O! Canada!

As Sarah Palin jets to India to gain foreign policy credentials, I followed her example by jetting to Canada. This is important, because in our house I make all the Important Decisions such as trade policy toward other nations. Hope decides less important issues such as what we eat, wear, and where we live.

I want to help others called to my key role and so have collected key facts learned on my recent junket. Where is Canada? If one drives north on the I-5 it is the first foreign country one meets. Think Mexico with different beer and fewer peppers in the food. It is easier to get a thing called “ketchup” there than salsa.

For those unaware of Canada there are four key facts to know before venturing to this exotic land.

Canada is very big. It is much bigger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined! Canadians claim to be bigger than Texas and Alaska combined, but friend from Texas claim that this is an illusion caused by distortion in flat maps.

I spent an entire day driving in Canada and never came to an end of it, so it must be pretty big. This was particularly important because Canada has many paved roads and even freeways, but essentially no traffic by normal (LA) standards.

Canada also has a great deal of space between buildings and many fewer strip malls. If needing cheap Chinese food, a palm reader, or a location for a Calvary Chapel this is a problem. If you begin to feel afraid due to the wide open spaces around you, remind yourself that at least you are not in Detroit.

People in Canada are very friendly to citizens of the United States. They work hard to relate to visitors by watching American television. Some will even laugh at later seasons of the American “Office” and never mention the BBC original is wittier.

Canadian money has the Queen of Canada on it and she looks a great deal like Elizabeth II of England. Do not be confused and say “cheerio” or “blimey.” Before going I learned the Canadian anthem, but this was wasted as nobody in Canada can do more than hum it after the first two words.

It was good to find something in common with this great people.

William Shatner is from Canada. This great gift to American culture is to little ignored. Make a point of thanking your Canadian hosts.

There are four critical facts to keep in mind when going to Canada.

First, Canada is a foreign country, but you can drink the water. You will need a passport and a new calling plan on you phone, but you will not need to purify the tap juice. Don’t mock the odd lack of flavor in their water. Residents of LA are spoiled by a tang in their water, but Canadians cannot yet add all the stuff to their water we take for granite.

Second, Canadian is much like English as a language. However much of it, in print at least, will look like an oddly archaic form of French. Don’t worry! For some reason, Canadians write many things twice: once in what reads somewhat like English and once in something a bit like French. Whichever part makes sense to you. Safely ignore the other half. You can pick up some dialect forms by listening to extras on old X-File episodes.

Despite the fact that many US extras and actors are really Canadian do not ask just any Canadian to act as your stunt double. This can be offensive.

Third, Canadians drive on the right side of the road, by which I mean the left side. Do not ask a Canadian why this is so.

Finally, Canadians have several inscrutable folk ways. First, they think of hockey as a major sport. Don’t laugh about this. Second, they use the vowel “a”a great deal. Do not comment on this. Third, when looking for Canadian gifts to take back to the States you will discover the same stuff we sell but with a maple leaf, moose, or Mountie sticker on it.

Based on a gift shop survey, Canadians define their culture positively by these three totems and their national beers. Negatively, Canada is definite about not being the US. Canadian history as found in airport book selections centers on the crimes of English and US nations and stories of how Canada is neither.

My world is bigger and my soul better for having seen Canada, a place utterly invisible from my front porch. I long to return and learn more about the culture and customs of the Giant of the North. I know my twenty-four hours only showed me a fraction of what is there. Perhaps, Governor Palin will invite me if she ever goes to that fabulous land.

Articles by John Mark Reynolds

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