Between Us

Time for a little chat I think. About the differences between us. Us being the differences between Canadians and Americans.

First up. We love being in the United States. We love — and we have deeply missed — our American family members and our American friends. My youngest son will soon be married to an American (their wedding invitation went out with this headline: a union of two nations). You get the idea. We are definitely connected to the United States.

Having been away for over two years, the differences between the two countries are pretty stark. I ran into some of them almost like the first time. Here we go.

Gas is still cheaper in the United States. Canada sits on the third largest proven oil reserve in the world. And yet we pay much higher fuel costs. How much higher? Depends on the day as prices change constantly and the exchange rate which also changes constantly but here is a recent snapshot:

Why so much higher in Canada you ask? Taxes. In Canada, we absolutely love our taxes. That is why we have so many of them.

And American sodas. So many different sodas. On our way down we stopped at an American Wendy’s to pick up some food. When I went to get a drink I was stymied. Over 100 flavours of soda? I must have spent twenty minutes or so sampling them before the store manager walked me out.

Paying with credit cards in the US is much easier now. Most point of sale devices accept PINs. That was not very common when we were last in the States. For example, when we would pay at the pump we would routinely be asked for a Zip code to validate the card. Of course we live in a country of alphanumeric postal codes. We do not have a Zip code. However, with my banking background, I knew the little trick that usually worked: take the numbers from my postal code and add two zeros. With a postal code of L4N 6G2, I would enter 462 followed by 00. Now most merchants accept PINs when paying by credit card.

One exception though. In Canada when you finish a meal at a restaurant, the server will bring a wireless point-of-sale device to the table and you can either tap your Apple watch or tap your iPhone or tap your credit card. Everything is done at the table electronically. Your credit card is never handed to the server.

In the United States, it is quite the procedure. The server brings the bill to the table. If it is a nicer restaurant, it will be in a leather wallet. You place your credit card in the wallet and your server will, at some point, return to the table and take the wallet, the bill and the card somewhere else. Time will pass but eventually the wallet returns with your card, the original bill, and two more copies of the bill. And something called a pen. You take the pen and try to figure out the tip amount. Sometimes the bill will help you by giving you a few suggestions. You then add the tip to the price of the meal and write out the total. You may or may not have to sign the merchant copy. But once you have finished this little activity, you get to take two pieces of paper out of the restaurant.

Restrooms. Not washrooms. I often catch myself on that one.

Sorry. Actually I mean it. Sorry that I say sorry so often. I am really sorry about that. And I’m sorry my about sounds like a boot. The Canadian stereotype is that we are very polite. We find most Americans to be warm and friendly. And very polite. Except for the customs officers. But that is true on both sides of the border.

So many choices in the United States. We notice it whenever we do any kind of shopping in the States.

Everything is bigger here especially when we eat out. Serving sizes seem massive compared to Canadian restaurants.

But all that aside, we are having a FANTASTIC time in the States. Beautiful views, fun activities and warm weather.

We love being back here.

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