One Foot in Each World

Author credit:  Mexico - Fry1989 Russian Alaska - Дмитрий-5-Аверин Dominion of Canada - Дмитрий-5-Аверин USA - Lokal_Profil
Author credit:
Mexico – Fry1989
Russian Alaska – Дмитрий-5-Аверин
Dominion of Canada – Дмитрий-5-Аверин
USA – Lokal_Profil

I became a dual U.S./Canadian citizen four years ago. Opa wanted to know more about what it’s been like.

That isn’t unusual at all here. My brother-in-law, dental hygienist, and many friends and acquaintances are immigrants as well. About half of the people currently living in Toronto were born in other countries.

The differences between the U.S. and Canada are subtle in many ways. Both countries speak English and were once British colonies. The climate in Toronto is quite similar to what I grew up with in Ohio (and Wyoming, too, during our occasionally harsh winters).

That’s not to say that there haven’t been times when I’ve experienced a little culture shock.

American soft drinks and snack foods taste strange. I’m guessing it’s related to the corn syrup that they use. Canadians use it, too, but we don’t seem to put into quite as many products. Once I’ve adjusted to them again I do end up liking them. It just takes a while to retrain my tastebuds.

My side of the family says hello to the people they pass on the street. Granted, their cities are smaller and much less crowded than Toronto. I still find an odd thing to adjust to when I visit them though.  Once or twice I’ve come back home and accidentally greeted a stranger because I’d sort of grown accustomed to that tradition. The strange looks they give me are worth feeling feeling embarrassed about it for a minute or two. It’s not easy to surprise a Torontonian after all!

It’s cool to see signs written in Spanish down there. Ontario usually only posts notices in French and English, although I have seen other languages used in certain government buildings. I’m a little surprised every time by how much I’ve missed trying (usually without much success) to translate the Spanish signs.

A few years ago my husband and I both caught colds while visiting my side of the family. It amazed me to see what a hassle it was to buy medicine that contained pseudo ephedrine. We had to talk to the pharmacist and give him all kinds of personal information first.  It weirded me out because we were both obviously sick and only needed a single box of the stuff. In Canada we have no problem with this kind of purchase.

Speaking of being sick, I still haven’t fully adjusted to the idea that you don’t have to pay when you need to see a doctor or go to the hospital. Last summer I made an appointment with my family doctor to take a look at something that I was 95% sure wasn’t going to be a problem. (It wasn’t.) That 5% chance that it might be something worrisome stuck in the back of my mind, though, and it was reassuring to have it checked out for free long before it would have posed a serious risk. There’s really something to be said for having the freedom to do that. I wonder how many lives have been saved by untangling how much money you have with whether or not you think you should see a doctor about something small.

There were other things that stood out to me when I first moved up here that I now think are more of a function of city life than moving to another country. I strongly suspect that almost any metropolitan area in North America is going to be accepting of LGBT people, not bat an eyelash at interracial families, and feel uncomfortable with friendship evangelism.

It will be interesting to see how things shift in the next 5-10 years. I could see the U.S. shifting around a lot in that time period.

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