Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Robert Waite


Five Things Canadians Just Don't Get About Americans (and Vice-Versa)

Posted: 01/09/2013 5:22 pm

One of the stranger aspects of being a dual citizen and frequently floating back and forth across the Canada/U.S. border is that people on both sides often express their opinions regarding their neighbor-nation. I have informally kept track of the more common assertions over the years. I call them "Five Things Canadians Just Don't Get About Americans" and "Five Things Americans Just Don't Get About Canadians." Let's start with the things Canadians just don't get:

1. The Fear of Ending the Dollar Bill - Canadians chucked the paper dollar bill years ago; they later did away with the two-dollar bill. The Loonie and Toonie are generally popular and, because they don't wear out, they save taxpayers millions. And what's with the US keeping the penny when everyone else seems to be pitching it?

2. Ice Hockey in Phoenix, Nashville and Points South - Canadians like to visit warm places, but they don't expect to watch a hockey game there. Nor do they expect anyone else to. If there is a most hated man in Canada, it is NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman for his southern expansion strategy (and episodic player lockouts). Everybody in Canada knows that the NHL should move those southern teams to where they belong -- Quebec City, Hamilton, and Moose Jaw!

3. The U.S. Defense Budget - Sure, the U.S. helped win two World Wars and outlasted the Soviets during the Cold War -- but does any one nation need to outspend the next eight combined? The only rationale Canadians can think of is that those aliens at Roswell left a message that they're coming back... and we'd better be ready. Or that George Lucas is planning another Star Wars sequel...and needs extras.

4. Refusal to Adopt the Metric System - This is a philosophical cousin to the refusal to convert paper currency to coin. Jimmy Carter talked about doing it...and we all know what happened to him. Canadians made the switch years ago, joining virtually every other country in the world. They wonder if the fact the Metric system originated in France might have doomed it amongst Americans. Or perhaps not converting it is just a strategy to confuse those aliens (who undoubtedly will arrive with metric tools).

5. Saturday Postal Delivery - Again, the Canadians gave this up in the 1970's, but Americans seem to think the Republic will fall if the postman doesn't ring at least once on Saturdays. Of course the Republic might fall instead from the billions of dollar the U.S. Postal Service loses annually (but that's apparently never a compelling issue).

In the belief that turnabout is fair play, here are five things Americans most commonly tell me they just don't get about Canada:

1. The Whole Kraft Dinner Thing - Americans are mystified by the Canadian obsession with KD (or "Mac and Cheese", as they call it.). According to Sasha Chapman, writing in The Walrus, Canadians consume 3.2 boxes of the powdered cheese and noodle concoction each year -- 55 percent more than Americans do. It's bigger than poutine...bigger than beaver tails...and bigger than arctic char or northern pike. Americans figure the Great Depression must have never ended in Canada. What they don't know is that Canadians actually eat KD to prolong their childhood (if not their life expectancy). And they won't give it up, even for a million dollars.

2. Parliamentary Democracy - Americans, used to badgering their local Congressman about every imaginable issue, are shocked when they learn that there is something called "party discipline" in Canada, whereby members of parliament, with very rare exceptions, vote exactly as they are told by party whips. (Warning: Americans will fall over in a dead faint if you relay the additional news that a Canadian political campaign typically lasts only 30 to 40 days...and costs, compared to U.S. elections, about as much as a box of Kraft dinner.)

3. Love of Taxes - OK, maybe not love of taxes, but Americans, even Democrats, can't quite fathom Canada's high tax-pain threshold and near universal compliance. It's not just the higher income tax rates in most jurisdictions; there's also the VAT, or GST or HST or whatever it is we're now calling the sales tax. Add to this the lack of mortgage interest deductions and, in the eyes of most south of the border, you're pretty much looking at Sweden...with fewer blondes and duller knives.

4. Weird Holidays - Americans sort of get Victoria Day and Remembrance Day, and many secretly envy Thanksgiving coming in October. But "Civic Holiday"? Or "Family Day"? Real holidays should be about battles or dead Presidents! And the one they really don't get is "Boxing Day." Among other things, it just sounds so old-fashioned. "Cage-Fighting Day" anyone?

