As a Canadian, I watched the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election the same way that you might peek out from behind the curtains when you see a moving van pull in next door: with equal parts excitement and trepidation. You hope that the new neighbors will be nice, and that your two families will get along. Maybe their kids will play with your kids. Maybe there are backyard barbecues in your future. You hope that they won’t play the music too loud, and that they’ll mow the lawn when it needs mowing, not whenever they feel like it. In other words, you hope that they’ll be the same as you.
To add intrigue to the drama, there were already rumours circulating as to who the new neighbors might be. An elderly couple, we were told, one child grown and left the nest to start a nest of her own. Intellectuals, definitely. The kind of people that might shout, “Howdy, neighbor!” from across the yard instead of ignore you when you both happened to leave for work at the same time. Good people, not out to rock any boats.
But then the furniture started being unpacked and the first thing you noticed was that the rumours were wrong. Way wrong. Like, from another planet wrong. The new guy is loud, his wife is half his age, and there are multiple kids from multiple marriages helping out. He seems short tempered and opinionated, and he’s not kidding anyone about that hair. His attitudes remind you of Archie Bunker’s, only it’s not so funny when he says it. You don’t think you have a lot in common with this new guy, but you are Canadian, so you try not to think the worst of him and hope for the best. After all, you’re going to be neighbors for years, so it doesn’t help anyone out to get off on the wrong foot.
The moving analogy isn’t that far off the mark as the post-election rhetoric rises and falls. On election night, the Canadian immigration website crashed due to high traffic, almost all of it from America. So Canadians may actually be seeing Americans moving in next door, it just won’t be that guy or other guys like him. They’ll be more like that nice, elderly couple we were promised. But don’t blame the realtor! He thought the elderly couple was moving in, too, only the deal fell apart at the last minute. It happens all the time! It’s not his fault!
To Americans thinking of moving up here, the following is a list of things you may want to consider first:
1) We Really Like Hockey
And I mean really. As in, Saturday night is for hockey the way that Sunday morning is for church. It’s borderline compulsory. If you missed the game on Saturday night, you lie and say you saw it anyway the way that a gay person in a red state pretends to be straight. It’s just easier that way.
In America, hockey falls somewhere between bowling and hacky sack. It’s televised on channels that are sub-channels of the real channel, like ESPN Lite. Americans even call it ice hockey, like field hockey is so popular that people might confuse the two.
Take my advice: if you’re going to move to Canada, don’t ever call it ice hockey. It’s a dead giveaway that you’re not from around here, and it could even get you killed.
2) We Really Don’t Like Conflict
This is how we’re very different from Americans. Americans seem to live for conflict, whereas a Canadian will say, “Sorry!” as a reflex the same way some animals in the wild will play dead to avoid a fight. If the outer fabric of your clothes has potentially even brushed against the outer fabric of clothes that belong to someone else, you should play it safe and lead off with a “Sorry!” if you want to fit in. Anything else is playing with fire.
Although, maybe you’ll get lucky and the other person will say, “Sorry!” first, and then you’ll be off the hook. We just can’t stand the thought of having been in someone else’s way. Americans call it, “Blaming the victim,” but we Canadians call it good ol’ fashioned manners. Just like small children, we think that everything is our responsibility either because of something we did or didn’t do, and we hold ourselves accountable for it.
3) We Don’t Have Any Guns
Not really. I mean, some hunters have them, but everyone isn’t armed to the teeth. In Canada, when you’re in trouble, you call the cops. That’s what they’re there for. I know, I know, crazy, isn’t it? And our cops try really hard not to shoot people, especially if they don’t have any guns.
If, by accident, some Canadian picked up a gun that some hunter had dropped, the cops would try to talk to that person first. Hell, some of the copsdon’t even have guns. Why would they? We’re a nation of people that, when we’re in trouble, we just say, “Sorry!” and that takes care of that.
