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Few of the Americans I work with consider me “international.” I’m white and blonde and English is my first language, so at first glance I probably don’t seem to fit their idea of international at all. My trainer would introduce me to my coworkers, saying, “This is Kyra. She’s on the college program, well, the ‘international’ (with exaggerated finger quotation mark gestures) college program. She’s just from Canada.”

Check it, the shirt says “international,” so it must be true.

This always made me laugh, because while Americans may not consider me international, living in Orlando is such a stretch from living in Ottawa, or my even smaller hometown. Where I’m from, the population is around 3500. You wave at everyone in the neighbourhood. You have to drive 40 minutes to the nearest movie theatre. It’s heaven.

Orlando is huge. Millions of tourists come every year to the many theme parks. People speak in languages that people in my hometown wouldn’t even know the name of. Everything here feels different and strangely foreign. Seriously, they have more than twenty different Pop-Tart flavours. It’s overwhelming, to say the least (but I would really recommend the Cookies & Creme kind).

To be honest, I didn’t think living in America would be any different than living in Canada. Other than being far away from all of the people I love, I expected to fit right in and not notice any significant differences between our countries.

I was completely wrong.

Here are just a few of the things I have noticed since coming here;

1. I have realized exactly how Canadian I am. I never really thought about it, but I’m just about as Canadian as you can get. I speak French, add “eh” at the end of every other sentence that comes out of my mouth, worked at a Tim Horton’s for two years, and I am only interested in watching sports that take place on ice. I love the Barenaked Ladies (a lot), live for Montreal-style bagels, and I wear maple syrup lip balm I bought from a sugar bush. I might as well tattoo a maple leaf on my forehead.

C-Day, 2010 with my girl Sonia. We should get matching tattoos on our foreheads to go with the fake ones we wore that year.

2. We talk differently. We do say “about” funny, (though no one actually pronounces it ah-boot), and Americans don’t say cutlery (silverware), or pop (soda), and they call chocolate bars “candy bars,” which is just silly.

This is honestly a conversation I had with a coworker last week;

Kyra: Brr, it’s so cold in theatre today, I wish I had a toque.

Coworker: A what?

Kyra: A toque.

Coworker: A what?

Kyra: A toque… You know, like a… like a toque! … A hat? It’s a hat. A hat you wear in the winter. A knitted winter hat. Do you really not say toque here?

Coworker: No.

Kyra: Then what do you call a toque?

Coworker: A hat.

Kyra: Just a hat?

Coworker: Yeah.

Kyra: Well that is just ridiculous.

Canal skating, (and Benjamin is wearing a toque under his two hoods [yeah, it is THAT cold in Canada]), outdoor skating is something rather uncommon here in Orlando.

3. The minimum wage here is incredibly low, but the prices for most of the things I have to buy (fruits and vegetables, in particular) are about the same. Also, many Americans I talk to still think their dollar is much higher than ours, or that it is really expensive to live in Canada because we make $10.25 per hour. This is all very funny to me, and makes me very poor this summer.

4. Canada has nicer summers. Ottawa does, at least. We do get the heat, but the humidity here is awful. I leave my house with my hair combed neatly into some Disney-look style, but after an hour doing parade control, my hair has frizzed up so much, it’s three times its usual size. Also, it rains here harder and longer than it does in Canada. I’m here for the ugliest months (May was completely gorgeous, but June and July are nothing but heat and thunderstorms).

5. Canadians love Canadians. If a guest happens to notice my nametag and see where I’m from, it doesn’t matter which part of Canada they’re from, they’re ecstatic to see someone else from their homeland. One guest will turn to a member of their party and say excitedly, “She’s from Canada!” There’s just something about seeing someone who probably also frequents their local Tim Horton’s that instantly makes you best friends. I know I feel this way, when I went to see La Nouba (the amazing Cirque du Soleil show in Downtown Disney) and they introduced the show in French, I was beyond ecstatic (because, obviously, everything here is English, and occasionally Spanish, so hearing French is like being home).

Being so far south means that many Americans here have never even been to Canada, or only really know about really big Canadian clichés. People say, “You’re from Canada? So do you watch ‘Degrassi’?” (Yes, obviously). “Have you ever seen ‘How I Met Your Mother’? (Again, yes, obviously) You know Robin? You’re like that.” “Does it snow a lot in Canada?” (Yes, again).

The wildlife is also different. One of the best things about Canada is our bugs. I’m serious. We might get tons of mosquitoes all summer long or ants in the kitchen when the weather is nice, but the bugs here are huge and disgusting. Massive beetles. And lizards, lizards everywhere. It is beyond terrifying. Canadian squirrels are also very fat compared to Orlando ones (for a good reason), all of the squirrels here look tiny and underfed, while Canadian ones look like they could eat small cats if they wanted to.

Obviously, this is just my experience. Other parts of America are nothing like Orlando, but living in the U.S. does make me nostalgic for ketchup chips and Canadian Tire money.

So happy Canada Day, everyone! Drink a Molson Canadian, eat some poutine, say “bonjour!” to people, and remember that we live in the sweetest country in the world.

Seriously, though, it’s hockey or nothing.

With love,

Kyra

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