Saturday, September 12, 2009

Observations on the South of the 49th Parallel and South of the Mason-Dixon Line

After living in the South for just over a month, there are a collection of observations which I have been gleaning about cultural differences between life back home in Canada and life here in Virginia.

  1. Service staff are incredibly friendly down here. I don't know if it was the intense labour shortages in Alberta due to the oil industry, or if it's a cultural thing, but I have consistently had great conversations with the grocery check-out clerk, the lady ringing me through for my oil change, the women running the tills at Cafe 67 and generally everyone I encounter.
  2. The accent gets less noticeable. I have become accustomed to the usage of "y'all" in everyday language, though I have not adopted it myself.

And now, some observations on the differences between Americans and Canadians.

  1. Americans don't know what a "toque" is. I don't know if it's because it's not cold enough that they need a special word to denote the distinction between a hat worn in the cold from one worn to the Kentucky Derby, but when I've used the word "toque" I get blank expressions. (Note to Americans: a "toque" is a woolen hat worn in the winter used to keep the head and ears warm.)
  2. Equally blank looks come my way when I pronounce the last letter of the alphabet as "zed" instead of "zee."
  3. Even though I said "eh?" when I lived in Canada, it is either more noticeable here because of the Canadian stereotype or I actually say it more, for the same reason.
  4. I am having a hard time getting out of the habit of using Canadian spelling, even though my spell-checker gets mad every time I type "labour."
  5. Health care is a big topic of discussion here. I get asked a lot about the Canadian system, and am never entirely sure what to say. On the one hand, I can't fathom living in a place where if you get sick, you're SOL. On the other hand, with the population differences, and certain strengths in the US health care system, there is no way the Canadian system can be applied in the US. Americans find it hard to believe that the thought of two-tier health care evokes such strong negative reactions for Canadians.
  6. Speaking of politics, I explained to someone last night that the Canadian political system is generally more left-wing than the American system.

And that is all for now...

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