Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 182

The Ten Pound Tour

There is a great expat site called the Displaced Nation and they asked me to write a guest post, so I chose one of my favourite topics in the USA – food! Read about the perils of dining in and out in America, and why they call this the Ten Pound Tour……

Oh yeah, burger time!

Oh yeah, burger time!

Canada, oh Canada, how we love your gentle ways

Something I’ve often wondered about is Canada’s relationship with the USA. I see it as the quiet, gentle, calm cousin who doesn’t say much, but gets on with life and is pretty content with where it’s at and what’s it’s doing. Secure in it’s own skin, you might say.

I have relatives in Canada and have visited it at various periods in my life (perhaps not often enough), and I’ve always found it charming.

Louise is a friend of mine in the UK, who was born in Canada, spent time in the USA and now lives in England. This is her perspective of those countries and relationships.

Louise’s Canadian/American/British Tale

I was born in Canada in 1967. My younger brother and myself were adopted three years later by British parents, who had already adopted an English girl and had brought her to Canada where my father was working. Soon after our family moved to Flanders, New Jersey. We lived there until May 1977, when my mother’s cancer became terminal and she wanted to move to the UK to be with her family. She died less than 2 years later.

Since then there has been much family drama, which resulted in our family being, for the most part, torn apart. I finished my education in evening classes whilst working to pay my rent, having been kicked out of my home at 15. I met my husband while working in London, and we married in Italy some 7 years later. I now live in Hertfordshire with my husband and our three children and two dogs.

What do you enjoy most about living in the UK?
I love the cultural diversity of the UK. I can walk into my little town and eat a huge variety of different international foods, from Turkish, Thai and Malaysia to Indian and Bangladeshi, West Indian and Mexican. My small town also has two temples – Sikh and Hindu, and about six different varieties of Christian churches.

A lovely British church

A lovely British church

History: There can be few places in the world who have such great respect for and drive to preserve history, historical sites and monuments, and historical culture. The UK has an extraordinary history – as a nation it once conquered two-thirds of the globe, and she’s only a tiny island! Yet there are prehistoric sites, ancient temples and standing stones from before the Christian influences. Literally hundreds of castles, structures, buildings and artifacts are to be found from one end of the country to the other.

I LOVE the BBC. In general I like British television, and having travelled reasonably extensively, I think it offers the highest quality and selection of programmes I’ve come across.

Good old Auntie!

Good old Auntie!

The theatre arts in the UK are enviable internationally. The quality of anything from small, local theatre companies to West End productions, the actors, set design, music and direction are given great support, and produced with energy and enthusiasm that would rival any Hollywood movie production. This filters into British cinema too, where stories are told with real feelings and thought-provoking themes, and acted out by professionals who are as happy on the stage as they are behind a camera.

It’s difficult to beat the British sense of humour. Irony is at it’s helm, but the variety and intelligence of most comics here in the UK is second to none.

Music variety: The wide range of music played here in the UK is even greater than the variety of nationalities and cuisines. In the UK you will get people following one genre of music, sure. But the majority of people will listen to rap, blues, soul, funk, reggae, rock and indie, all in one morning.

The old people in the UK are brilliant!!! Many either fought in or were part of the War Effort in WW2. The resilience, the lack of waste, the ability to know how to have a good time, the cheeky jokes and the way ladies still wear gloves and hats to weddings – all these things are very endearing.

I could go on and on, but one final thing – British resilience. Throw famine, acts of God, war, drought, you can throw any of them at the British, and will they riot? Will they collapse in a heap, sobbing at their poor lot in life? F*ck no!! The British just roll up their sleeves and get on with it – whatever you throw at them. Will they moan? Yes, of course. But they’ll also laugh at themselves moaning. They’ll get on with life and just work it out somehow. Some will get together and work a solution, while others will quietly get on and find a way around it on their own. Above all, they will NOT be defeated. Like the Monty Python Black Knight sketch, where the soldiers chop each of the knights limbs off, one by one, and the knight turns around and says “Come back here and get what’s coming to you! I’ll bite you’re legs off!!”

Bloody brilliant!

Bloody brilliant!

What do you miss about Canada and the USA?
The weather!!! The seasons!!! I miss sun in summer, snow in winter. I miss walking from a steaming hot car park into the cool of a supermarket air con. I miss diving into a pool in a friends back yard on a hot afternoon after school. I miss ice skating on the local frozen pond. I miss tobogganing and sledging, snow shoeing and ice fishing. I miss laying in bed and watching snow flakes – huge ones – falling from the sky through the light of the street lamps.

I miss ordering a salad and getting just that, a salad. Not a little bit of garnish – the obligatory lettuce, tomato, cucumber on the side of the plate. I miss American diners, with their sit up bars, giant slices of blueberry or cherry pie “a la mode” and malted shakes. I miss pizza with stringy cheese.

