I have to be honest, I thought Canada was essentially a slightly less interesting, colder, United States. On the ferry ride over I kept trying to come up with differences but all I could think of was that they were good at hockey, that they were afraid of the dark (thanks How I Met Your Mother), that the drinking age was lower, and that Mounties had cool uniforms. Oh and they end their sentences with “eh” (thanks Southpark). It’s mostly all white people? Other than that, just a tiny US.
Driving off the ferry though I was suddenly worried. I hadn’t done any research on Canada at all, I mean it’s right next to the US, it can’t be that different, right? But then again I just had to use my passport, this is technically an entirely new country. I drove up and immediately breathed a sigh of relief that everyone drove on the normal side of the road – I mean this place did use to be British. With this minor achievement, I drove through the streets certain it was smooth cruising from here. Except all the LED temperature readings on the side of buildings were in Celsius, the highway signs used metres and kilometres, the price of gas was per litre, everything was in Canadian dollars, and color was spelled colour. My car’s temperature gage was still in Fahrenheit, so I got over that one pretty quickly, though I am still taken aback whenever fellow hostelmates rejoice over 20 degree weather. The metres took a little longer. I would approach underpasses and – even though my bug is perhaps the smallest car out there – worry that it was somehow taller than 5 metres. We may use the metric system in physics and math calculations all the time – but that’s completely different from actually thinking about it. Like your native language, you grow accustomed to thinking in the scale of feet and inches and suddenly metres make no sense. My one source of actually living in the metric system is track. I ran the ½ mile, mile, and two mile so much there is no way I could forget that a mile was equal to 1600 metres. Phew – at least I have a conversion standard for this one. But then the road signs had speed limits in km/hr. There was no way I was going to do quick math like that for every road. Wait. My car is German, there’s gotta be something metric on here somewhere. Aha! Tiny numbers below the normal miles/hr, that’s got to be it. I do have to say I drive slower in Canada. The speed limits on the highway are about 60, but you feel like you’re cruising along the ocean going at the zooming 100km/hr. The gas was perhaps the scariest. I still had no idea what the conversion from American to Canadian dollars was and even more so all of the gas prices were missing a decimal. I suppose if youre around it all the time 153 is clearly 1.53, but to me this could easily have been 153 dollars per some volume larger than a litre. I had had half a tank leaving the U.S. and though I knew most countries had more expensive gas than the U.S., I also knew Canada had huge oil reserves, which I figured would clearly bring down the price. So at around midnight with none of these whirling questions answered but my tank approaching empty, I handed the gas attendant my card and told him to put 20$ on there. I knew that wouldn’t fill my tank, but it should get me somewhere, especially if the conversion rate was in my favor. I turned on my car all hopeful that the little dial would zoom up to a respectable level, only to see it creep up to just over a quarter of a tank. Poop. Gas is more expensive here.
When my ipod finally died, I turned on the radio and found the CBC station. Again, as an idiotic American, I found it adorable that the Canadians had their own version of BBC – I literally burst out laughing when I first heard the acronym. The show playing that night was a travel across Canada, playing famous Canadian artists from each region. I was excited for some indigenous music, but soon found that most of the songs were from people I had just assumed were American. My favorites were Sarah McLaughlin and that band that made the “Safety Dance” song. To heighten my apparent cruelty, I once again burst out laughing when the host declared that Canada had produced some of the best music in the world the past thirty or forty years. Mmm yes because when I think music, I think Canada (commence jazz hands).
I am usually much more open to new cultures, sights, and sounds and I definitely still had the most amazing time in Canada, but unfortunately these are my incredibly chauvinistic, crappy first thoughts. I mean I really do like the Safety Dance.