"Canada's Mexico?" Welcome to the United States…

With the Canadian dollar at par with the USD for the first time in thirty years, Shea and I  (oh, and Pace too!  He gets to claim his $400 worth of goods for being out of the country for 48 hours just like anybody) decided to join the hordes of Canadians making the pilgrimage to Minot, North Dakota, a small town (35 000 people) with a big(gish) shopping mall an hour south of the border.  We arrived Friday morning and leave tomorrow to go back to Weyburn.  In the in-between time, it's been nearly constant shopping, swimming and eating. 

Here are some random thoughts…
– after a lifetime of having the USD higher than the Canadian dollar (with all the related “Monopoly money” jokes), I'm still not used to buying something for say, $50USD and realising “hey, that only cost me $48.10”.  It's not much but it's still a big adjustment. 

– add in the fact that many things are already cheaper in the US – groceries, clothes, books, etc. plus the fact that the dollar has had a steady rise to parity over the past three years – and its like we're getting 10-40% discounts on every single thing we buy.

– I would highly recommend the Best Western Kelly Inn.  Much cheaper than the Sleep Inn that's attached to the mall but still has a pool, great continental breakfast, free in-room wireless (obviously), rooms with both a microwave and fridge plus not too far from the mall – just across a parking lot basically. 

– it's unbelievable how many Canadians are down here.  The parking lots are worse than your local mall's in the weeks before Christmas.

– apparently the real savings are on the big ticket items – people are buying cars and boats and RV's and big screen TV's and saving 50% off what they'd pay in Canada.

– books are so much cheaper because they're one of the few consumer products with the USD & CND price printed right on them so it's hard for bookstores in Canada to adjust to the new exchange rate easily.  Well, they could but they'd have to re-label every book so it's something like 40% cheaper – so who's going to do that?  I've tried to resist buying books because that's the last thing I need more of – but I think I'll pick up Cormac McCarthy's “The Road” tomorrow since it's one of the best books I've read in recent memory – and a million times more affecting having just had a son.

– I don't think this is a huge revelation but religion is so much more overt in the States than in Canada.  Coming in, we drove past a group of teens with signs that said “Honk if you're pro-life” and “Honk if you're drug free”.  I can honestly say I've never seen that in Canada.  (I also didn't honk but I'll let you guess which of those two sentiments kept me from laying on the horn. )  You see it in the bookstores too – huge displays at the front of the store for books by Joel Osteen and similar authors/titles.

(This is a complete tangent but I had a roommate in undergrad who belonged to a fundamentalist church.  We were talking one day and it came out that I was an atheist.  She literally recoiled when I told her this and I said “Well, can't we just agree to disagree?” and she's like “No!  That means you have the devil in you and that's why you believe that.”  Oh.  So anyhow, we carried on living together and she would occasionally try to convert me and I would occasionally speak in tongues just to frighten her (kidding.)  She moved out (not the next day which was surprising considering that whole “living with the devil” thing) and I bumped into her – funny enough at a bar – a few months later.  We got talking and I asked how her new living arrangements with some friends from her church were.  Swear to god (now there's some irony), she says to me: “I know you were full of the devil but you were still one of the best roommates I had in my life.” )

So yeah, that's got everything and nothing to do with the United States.  So let's conclude with a list (note: these are all from memory and I'm too lazy to look up the proof.  So don't repeat these as gospel…)

– the United States is one of three countries in the world that doesn't use the metric system
– the United States is the only developed nation without universal health care
– the United States has the largest trade deficit by far of any nation on earth
– the United States has the largest military/defense budget by far of any nation on earth
– the United States is the only developed nation that still has the death penalty
– the United States is the only democracy in the western world with only two major political parties

They say that one of the main ways that you can define a Canadian is by how they have a need to define themselves against Americans and/or how they're reflexively anti-American.  Although it may look that way, that's not what I'm going for with this list.  But I do think these facts are important to keep in mind – and I wish more Americans knew them too.  (er, and it'd be even better if I actually found proof before anybody looked at the list as I already mentioned.)

There's a quote, I think it was made by Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip – “one on one, Americans are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet.  But as a group, the  y scare the hell out of me!” 

That's a good place to end.  Tomorrow, we get to see if the US has finished building that fence to keep the northern neighbours out as well.

Comments 2

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    that last quote…I think the same can be said of Tragically Hip fans… 🙂
    I think there was a Rheostatics song about that. I should look it up.

    Posted 28 Oct 2007 at 4:52 am
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Good point.
    Not sure which Rheos song you're thinking of but isn't the “It's not the band I hate, it's their fans” line from Sloan's “Coax Me” about the Hip?
    Spirit of the West also have a song called “Our Ambassador” about being the opening act for the Hip during one of their US tours:

    Our super-hero in a maple-leaf cape
    Was locked in the trunk of a car
    and he escaped
    He's a Moosehead muppet on
    an ex-pat kick
    Got a valid passport and he's proud of it
    Prairie boy-wonder why are you
    spittin' corn
    In the Yankee's eye?
    Aways-away and gone awry
    On a Wichita Monday night

    Posted 05 Nov 2007 at 3:52 pm
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