Proper job

Proper job

I miss good customer service. Going into a restaurant and someone immediately smiling at you and either coming to meet you or telling you they’ll be just a minute. The polite way people serve you everywhere from shopping malls to gas stations.

The variety of landscape in the USA and Canada is incredible. There are beaches, mountains, desserts, rivers, lakes, hills, canyons, valleys…. It’s all there, and much of it breathtakingly beautiful, and BIG!!! The wildlife living in these landscapes is extraordinary and varied too.

Proms, Sweet Sixteens, Trick or Treat….. I love how enthusiastic the North American culture is for these celebrations. In the UK the “Prom” scene is trying to take off. After many years of trying, trick or treat is still struggling, and Sweet Sixteen is unheard of. These are seminal rites of passage in Canadian and American culture, and rightly so – we’re never so free and easy as we are when we are 16 or at our Proms. These celebrations create memories that last for lifetimes.

Prom night!

Prom night!

What differences do you encounter about the British and North American cultures?
My children still find things that I say differently, and in turn they say things differently to their friends. The usual “sidewalk” and “garage” (rather than the British “garridge”) of course come into play. But I cook thick pancakes for breakfast, not crepes like most British families. I make meatloaf, hot dogs, muffins and cookies, while most of my children’s parents make sausage and mash, fairy cakes and biscuits. My kids say “please” and “thank you”, rather than “Ta”. I make turkey and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, which is not celebrated here at all.

The best thing about being a Canadian in the UK?
I like the fact that I can give my kids the benefit of both a very modern culture, and also allow them to exploit the history and retained old cultures that surround them. They love visiting Canada, and already can appreciate the vast spaces, which appear to be unpopulated – pretty rare in England, perhaps only found in rural Scotland, Wales and Ireland. They see, very clearly, the differences between the cultures and enjoy both. My husband also lived in California for nearly a year, so he is also able to give a good perspective on the US culture too.

What myths, stereotypes and preconceptions about the USA and the UK do you think actually exist or are just a load of nonsense?!
Got to be a bit careful here now. If I am speaking GENERALLY, I’d say there is a perception that the English are all super intelligent, usually due to the accent and possibly wider use of proper grammar and vocabulary. Of course this is bull – there are as many stupid people here as there are in the USA – possibly more – but they just sound uber clever.

There is a presumption by Americans that you will know their distant and probably dead relatives who lived 300 miles away from you. Ha ha!! I think these are two stereotypes crossing over. Because the US is vast, and the UK, in comparison, incredibly small, there is an assumption that you will know everyone who lives in the UK. There is also an assumption that as America is a very young nation, a little over 200 years of independence, that all Americans are trying to trace themselves back to historical and predominantly European roots. There is possibly some truth in both, but neither is assumed.

All Americans tell you everything about themselves, all the time, if you want to know or not. Well, it IS true that the English are generally more reserved than the Americans, and do not wear their hearts on their sleeves so often, but actually this is a fault of the British rather than the Americans, and one that the Brits could learn a lesson or two from. Rather than mocking the Americans for their openness about themselves, we should be embracing it a bit more. More problems are caused by people NOT communicating than people who do communicate.

American-Patriot

All Americans are in therapy. Well, mental health generally is more readily accepted and treated with less distain and distrust than in the UK, but then this is my field of expertise – Psychology. The benefits of many of the ‘talking’ therapies are seen as positive and taken more seriously in the US, and a little of that should flow through to the UK. Especially as so many of us are effected my mental health problems, either ourselves or in our families.

Lastly, what kind of relationship does Canada have with the USA, and what differences are there?
Well, speaking very generally again – Canadians generally don’t like the Americans much, and the feeling is mutual!! However, without any bias – and I mean that – generally speaking Canadians tend to be more “European” in their outlook. More open-minded, the sense of humour more ironic and self depricating. More like the humour in the UK actually!!

The Canadians see the Americans as dirty, and by that I mean pollution and the environment. Canada works hard to keep it’s lakes, especially the Great Lakes, clean and pollution free. No dumping into the lakes and rivers is allowed. However, Americans freely dump and pollute from their side, and this of course pisses the Canadians off. Like Ireland, Scotland, Poland and lots of nations that have lived in the shadow of a larger (Canada’s land mass is actually larger than the USA, but most of the northern provinces are not habitable) more powerful neighbour, Canada tries to hold its own, and is often bullied by its powerful neighbour.