4) We’re Pretty Chill
And no, that isn’t a reference to our weather! Our Prime Minister used to be a professional dude. He was a bouncer, a boxer, an actor, and a hippy teacher before he was elected to our highest office. He’s totally on board with legalizing marijuana, having smoked it himself while holding elected office!
What’s more, he’s been photographed topless more often than Vladimir Putin. And he pops up everywhere! Canadians are now checking their wedding photos to see if they might have been photobombed by a shirtless Justin Trudeau last summer. And he’s got great hair. That’s one contest that we win hands down.
5) We’re Very Polite
This is a variation on #2 above, but it deserves its own entry. You’ve never heard of an aggressive Canadian, have you? (Not outside of a hockey rink, anyway). Your mother didn’t scare you with stories of Canadians coming across the border to steal jobs, did she?
To prove my point, a Canadian hockey team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup in over twenty years, and you know how much we love hockey (see #1 above). That’s because we thought that you guys were being left out, and we’re just that nice. It’s to make up for lost time, or something like that. (And you still call it ice hockey…!)
6) We’re Just Like You
Not only do we walk and talk like you, but many of your favorite American celebrities are actually Canadians. William Shatner? Ours. Seth Rogen? Ditto. He may have almost started a war with North Korea (which is a very un-Canadian thing to do), but he’s a Canuck, and it was an accident. Plus, he’s usually high, which explains a lot.
Sorry about Justin Bieber and Celine Dion, though. They can’t all be winners.
7) We Have Free Health Care
Just sayin’. It isn’t even a debate on this side of the border. We’ve all got it, even if we have to wait for hours in an emergency room to get it. But then, so do you, and you still have to pay for it.
8) We Know Everything About You
We get all of your shows, movies, and music. We could be like those Russian spies on The Americans, except we wouldn’t have to lose our Russian accents (the Canadian accent is actually a myth). As a matter of fact, many of us are already living among you, as noted in #6 above.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the other way around. Name a top ten Canadian TV show. Or a Blue Rodeo song. Or what the deal is with The Tragically Hip. Or even what a Juno is.
And that’s just culture. Then there’s geography! Did you know that on top of our ten provinces (which are like your states), there are three territories (which are like… Puerto Rico, I guess, only colder?). Did you know that the capital of Nunavut is Iqaluit? Did you know that Labrador is neither a province nor a territory, but part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, in the same way that upper and lower Michigan are actually the same state? You’ve got some boning up to do!
9) We Have An Open Border
Admittedly, that’s because of the cold, but nobody’s building any walls any time soon. And if we did, we’d build them out of snow, like a giant, one-sided igloo! What fun that would be!
10) Santa Claus Is A Canadian
Before you start to argue this point, hear me out. Santa Claus is nice; Canadians are nice. His clothes are red and white; our flag is red and white. He lives at the North Pole; we have the North Pole. Where did you think the North Pole was, anyway: Alaska? You take our geography away from us and we don’t have much left.
Besides, it’s not like Santa Claus’ colors were modeled after Coca-Cola’s! We’re a socialist country, not a capitalist one. We’re actually right next door to Vermont, which I think is why Bernie Sanders is a socialist. (Think of it as an international contact high.) Maybe he’ll be one of the ones moving here soon. At his age, he has to be eyeing our health care, and he’s used to the cold!
So there you have it: 10 things Americans need to know about Canada. I didn’t even mention the money, which is multi-coloured and has the Queen on it, or our one-dollar and two-dollar coins. I left off that we have our own football league (which has a field 110 yards long), and that we have two official languages, neither one of which is Spanish. Our national anthem is sung half in one, half in the other! We don’t leave anybody out!
I didn’t tell you everything because I didn’t want to freak you out. I know that you’re going through a difficult period right now, and it’s hard enough to adjust to the changes in your own country without focusing on the ways that Canada is different. This is just a primer in case you decide to make a run for it; the rest you can pick up when you get here. Just remember to be polite, don’t attract attention to yourself, and if you do, say “Sorry!” right away! You want to make a good first impression!
Originally published at Medium.com on Nov 14, 2016.