Returning back home to Michigan after a recent trip to Toronto, I made some observations!
Canada and Michigan are neighbors but you do need a passport to get across the border in the new century. I have never really thought of Canada as being “foreign” however, the border control staff will tell you otherwise. Even your dog has to have papers (proof of rabies shot) to cross over. Canada is indeed a foreign country, though it only took my friends and I three hours by car to get to the bridge in Sarnia (not Narnia), that crosses Lake Huron. Michigan and Ontario share a border and a Great Lake, but I found out how different we truly are. Canadians enjoy higher taxes, socialist medicine, the metric system, and a currency that includes Loonies and Toonies.
The biggest difference is driving in Canada… remember to watch your speed at KMH not MPH. All the locals told us not to exceed 120 KMH with U.S. plates or we would be ticketed and impounded! Whenever I hear that word (impounded), I conjure up an image of a giant metal crane that is going to crush my car into a compact square of metal at the junkyard. I kept it under 120 KMH on my visit.
Both countries speak English but not all of us put an, “eh,” at the end of our sentences. Neither can claim to be speaking the Queen’s English, so no one can claim authority. An outsider would say we both sound funny and speak through our nasal passages, which are constantly running from the cold anyway.
As for food and drink: Do NOT try and order a Bloody Mary for you will be rewarded with a Bloody Ceaser instead, made with Clamato juice. You’ll have to brush up on some English/Canadian history to know the origin of that tradition. And, what is the Canadian obsession with Tim Horton’s? I don’t quite get the concept. One register line seems to be all about coffee and donuts and then the next is a food line (that’s not very fast), where you can order a deli sandwich, a grilled panini, or a smoothie. There are no burgers and fries but considering their fat content, I commend Tim Horton’s variety of the menu choices. Fast food is evolving and I have not kept up. I hear a Tim Horton’s just opened in Grand Rapids, Michigan so the concept is picking up steam and crossing borders too.
The politics are vastly different too and I learned the Toronto mayor had his own unique way of bringing criticism to a public office. Torontian’s informed us, the current mayor talks on his cell phone while driving (illegal in Canada), makes frequent trips to KFC (not Tim Horton’s) and has even skipped town hall meetings to coach youth football playoff games. Considering American political scandals, that seemed quite mild to me. My only issue was not being able to understand the political nuances, which made the Toronto Second City comedy skits very confusing.
And, don’t we all think of Canada as a large rugged wilderness that is always cold, under feet of snow? Canadians themselves joke about this fact so perhaps the stereotype is true? Fact: Most Canadians live in the cities that are nestled next to the northern U.S. borders, which are not that uninhabitable compared to Buffalo, Chicago, Boston or St. Ignace. Are Canadians truly more hearty and stout than their U.S. neighbors? Certainly not Michiganders, who live in the shadow of three great lakes that make wind, clouds and plenty of snow.
In the end, Michigan and Canada are intrinsically linked, by massive inland seas that define our weather and daily lives. I certainly like having Canada as a neighbor. I am a fan of Canadian Bacon, Canada Dry Ginger Ale and a frosty LaBatt Blue from time to time. We both love to drink plenty of beer and it seems the whole area (Mich-Canada) has taken up a passion for micro brewing. And, why not during our six months of snow and gray skies! So, I am quite glad to be next to the land of maple syrup and hockey fans. They might be a bit odd but they probably say the same about us, eh?