Americans and Canadians share a lot of similarities, but the differences can often be glaring, from guns to Cheezies
People marvel sometimes how the offspring of the same parents, raised in the same house in roughly the same time period, can be so different.
What about countries? What about Canadians and Americans?
We share the same parents, considering that we all mostly emerged from native and imported stock with early immigration primarily from Britain and Europe. We also shared the same house, or at least, except for Hawaii, are next door neighbours. As well, we’ve been here for about the same length of time.
Clayton and Marjorie Markusson winter in Texas and have become good friends with their neighbours there. They’ve particularly enjoyed making sausages with a farm family with which they have become acquainted.
A visiting relative remarked that she’d figured out why Clayton and Marjorie enjoyed their Texas winters so much.
Related stories in this feature:
- A story of two happy snowbirds
- Read your health insurance policy before you travel
- Prairie land conservancy provides alternative
- Handing off the farm to an outsider
“They’re just like us,” she said.
However, there are also differences, and health care is one of them. In Canada, it’s pretty much covered by taxes. We have universal health care, which covers most medical needs.
In the United States, some people buy insurance, some are covered by their employer and some go without.
“People without health-care insurance may not seek care when they need it and thus develop a serious disorder that could have been prevented. Medical bills that are not covered by health insurance can lead to bankruptcy,” says the Merck Manual – Consumer Version.
Judy Hamilton, a former snowbird, said that during her winters in Arizona health care was a topic her American acquaintances often initiated.
“Americans tend to be insular,” she said.
“Nobody likes paying taxes, but they really don’t like paying taxes. I remember one conversation in which I was asked how I felt about our medicare and I tried to be diplomatic.… I ended with the comment that no one goes bankrupt over health care in Canada and their reply was, ‘our country is going to be bankrupt.’ ”
Guns are another hot topic.
In Canada, the right to bear arms is not enshrined in the constitution as it is in the United States. Also, Canadian gun laws are written and administered federally. In the U.S., they can vary from state to state and those favoured by snowbirds do tend to have, according to your view, the best or the worst gun laws — in other words, the least like ours.
Gun ownership in Canada tends to be mostly confined to hunters, farmers and bad guys, while in the U.S. it’s not uncommon for people who fit into none of those categories to be carrying a weapon. Whether or not it’s concealed would depend on the regulations in that particular state. Institutions such as some schools and businesses have designated themselves as “gun free.” Hamilton said she finds the need for such measures disturbing.
“When you see signs in restaurants, ‘we are a gun free zone,’ or, ‘do not bring guns into this restaurant,’ that is scary,” she said.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to do away with gun-free zones might not make her feel any better. So far he hasn’t acted on that promise, which he later re-worded to apply to only military bases and schools and later still to “some” schools.
Generally, Canadians are less religious than Americans. In the U.S., 51 percent of the population identifies as Protestant Christian, forming the so-called “silent majority.” In Canada, 42 percent identify as Roman Catholic and 23 percent as Protestant.
The U.S.’s heavy Christian leanings influence much of its cultural and political landscape. That influence is present in Canada but in lesser numbers and arguably with less influence. Canadian politicians rarely discuss their faith.
On the lighter side, Americans buy gas by the gallon, milk by the quart and apples by the pound. They travel miles and they measure those balmy winter temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit. None of this will be a problem for older snowbirds who still remember the imperial system and will slip easily into gallons and miles and the comfort of a 75 F day.
They pronounce the last letter of the alphabet as “zee” rather than “zed,” they wear hoodies and knitted caps or beanies instead of bunny hugs and tuques with tennis shoes, gym shoes or sneakers, but never runners, on their feet.
They might wear a robe or a bathrobe rather than a housecoat as they relax on the sofa or couch, but if it’s leather, some might call that sitting place a chesterfield, as Canadians do.
The popular notion that Americans don’t take their shoes off when they enter someone’s home may depend on region. Logically, it tends to be true if it is raining when you arrive, what the host or hostess does and whether or not you are in certain areas, such as Texas, where it is considered rude to take off your shoes before being invited to do so by your host or hostess.
You won’t find icing sugar if you’re looking for it, but you will find powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar, which is the same thing. A chocolate bar is a candy bar there and the frozen treat we know as a freezie might be an Otter Pop south of the border.
Referring to milk homogenized with 3.25 per cent milk fat as “Homo Milk” could offend U.S. residents. In that country, “homo” is a derogatory term for a homosexual.
If your favourite snacks include Cheezies, ketchup chips, hickory sticks and Coffee Crisp candy bars, stock up before you head south. For sure, you won’t find Cheezies there and the other three might not be available either.
Canadian retirees report that their American neighbours don’t want to pay taxes.
Hamilton said they think people should just pull themselves up by the boot straps and nobody should be getting anything from the government.
“Now this became much more evident when we moved to a different park and were golfing with a different set of people,” she said.
“And the Republican attitude became evident in that they loathed and despised President (Barack) Obama in particular and would make very derogatory remarks about him with no incentive and the attitude was, ‘we’re OK and I don’t care about anyone else.’
“(Some Canadians) are becoming much more vocal and having same attitude: ‘we don’t want welfare, immigrants are terrible people.’ There’s always been a divide to politics but it’s become to me much more evident and much more divisive, much more acceptable to expound these views, and unfortunately I have seen this.
“So I stopped going to the U.S. because of the politics and the guns.”