Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

This past weekend, I was in Michigan for a soccer tournament and staying in a hotel with in the Detroit area with some friends. I happened to be in the elevator talking with one of my friends when some other lady in the elevator looked at me and said, "Are you Canadian?" I started laughing and asked her why. She said, "Because you have an accent."

I'm not sure what other proof I need now that I am a real Canadian (well, I do--it's Canadian citizenship, another 2.5 years away), but in honor of this and in honor of my first Canada Day, I thought it would be appropriate to share ten of my favorite things about living in Ontario, Canada.

1) No smoking in restaurants, bars, or other public places. As someone allergic to cigarette smoke, this makes my life so much easier. I don't have to wait extra long for seating in the non-smoking section of restaurants. I don't have to have benadryl handy whenever I go out. I don't wake up the morning after going to the bar with my mouth feeling like I was licking ashtrays the night before.

2) Extra holidays. By my calculations, the Canadians have about three more holidays than Americans. Even though Canadians get only one day off for their Thanksgiving, Boxing Day, Good Friday, Family Day, and a random holiday in August more than equalize.

3) Poutine. Fries, gravy, and melted cheese. Who could want anything more?

4) Abundance of ethnic food. We didn't even have a Greek restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a sizeable town. Here in Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge, the dining options are endless. In addition, the grocery stores carry a wide variety of ethnic foods, especially sausages and breads.

5) Stress-free lawn maintenance. The Canadians don't think much of herbacides, and so most Canadian lawns are composed of dandelions, clover, other broad-leaf plants, and a few blades of grass here and there. No one has to stress about maintaining a healthy lawn because weed killers are hard to find, if not illegal. Every week, I get out the lawn mower and mow the weeds.

6) Natural beauty. Yes, Canada is beautiful. The landscape is gorgeous, even when driving through the rolling farmlands. I know that Ontario landscape is similar to Michigan, but at least the Canadians have the good sense to ban billboards along the major highways. The Canadians also seem to have set aside much more natural space for parks. Most of the parks where I live are not only gorgeous, but also very large.

7) Diversity. Everyone knows that Canada, particularly the metropolitan areas, are some of the most diverse in the world. I still am in awe of the lack of diversity training programs and seminars in the workplaces here. The reason they don't have them---because it's not an issue. Everyone here has grown up with people of all different races, colors, creeds, etc., and so no one needs to tell them to respect or appreciate others' differences--they already do. Of course, there are always exceptions, but the difference between respect for others' differences here and in the US is staggering. That's why they say that Canada is a mosaic--people maintain their identities but still make up the larger communities. The US is a melting pot. People try to maintain their differences, but there is a lot of pressure to assimilate and blend in.

8) Produce labels. When shopping at a store or even a farmers' market, signs or labels must indicate the source country of all produce. It's great to be able to avoid garlic (or any produce) from China and to see how much produce sold in Canada is actually grown in the US. However, the Canadians seem to have the greenhouse thing down and really grow a majority of their produce, even in the winter. The farmers' markets throughout the summer are fabulous.

9) Adult recreational sports. Playing sports has always been an important part of my life and always will be. I am amazed and overjoyed at the vast opportunities here to play in recreational sports leagues. You can find an adult league for almost any sport you'd want to play--cricket, lacrosse, baseball, basketball, soccer, and of course, hockey. Just to make a comparison, Grand Rapids and its suburbs is about the same size, population-wise, as Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge. In Grand Rapids, we had a hard time even getting four teams for an adult women's outdoor soccer league. The league I play in here has 48 adult women's teams divided among four divisions.

10) The healthcare peace of mind. First let me say that all the bad things you've heard about Canadian healthcare are true (primarily the long wait times). However, all of the horrible things you've heard about the US healthcare system are true as well. I do know that Canadians have a longer life expectancy than Americans, so the health system can't be that bad. And though I know I'll have to wait longer when I go to the ER or if I need surgery, I'm also pretty confident that if my situation is urgent, it will be addressed with expediency. Most importantly, there is quite a bit of peace of mind involved in knowing that I won't ever be denied healthcare because I can't pay for it. I also know that I can have a procedure done or visit an ER without having to worry about how long it will take me to pay off the resulting medical bills. Maybe this peace of mind helps explain why Canadians live longer.

Happy Canada Day

1 comment:

Adam said...

Perhaps you've already heard the following:

U.S.A.= Melting pot.
Canada = Tossed Salad.

'Tis beautiful, eh?