An American in Canada

On my Instagram feed, I like to connect my photos to already existing networks using hashtags. I have many I favour, depending on the photo…. for Jewels, I use #adventurebuddy and #muttsofinstagram. For Norman, I include #swissman and #lazyisthenewsexy. For me, I usually include #frecklesfordays, #strawberryblonde, and a new one…. #anamericanincanada.

When I was living in Armenia, or Mexico, or the Dominican Republic, or even when I visited The Czech Republic, Thailand, or Switzerland, it felt very foreign. Everything was different…. the language, the food, the architecture, the smells, the sights. For me, when in these places, my brain switches to “foreign mode”: a new way of experiencing everything around me that isn’t shocked or put off by new things. It just accepts that this place is different, so of course things aren’t like home. It just decides every day is an adventure, and rolls with it.

A family we used to visit in Armenia. Their heat in their home was a stove, in which they burned anything they could find, and on which they cooked everything.

My first night in Armenia, we were visiting someone, and I had to go to the bathroom. I expressed this, and the woman nonchalantly placed a bucket of hay in the middle of the floor, left the glass shack where she was selling her fruit, turned off the light, and turned around. So, being in foreign mode, did I freak out?


I straddled that bucket, lifted my skirt, and took care of business.

Being an American in Canada is its own beast. Everything is just similar enough that my brain never goes into foreign mode. So the tiny differences that, in comparison to hay-bucket-skirt-straddlings, are nothing, seem huge and invasive.

It’s pretty cold today, eh? Better wear a Toque! Let’s go get some poutine to warm up before the hockey game! (All Canadian stereotypes.)

For example: Canadians speak English. Their English is not even super heavily accented, from an American perspective (unless you’re in the maritimes). But occasionally, you’ll get caught off-guard.

When someone tells you to wear a toque, but you don’t know what the hell a toque is, and start wondering if it’s one of those super thick flannel jackets every Canadian seems to own. (It’s a beanie, by the way.)

When, after 3 years, you finally realize the function of the “eh”. (It’s a way to ask for a response after making a statement. I.E. “It’s hot outside today” could feasibly need to response. “It’s hot outside today, eh?” is attempting to start a dialogue.)

Another one? Things cost SO MUCH here. Norman and I spend over $600 a month on groceries alone… and we don’t eat meat and rarely use expensive items. (A box of cereal here can go on sale for $7.99… and that’s a good deal.)

So what do you do when everything costs so much? You take a bus to the local regional park for a day of fresh air. 

Car insurance and registration here costs are RIDICULOUSLY high. Like, over $150 a month high, and that is for basic coverage. The first time I went to insure a car here, I had a mild meltdown and had to go for a walk before I could do it. Also, there is a SUPER complicated system of how they classify your car. If you drive it for work purposes under 5 days a month, between 5-15 days a month, between 15-25 days a month, or every day…. and nothing can be handled online.

Our faces whenever we have to pay for car insurance.

One more…. I noticed here that no one reads the fine print. Two examples:

Anytime I do any activity that involves a waiver, I read it. Most of them are pretty standard – you can’t sue us even if, by our own negligence, we kill you. But sometimes, contracts can be a bit sketchy. I never sign ANYTHING unless I’ve read it, in its entirety. (Except apple licensing agreements.) I have been singled out and ridiculed on multiple occasions because of this. I DON’T EVEN CARE. I will not sign something until I’ve read it.

I got a job in late summer 2016, and all my duties were enumerated in my employment contract. The job was well below my skill level, but I had chosen this job for this reason – I needed a break, and this was one way to get one.

After a month or so, the employer realized I was capable of much more than they were asking of me. So they added a few duties to my plate. No big deal. Well, 2 weeks later, and my job was, again, super stressful and full of job duties I didn’t want. I contacted the employer, and basically stated that, if I were to continue working for them, I needed the job to pare down to the duties in the contract, or to be compensated for the additional job duties.

Their response? “No one has ever read the contract before. This is highly irregular.” When I insisted, they said “If you can’t do these extra duties for no extra pay, then this isn’t going to work out.”

So I quit.

All of these things seem like TINY, STUPID inconveniences. No big deal, right? NOTHING compared to vomiting in the back of a taxi for HOURS as you drive to the one hospital in the country with actual doctors.

But for some reason, this bothers me more.