Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Some Cross-Border Observations

January 30, 2007


Back from the annual trek down to Myrtle Beach. As you can see from the photo above, we didn’t let the mid-50F weather hinder us too much. It’s going down to a balmy 5F here tonight, so you can see how to us, mid-50’s was A-ok.

It was kinda funny sitting on the beach barefoot, making a couple of sandcastles, my daughter running knee-deep into the icy Atlantic to get water. All the while, people were trudging by with heavier coats (some even wearing winter hats!) giving a polite smile to the two lone crazies on the beach.

At the risk of generalizing far too much, here’s a quick, completely un-researched set of observations (some serious and some silly) I made about the U.S. while I was down there this week. Hopefully it might generate some comment, and hopefully not any harsh feelings. Take these with a grain of salt, and of course preface just about everything with ‘in the small part of the US that we were in…’

In no particular order:

1. You seem to have pre-pay for gas everywhere that we went. I never seem to have to do this up here. Although I don’t frequent downtown Toronto gas stations that often, I don’t ever remember having to pay before I pump (unless it’s via debit/credit card at the pump).

2. Southern hospitality is definitely not a myth. The hotel, airport and restaurant staff we dealt with seemed significantly more friendly and helpful than they are around here.

3. Maybe it’s just me, but it always seems like the US is lacking in middle class. There seem to be a lot of people with large cars, large homes and money to burn, and a lot of people with very little. Homes seem either huge and pretty or small and decrepit. A lot of people at each end of the scale and not so many in-between. Up here it seems like there are a lot more people “in-between”.

4. There are a lot of abandoned buildings and malls. Stores move to new locations and the old malls remain partially empty or completely abandoned. This seems more prevalent in Western NY, but I saw the same thing in Myrtle Beach. In southern Ontario old buildings get torn down and replaced, they’re not just left to sit. I’m not sure why this is so. Maybe it’s the real estate laws, or maybe something else.

5. People in the states seem to eat out at restaurants *a lot*. In Cheektowaga I was mystified as to why the IHOP was full of people at 9pm. Granted Myrtle Beach is a bit skewed as it is full of tourist-types, but even the smallest, greasiest looking places seem to be doing a brisk business on week nights.

6. Portions in US restaurants are huge compared to those here. My in-laws love this since they are all about the portion vs. cost relationship. I won’t lie. My belly loves this also. But when you order a plate of spaghetti from the kid’s menu you get a full size heap of pasta along with a huge side of fries. My daughter is currently in veggie rehab since arriving back. It does seem like you’re getting ripped off when you get back here. 😉

7. Quality fruits and veggies seem in short supply in the grocery stores. And the stuff they do have is significantly more expensive than it is here. I noticed this in Western NY as well as down south. Maybe something to do with the freeze in California?

8. This is weird, but I noticed a lot of people buying food in gas bar/convenience stores. To me it is strange to see a guy perusing the hot cashews or hotdog rollers in a gas bar. I had to line up behind 6 people at a convenience store when buying some milk. Four of those six people were buying food to eat (Little Debbie cakes, microwaved sandwiches and the like). Our gas bars have a small refrigerated section holding microwavable sandwiches, but I’ve never in the past ten years actually seen anyone buying or eating them.

9. Gospel shows and Evangelicals seem to clog the Sunday morning cable channels. While we have our fair share of evangelicals on Sunday mornings, you definitely see and notice how religion seems to play a much more prominent role in the US. The alternatives seemed to be infomercials out the wazoo. It was either finding God, getting ripped abs, or running whole meals through a juicer!

Americans and Canadians share so much culture that it’s hard to believe you could ever tell the difference. It’s actually quite surprising that there are any differences at all, but there are.

Have I generalized too much, have I got it all wrong? Please educate me.

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