5. Canadian Politeness - It's not just that Canadians frequently ask to be excused, pardoned or forgiven, even when it is the other person who has transgressed. It is also the lack of boasting, bragging or conversational volume and the general good-naturedness. It can get on an American's nerves, especially after living in New York or Texas. Even Canadian dogs, the Labrador and the Newfoundland, seem to follow this pattern of tolerant affability, making them perfect pets for children, Tea Party members, and others who have not fully matured. But the truth is that it is possible to annoy a Canadian to the point of provoking an outburst. You simply utter the phrase "asymmetrical federalism"... or substitute his or her Labatts or Molson with a Bud Lite.

So that's my list. Feel free comment or add some of your own!


Loading Slideshow...
  • Bank of Montreal Dollar - 1825

    Until the mid-19th century, Canada's future provinces used the "Canadian pound." Bit by bit, various jurisdictions began to switch to a metric system, and with it came the concept of the Canadian dollar. This Bank of Montreal-issued dollar bill is among the first bills called a dollar to have been printed.

  • Bank of Montreal Dollar - 1859

    Various banks printed their own currency until eventually the Bank of Montreal was charged with being the official issuer of the Canadian dollar, a practice that stayed in place until the Bank of Canada was created in the 1930s.

  • Bank of Toronto Dollar - 1859

    The Bank of Toronto (today known as TD Bank) was among many banks that issued Canadian dollars in the second half of the 19th century.

  • Ontario Bank Dollar - 1861

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Province of Canada Dollar - 1866

    The province of Canada comprised Ontario and Quebec and existed from 1841 to 1867. It issued its own currency. Image courtesy of Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1870

    With confederation in 1867, the first truly national Canadian dollar came into being. Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1898

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1911

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1917

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1923

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Bank of Canada Dollar - 1935

    The Bank of Canada took over the issuance of currency from the Bank of Montreal when it was created in the 1930s. Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Bank of Canada Dollar - 1937

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Canada Dollar - 1954

    The 1954 dollar was the first to feature Queen Elizabeth II and the first to simply say "Canada" on it, rather than featuring the name of a bank, province or referring to the country as a "dominion."

  • Centennial Dollar - 1967

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Canada Dollar - 1973

    This was the last paper dollar issued in Canada. It was in circulation until 1987, when the loonie replaced it. Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • The Loonie - 1987

    The loonie replaced the one-dollar bill in Canada in 1987. Image: CP

  • Canada 125 Loonie - 1992

    The Mint issued a special edition of the loonie in 1992 to commemorate the country's 125th birthday.

  • Vancouver Olympics Loonie - 2010

    An Inuit inukshuk graced the tail of this loonie issued in 2010 to coincide with the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

  • The Loonie - Anniversary Special - 2012

    The Royal Canadian Mint issued a special-edition version of the loonie in 2012 to commemorate the coin's 25th anniversary. Image: Royal Canadian Mint.


Loading Slideshow...
  • The New $5 Bill

    Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankofcanada/8693039417/sizes/c/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Bank Of Canada, Flickr</a>

  • The New $5 Bill

    From <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankofcanada/8694157272/in/photostream" target="_blank">Bank Of Canada, Flickr</a>: "Robotics innovation is Canada’s ongoing contribution to the international space program and demonstrates our commitment to space exploration. The Canadian-built Mobile Servicing System is the sophisticated robotics suite that helped to assemble the International Space Station in orbit. This system consists of Canadarm2, Dextre and the Mobile Base. On board the space station—a permanent orbiting research laboratory—international partners conduct scientific experiments, many of which result in an enhanced quality of life on earth. Canada’s contribution to the space program evokes pride and sparks the imagination and curiosity of our future leaders in science and technology."

