Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Canada Day Thoughts: USA v. Canada


For Canada Day, why don't I write about something about ... Americans! (?)
 
My wife and I took a nice little mini-vacation to Canada's Vancouver, aka Seattle, and I got to observe Americans in their natural habitat.

While I talk to many Americans online every day, they are usually like-minded people, or those I deal with in my line of work. I don't often interact with the 'average' American, so these trips are always a little experience.

While Canada and the USA are similar in many ways, there is always a difference once you cross the border, and it's not just the air quality.

(many sweeping Generalizations, based on purely personal experience, abound!)

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SECURITY
This does not make me feel safe...

The American border guards are always surly and look at me as if I'm a terrorist, but that's their job. Ordinary Americans seem much more anal about perceived threats than they should be.

One recent example is us going into Safeco Field (a beautiful place) for a Mariners game. Not only did we have to empty our pockets, but we had to go through some kind of scanner. I'm used to a minor security checkpoint at Rogers Arena (mainly for alcohol), but this was a bit of overkill for a frickin' baseball game.

Airport security, security guards, police presence... you see a lot more of this south of the border than you do up here.

The funny thing is that this heightened security makes me feel more unsafe, more than anything else. The most law enforcement officers, security guards, and security checks I see, the more I'm subconsciously thinking "Is this place dangerous"?

FOOD

Variety:

I know Americans love their big, crappy chains, but Seattle seems to be a great place for restaurants.

Vancouver is often pointed-to, or wants to be, as a world-class city for food, but it lacks one major thing: VARIETY.

Vancouver has plenty of great restaurants, but if you want Central European, Eastern European, African, Southern, Cajun, Central American, South American, or Mexican cuisine, you are out of luck.

Almost every month, you can see a few new Japanese or Chinese restaurants open up in the Greater Vancouver region. While I enjoy both of these cuisines, the market must be saturated like 1-ply toilet paper after a single wipe. Vancouver also has enough "West Coast" restaurants to service the entire population of Canada.

Portion Sizes:

Somehow, we forgot that American restaurants serve about 3,500 calories worth of food on the average plate. I am a BIG eater, and thrice could not finish a good chunk of the food I ordered.

This might seem like a generalization, but it's happened on every trip to the US that I've been on. Hawaii was the one place that didn't seem hellbent on stuffing my stomach to the hilt, although just about every meal we had there was still very filling. 

Note to self: Order appetizers, or split a dish with the wife. I feel bad wasting so much food, and I can't understand how people can eat so damn much! Even the small restaurants give you massive portions.

PEOPLE

On an individual level, most Americans are quite friendly and easy to talk to. Even in more conservative areas (Phoenix/Scottsdale, San Leandro, Castro Valley), I've rarely had unpleasant interactions with the average person. In fact, I've tended to have more random conversations with American strangers than I have with Canadian strangers.

That said, Americans are hyper-competitive people, and seem to react quite strongly when competing for a resource(s), driving, involved in sporting events, or are discussing politics and/or religion.

American drivers are especially aggressive, and tailed my ass more than I'd ever allow my wife to. I even missed an exit because other drivers would speed up and cut me off. I guess that's the 'reward' for using my turn signal, something American drivers rarely seem to do. Ugh.

(Maui, being an obvious exception, is so laid back and slow...)

It's a weird Jekyll-Hyde thing, as I do find Americans can either be really nice, or really angry, yet not as much in the middle as the average Canadian I interact with.

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So, while I certainly enjoy my experiences in the USA with American people, I am certainly glad to be home in Canada Day to celebrate the better of the two countries ;)