Gorgeous Canada

Gorgeous Canada

One thing about Canada, that I confess to being very proud of, is the way it’s treated its indigenous population, the native Indians. The name “Canada” is from an Indian name, kanata, which means village. Unlike the USA, where the reservation system and integration has been largely unsuccessful, native Canadian Indians are treated with the respect they deserve, as the original occupiers of the land. Perhaps it may be because of the loving respect for the land shown by the Indians, Canadians are more respectful of the beautiful lands, rivers, mountains and wildlife found there. The reservation system works well; food, fuel, cigarettes and alcohol bought on the reservations is not subject to Tax. In fact, native Indians do not pay any Government taxes, and reap many other benefits from being Indian. The integration between Indians and those who have historically settled in Canada is generally very good, and a mutual respect is pretty much the norm. The USA could learn a lot from how Canada has respected and treated its native population.

Wow, that's a landscape!

Wow, that’s a landscape!

Americans seem to think of Canadians as pretty stupid. I’d go so far as to say they don’t like them much, and see them as an irritating neighbour! However, there are many, many famous celebrities who are thought of as American, but who are actually Canadian – and proud of it!!

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9 Responses to Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 182

  1. I enjoyed reading the post, but there are a few things, as a Canadian born and raised and still living in Toronto, that I don’t agree with. I really don’t get that impression, at all, that we hate Americans or think of them as dirty. I mean there are those of us that don’t always agree with the politics of leaders like Bush, etc, but as a people in general, I don’t get the impression that you are hated.
    And I don’t think Americans think we are stupid. At all. I’ve never met an American that thought that we as a people are generally not educated. I find that statement odd.
    Now all of my perceptions could be that. Mine. But I’m in the travel industry and I’ve spent quite a fair bit of time in the States. It’s always been one of my favourite places to go to because of the vast differences from one State to another as far as culture and scenery goes.

    As for being more European in Canada, um, no, not really. Most of my friends don’t get the British sense of humour and have very little to do with European customs or habits. We do have a lot of the same mannerisms as the Brits, and we do apologize for things WAY too often ( lol) but Europe is still very different from us.

    I also have to add that living daily with our politics, and hearing what goes on, our natives are hardly well treated. So many of the reserves have huge issues with poverty and unemployment and drug use such as sniffing glue and home made drugs are very prevalent among the kids and teens. A lot of the money that we spend never reaches the average citizen on the reserve. It’s a big issue and it’s in the news a lot.
    So that’s just my 2 cents worth!

    • Thanks Hanna – good to get a new viewpoint 🙂

    • Louise says:

      Hi Hanna!

      I understand why you think the way you do, and I think in Toronto people are more cosmopolitain than where my family are from, St Thomas – kinda hicksville. They are real country folk, and my family think it’s a HUGE deal to go to Toronto!! I was warned when I visited my family (I am adopted, and met my birth family when I was in my early twenties) and I stopped over in Toronto for a few days first, that it was a “dangerous” big city. Well, I was living in London at the time, and nothing could be further from the truth!! Toronto is positively sterile in comparison to dirty, cosmopolitain London.

      My sister in law is native Canadian Indian – from the Ojibwa Nation – and my information about the treatment of them, as a Native Canadian Indian tribe, comes from their anecdotes. They are treated pretty well, and my extended family, from farming community to Hydro Executives, all state the same, that they are treated well and fairly. Of course you may have had different experiences, but I make my comments based only on their experiences. There are of course reserves who do not do so well with the financial incentives etc, but from the experiences I have, compared to those of the US Native Indians, is far more successful than that of our American counterparts.

      My statements are taken by family and friends in perhaps more rural Canada, and the USA. As I said several times, my comments are very generalised. I am more open minded and believe there are exceptions to most rules in life.

      Louise x

  2. Andy says:

    Your guest post on the ‘Displaced Nation’ was brilliant, thanks for making sure we saw it. People in my office wanted to know what I was laughing about!

  3. Judy Ratner says:

    Enjoyed your piece, Louise. It’s interesting to get a UK/USA/ Canada perspective.
    I’ve visited Canada many times and love everything – from Vancouver to Toronto, the National Parks and Tim Horton’s! It’s got some of the best of Britain ( gun control) and the States ( beautiful coasts, mountains and lakes).
    I don’t perceive any animosity by Americans towards Canadians. It’s more like apathy – Americans think the world stops at its borders and I don’t think we give much thought to what is north of us.. We do tend to blame Canadians for everything – in a jokey way. Bad weather? Blame Canada!
    It’s strange how everybody’s experience is different because I actually find the British very ready to strike up a conversation and open up – in a shop, on a bus or waiting in a queue (line!) and find shop assitants more chatty in England ( excluding the Hi, how are you? and Have a nice day routine we get over here). I put this down to training; in the US assistants are told to say the same rote greetings in order to serve people more quickly – it doesn’t leave much room for personal chit chat.
    Definitely agree about the telly and the superb British theatre. Can’t beat it (with a stick!)

  4. Robyn says:

    I heard from some other Brits it was known as the “two stone tour”….

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