Keeping the house, the kids and the hubby without breaking the bank, the earth, the people I love, or myself.

Culture Shocks for an American in Canada

I suppose it was foolish of me to think I would not experience culture shock when I moved four hours away from Ohio to Ontario, Canada. Foolish or not, I was wrong.

Language Differences
My husband, who is Canadian by birth and lived most of his life in Canada, has no accent or strange speech habits.  I've heard the "eh" jokes in reference to Canadian lingo most of my life and didn't get it when I became a resident.  I've almost never heard "eh" in conversation.  I have heard it, but not much.  There are other things though.

Some pronunciations are different.  For instance when I pronounce "been" it sounds like bin.  But Canadian newscasters and educators say it like I say "bean."  It makes my ears tickle.

Like Bostonians, the accepted proper Canadian pronunciation of pasta is "pass-tah".  With an emphasis on the the first syllable.  Again:  ear tickles.

The article "a", as in I ate a single grape is pronounced the same as the a in apple.  My youngest children learned to read in Canada and each would correct me when I'd correct them over their pronunciation of the article "a".  It seems odd to me to say "a" like apple and not like ape. I don't hear this in everyday conversation, though.

The letter z has a name and it is not Zee.  It is Zed.  If you say Zee you are outing yourself as an American. (Though I cannot help but see an elderly, white-haired wizard anytime "Zed" is mentioned.  "Bags!" Now if you get that reference, you're a nerd like me ;) ) 

The other ear tickler is the word drama.  It's pronounced DRAM - uh here with emphasis on the first syllable and the first "a" is clearly an apple "a", unlike what I'm used to hearing which is more of a soft "o" sound or shortened "aw" sound.

Again!  Oh man, this is like a gain.  I'm used to uhgen with a hard g.  Nope.  They really emphasize that long hard A sound in the second syllable.

Sorry...actually I think Canadians probably pronounce things more like they should be pronounced based on the sounds of English letters, but still, I'm accustomed to different pronunciations so "sorry" to me sounds very much like sari but in Canada it's like sore- ee.

I'm sure there is more but I'll stop there and move on to something else.

Canadian Cigarettes
To an American these are weird.  The Canadian government has gone to great lengths to curb smoking and prevent prospective new smokers from ever wanting to pick up the habit.  In Canada the standard pack size contains 30 cigarettes (they do sell 20 packs, but people only buy those when they're short on cash.) Canadian cigarettes are very expensive.  $10 a pack for decent ones.  $7 a pack for economy ones.  If you're adventurous you'll buy what's called "reserves" but I'll discuss that later.

Many years ago the Canadian government required cigarette manufacturers to cover HALF the cigarette package with graphic health warnings.  Those warnings are:


These are on every pack of Canadian cigarettes.  On one side they're in English, on the other side they're in French.  Same pictures.  My favourite is the impotency one.  I'm a girl and impotency doesn't scare me so much.  I hate the bloody brain, rotting teeth, and diseased lungs ones though.

Canadian cigarette packs also list all their toxic emissions and the percentage of each chemical:  Tar, Nicotine, Carbon Monoxide, Formaldehyde, Hydrogen Cyanide and Benzene. 

Those who wish to avoid the $10/pack fee for cigarettes, and those with Native status, will buy their cigarettes on a Native Reserve for about $15/carton.  They come in giant ziploc bags which contain 200 cigarettes (pictured on the bottom two shelves):
There has been a large anti-reserve cigarettes campaign, however, with warnings about the dangers of these "unregulated" cigarettes.  (They are unregulated because they're made in factories on Native Reservations, which are sovereign from the Canadian Government so unregulated by the Canadian Government.)  According to billboards and print ads that have been appearing all over Canada these "Cheap Smokes" "contain insect eggs, mold and human feces." I suspect the Canadian Government is somewhat annoyed that it's not collecting its $7 taxes per pack that it does on other cigarettes sold here. (I have to admit I do wonder how exactly human feces can be in cigarettes....?  Then I try not to think about it any more!)

And by the way, nobody smokes "cigarettes" in Canada -- they're called "smokes" here.

Highways and Byways
In the states I was accustomed to routing many drives many different ways.  Going between two main cities, I could choose a few different routes based on traffic or construction or scenery if I wanted.  That's not very likely here.

Canada's got a couple highways. I do mean a couple. There seems to be one going north to south in Ontario and another going east to west across the entire country. There are no more. That's it. Want to find a quicker route from Niagara to Toronto? Want to avoid the holiday weekend traffic?  Want to avoid the construction?  HA! Unless you're swimming or flying, there is ONE WAY to drive it and one way only.

And for those who weren't aware, Ontario is the center of the universe. Just so ya know. Other Canadians are a bit miffed that darned near everything in Canada is in Ontario, but it seems to have worked out that way. Sorry. I didn't do it. I just enjoy the benefits of it.  (40% of Canada's population resides in Ontario.  In a way this center-of-the-universe thing makes sense once you know that.)

Hopefully no one thinks I am poking fun at Canada.  I love it here.  I love the land, the scenery, the people, the sense of community in every community I've lived.  There's more, but I'll save it for another day.

4 comments:

Mom vs. the boys 12:02 PM  

that's a great post, I love to hear the differences. The great thing about Canadians is we love a good laugh and will even poke fun at ourselves. were pretty easy going when it comes to stuff like that!

Gill - That British Woman 6:05 PM  

oh do I know about the differences, and even with us living here for the past 21 years, I occasionally run into difficulties with our pronounciation and theirs!!

Gill

(You're special too!!)

overtiredmum 12:59 PM  

Great post - I'm incredibly ignorant (and today can't spell!) so to me Canada just seems like a suburb of the USA. I'm not to great on accents even the Britsih ones confuse me (any thing remotely southern is Cockney a al Mary Poppins).

However, I think this is probably a worldwide trait. When I visited California someone asked me if I had an accent (?), when I said where I was from they asked if I knew where their Aunt in South Africa lived.

Thanks for the Canadian education (there is more than men on horses) xo

Limon Islam 8:24 PM  

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About This Blog

Saving money. Saving graces. Raising children, husbands and, sometimes, cats. Laughing. Living. Thinking. Doing. Life in the Niagara Region of Ontario.

About Me

I am a happily married woman with four children and various cats and kittens (fosters). I love to read and my favourite authors are George RR Martin, Thomas Hardy, Raymond Carver, PD James, Kurt Vonnegut, J. K. Rowling, and Margaret Atwood. I know there are only three women in that list (and none of them American), so if you'd like to suggest some I'm willing to give them a shot! And yes, I am an American living in Canada. (Hence the nick -- CannedAm.) I like it here. There are things about the states that I miss, but my love is here and this country has things to offer that my own does not. Things that make my quality of life much better than it ever was in Ohio. Guess I'm stuck here. Though there's a nice spot in the Appalachian hills where I'd love to spend my retirement.

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