  • The New $10 Bill

    Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankofcanada/8693039429/sizes/c/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Bank Of Canada, Flickr</a>

  • The New $10 Bill

    From <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankofcanada/8693039423/in/photostream" target="_blank">Bank Of Canada, Flickr</a>: "The expansion of the railway in the 1880s was hailed as a remarkable feat of engineering for a young country with a varied and often treacherous terrain. At the time, the railway was the longest ever built, and its completion demonstrated Canada’s pioneering spirit by linking our eastern and western frontiers, connecting people, and facilitating the exchange of goods. Today, The Canadian train, winding its way through the Rockies showcases Canada’s natural beauty and symbolizes what we accomplished as a young nation."

  • The New $5 And $10 Bills

    Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney unveils the new polymer $5 and $10 bank notes during a press conference at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

  • The New $5 And $10 Bills

    Finance Minister Jim Flaherty unveils the new polymer $5 and $10 bank notes during a press conference at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

  • The New $10 Bill

    A new polymer $10 bank note is displayed during a press conference at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

  • Astronaut Chris Hadfield Displays The New $5 Bill

    Astronaut Chris Hadfield poses for a photo with a new polymer $5 bank note on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

  • The New $20 Bill

    Hand holding up the new polymer Canadian $20.00 bill.

  • The New $20 Bill

    Some new polymer twenty dollar bills, which is the most widely used bank note in the country, are pictured at Montreal on November 19, 2012.

  • The New $20 Bill

    The Bank of Canada introduced the plastic see-through $20 bill on May 2, 2012.

  • The New $50 Bill

    Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney holds a new $50 bill while standing in front of the Canadian Coast guard ship Amundsen Monday, March 26, 2012 in Quebec City. The Amundsen is displayed on the back of the new bank note made of polymer.

  • The New $100 Bill

    Bank of Canada Mark Carney shows off the bank's new circulating $100 bill, Canada's first polymer bank note, in Toronto on Monday Nov. 14, 2011.

  • The New $100 Bill

    The $100 bill was the first of Canada's paper denominations to go plastic and see-through.

  • Australia's polymer note

    An Australian 100 dollar polymer note is displayed above various international currencies. AFP PHOTO / Torsten BLACKWOOD

  • Australia's polymer note


  • Mexico's polymer note

    A Mexican pesos note made out of polymer material. Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images

  • Mexico's polymer note

    Mexico City, MEXICO: A sample of the new 50 Mexican pesos' note made out of polymer material to hinder its forgery, 14 November, 2004 in Mexico City. AFP PHOTO/Alfredo ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Next: Twitter Jokes About New Bills

  • Andrew Coyne

    Even that would be better. @InklessPW: Wells designs new bills. What'll we put on the 5? Oscar Peterson. The 10? Peterson. 20? Glenn Gould

  • Cory S.

    Wait so there's no more quote from the Hockey Sweater on the new $5 bills? #manifencours

  • Tabatha Southey

    New bills should be 5 pin bowling for the $5, a Robertson screwdriver for the $10, a Canadian flag, draped over a picnic bench on the backs.

  • LauraBeaulneStuebing

    Theory about the new $5 and $10 bills: They're ugly enough that we don't want to keep them in our wallets.

  • Paul Wells

    Paul Wells designs the new bills. "What'll we put on the 5?" "Oscar Peterson." "And on the 10?" "Oscar Peterson." "20?" "Glenn Gould."

  • Wesley Fok

    Was expecting the new $5/$10 bills to literally have pictures of poop on them, based on the outcry. Surprise: they look like money!

  • Patrick Meehan

    Q: You're the federal government, what do you put on the new 5$ and 10$ bills? A: Things you've cut funding to. http://t.co/jqT3BLmENc

  • Jason Rehel

    Everyone is pretty damn hung up on the AESTHETICS of the new $5 and $10 bills in Canada. Me? I'd like money that WORKS in vending machines

  • Brittlestar

    @Cmdr_Hadfield Dude, with all the stuff you’ve had up there (guitars, Easter eggs, new $5 bills), how BIG was your suitcase?


Follow Robert Waite on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@RobertWaite8