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.
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.
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:
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):
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.