Oh Canada!

I’ve visited Canada before.  I even play a Canadian sport (curling).  But I hadn’t ever visited Ottawa or visited with the knowledge that, French permitting, I would be moving there.  So with a three day weekend beckoning, and lots of available frequent flyer miles, I decided to investigate further what the Mackenzie Brothers called “The Great White North.”

Ottawa is the capital of Canada, but it’s not a huge city.  It’s not a huge city, but it seems to be a city with everything you might want in a city (well, except perhaps a subway…the train, not the sandwich shop… THAT they have).  The Embassy is right near Parliament Hill, and right near Byward market, and walking distance to quite a bit of downtown.  Things it has:

  • 24 hour restaurants (two within walking distance of my hotel, one a deli)
  • IKEA
  • Tim Horton’s
  • Just about every US fast food you can think of
  • Good bookshops
  • Major and Minor League Hockey
  • Museums
  • Bilingual everything
  • One and Two Dollar coins

What it doesn’t have (that I noticed):

  • Off-road mass transit
  • Professional Baseball (although it does have semi-pro, and has had AAA baseball in the past)
  • Cheap anything
  • Stuff with “Canada” written on it

Let’s touch on a few of these.  For those of you who haven’t been…Tim Horton’s is like Dunkin Donuts only (IMHO) better.  Prices for everything seem high.  I think this is a residue of when the Canadian Dollar was only about 2/3 the value of the U.S., but now they’re more or less at par.  Ottawa has two hockey teams, and NHL one (the Senators) and an OHL one (the 67’s).  The semi-pro baseball team is called the Fat Cats.

Ottawa is an interesting place to observe bilingualism.  It’s the Federal City, so all government signs are bilingual, and at the Airport I got the “Bonjour, Hello” greeting people use to determine which language you prefer to speak, but once you’re in Ottawa, it’s an English language city.  Cross the river, and you’re in Gatineau, in Quebec, and everything changes.  It’s uni-lingual French, which was good practice , if a little disconcerting in Wal-Mart (yes, I went to Wal-Mart in Quebec, in part just to say I had gone to Wal-Mart in Quebec.)

Now – today’s vocabulary:

  • Drive thru – Service en volant
  • Goalie – Guardien du but
  • Garage sale – Vendre garage

Road signs (at least on the Ottawa side of the river) are serially bilingual: i.e. Rue Bank Street, with the name in bold.

I was in Ottawa for Remembrance Day, which is what they call what we call Veterans’ Day (and which we both used to call Armistice Day).  The Canadians take this a lot more seriously than we Americans do.  For us, it’s more often than not just an excuse for sales.  In Canada, everything (except Tim Horton’s and Starbucks) was closed until afternoon.  I got to attend the official ceremony in Ottawa, since it was just a few blocks from the hotel.  Also just a few blocks from “Occupy”, which was an interesting juxtaposition.

Three kinds of TV – Canadian English, Canadian French, and U.S. (mostly from Detroit).  That includes two separate Weather Networks for the two languages…both in degrees C though.

The rental car dashboard speedometer is in KPH not MPH, which is fun because you can go out on the highway and drive 100, and it’s legal!

I didn’t hear anyone say aboot, but a few folks did end sentences with “eh.”




Filed under Foreign Service Stuff

3 responses to “Oh Canada!

  1. My ex was French Canadian…the language bears the same relationship to continental French as US English compares to the variety spoken across the pond. I always enjoyed the differences…

    • rkolker

      To help with my French, I watch a sitcom called “La Coeur a Ses Raisons”, which is in Quebecois with French subtitles :). Think “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” in French.

  2. Kate

    Trust me, we’re well aware that prices are higher here! The Finance Minister even weighed in: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/10/19/pol-flaherty-us-canada-gap.html

    Glad to hear you’re getting excited!

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