisted with editing). I also went tonight and created a page for a BeaverTail that was separate from the Fried dough page, primarily because I thought BeaverTails should have their own page and also because it would then show up on the Canadian cusine category page under the separate name.

I would note, however, that for the Wikipedia-inclined folks who wish to promote Canadian cuisine, some of the suggestions made in comments to my original post still do not seem to have Wikipedia pages. (for instance, tourtiere) Creating those is left as an exercise for others who have more time than I do...
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