Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Weird is In


Moving from suburban Virginia to urban Ottawa Canada is a big change.  From one country to another, from suburban to urban, I should expect some changes..

One observation is that weird is in fashion in urban Ottawa.  Tattoos, piercings, outrageous haircuts, outrageous clothes, weird behaviour are all the rage.  If you go into a coffee shop, and your server does not have piercings all over and a tattoo on their neck you are surprised.  My problem is I tend to stare at facial piercings.  The local coffee shop has a very nice lady with a bejeweled nose ring that I cannot keep my eyes off.  She probably thinks I am a strange old man, but I thought the whole point of looking weird and individual is to attract attention anyway.

Photo credit: flickr

Monday, September 19, 2016

NOT All Canadians are Nice

Germans are punctual, the Swiss are precise, and Canadians are "nice".  Every nationality has a reputation.  As a Canadian, you have probably heard something like this:

  • "I went to Toronto for a convention and everyone was so nice"
  • "My cruise stopped in Port Little Big Nose in Newfoundland and everyone was so friendly and nice"
  • "You Canadians are always so nice"
  • "My neighbors came from Canada and they are nice"
Well of course we need to be careful about generalities, I am sure there are a few Germans who sleep in and arrive late for work and a few Swiss watchmakers who mixed up the hour and minute hands.  

So where can you find a not-nice Canadian?

It's easy, just cross the border into Canada and you will find that they all work for the CBSA: Canada Border Services Agency.  These folks will greet you with a scowl and ask "where did you come from and what are you coming to Canada for?"  Hello or hi is not the normal start of your interaction with these guardians of our border.  

If you are Canadian, they will immediately suspect that you are trying to smuggle liquor and avoid the 75% tax.  They will frown and move on to more direct questioning like "what did you buy?" and "any liquor or tobacco?".  Answering no or yes will produce more frowns and they will write something on a piece of paper and send you off to talk to some other grumpy CBSA employee.  The only consistently happy employee in my experience is the cashier who takes your money.  Do not expect a cheery "welcome home" from the CBSA as this might encourage you to cross the border more often and increase their workload.

If you are a foreigner, they will immediately suspect that you are trying to avoid liquor taxes or work illegally.  You will be asked something like "are you going to work in Canada?"  You must clearly and confidently answer "no, I am just going to a meeting" or something like that or you will be subjected to a gotcha game of 20 questions.  Once they are satisfied that you are not bringing a bottle of whiskey to give to Uncle Freddy or planning to work at Tim Hortons, they will bid you a grumpy "thanks, you can go".  The last time any of them uttered "Welcome to Canada and have a good time", most people crossed the Atlantic in coal powered ocean liners.

So now you know, we are not all nice, and we send all our not-nice people to the border to make sure you are not smuggling a mickey of Bailey's Irish Cream into our beloved Canada in your long underwear.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Amazon Canada Versus USA


Having used Amazon for many years in the USA, my plan on moving to Canada was to use Amazon.ca, the Canadian version.  However, Amazon like most businesses operating on both sides of the border, takes on a Canadian character in Amazon.ca.

This is my personal impression, you may see it differently.




ServiceUSACanada
Lowest pricesYes, most of the timeSometimes
Free shipping with order over $25YesYes, but takes weeks
Huge selectionYesYes, compared to other Canadian stores (tallest pygmy principle)
2 Day Prime ShippingYes, $99Yes, $79
Free Music with PrimeYesNo
Free video streaming with PrimeYesNo
Free Restaurant Delivery with PrimeYesNo
Free Washington Post with PrimeYesNo
Free Photo Storage with PrimeYesNo
Lend Kindle books with PrimeYesNo
Free Audible books with PrimeYesNo
Alexa AI serviceYesNo - why do you keep asking for all this stuff?
Sell your used items on AmazonYes, freeYes, for a fee
Charges sales taxSometimes, depending on source and shipping destinationYes, always, without fail, every time, no exceptions

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Importing US 2013 Audi A6 to Canada

Just a note for anyone planning to import an Audi A6 from USA to Canada.


  • Summary
    • It can be done without terrible trouble
    • It costs money and takes some paperwork.  Keep a folder to put ALL the paperwork in.  It cost me about $3200 Cdn total to get Canadian plates.
  • We brought our 2013 Audi A6 from USA to Canada, we bought it in 2012 and it had about 35,000 miles
  • You have to get a recall clearance letter, call Audi USA about a week in advance and they will get Audi Canada to send you the letter
  • You have to inform the US border crossing you plan to use of your export of the car at least 2 business days in advance.  I hired a customs broker, Borderbuddy, to do this for me for about $100.
    • Note that US border crossings only allow you to export cars on working weekdays between 8 and 4pm with no exceptions.  I made it with 5 minutes to spare.
    • The customs broker had already filed the paperwork with the US border station.
    • They stamp your original US title
  • The Canadian border is different, they are open 24/7/365 for imports, and you will see why.
  • The Canadian CBSA border service wants their paperwork and their money
    • If you are moving to Canada, put the car on the import form for all your furniture and you will get a $10,000 exemption on the tax and duty.  The car does not have to cross the border at the same time, it just has to be listed as "goods to follow".
    • The CBSA will fill out a "Form 1" when you cross with the car.
    • They will charge you their part of the HST (Hated Sales Tax), duty, and excise tax on the value of the car.  If your car is not NAFTA compliant, like the A6, you will pay a lot of duty.  I paid about $2700 Cdn total for everything.
    • They take all major credit cards.
    • They recruit only from the minority of unfriendly Canadians
  • Once you have your Form 1, your recall letter, and your title, you go online to the Registrar of Imported vehicles, link.
    • You sign up for an account and input details of your vehicle
    • You have to either upload, fax, or scan and email your title, recall letter, and form 1 to them
    • They charge you about $200
    • After a few days, they send you back another set of forms, print these out
  • You then go to an inspection center, the RIV has a list, it is usually a Canadian Tire.
  • The Audi A6 does not need any modifications to pass the inspection as it has daytime running lights, you can set the odometer to kilometers, it has a proper alarm system, etc.  There is no need to go to an Audi dealer.
  • The inspection center checks your car, then does an Ontario safety inspection.  This usually costs about $150.  You get more paperwork back.
  • Get your Canadian car insurance set up.
  • Go to a Service Ontario office with ALL your paperwork including the Canadian insurance papers.  They will check the paperwork, charge you about $150, and give you Ontario plates and registration.
  • You are done.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Differences Between Canada and the USA #4

I now have a better perspective on the differences between Canada and the USA. These variations are not dramatic, but they are interesting. In an effort to discourage anyone still reading this blog, I will write a series of posts about these contrasts.

Car Wash

In the US, there are car washes everywhere:
  1. Do it yourself - a bay with pressure washer and vacuum cleaner, $5-10
  2. Drive through - usually part of a gas station, $5-10.
  3. Full service - lots of these, usually has a good drive through wash process followed by personal window washing, vacuum, tire cleaning.  Usually costs 20 to $40.
Canadians seem to view car washes as an expensive unneeded extravagance.  There are some drive through washes at gas stations in the suburbs, but not many.  Full service car washes are few and far between and charge at least $50 for interior and exterior service.  They know this is a lot of money for a car wash so they usually call it "detailing".


Golf

In the US, there are plenty of golf courses ranging from low cost converted cow pastures to hand manicured world famous $300 a round facilities.  A few things are common:
  • Lots of power carts.  Walking is not common unless it is a short course.
  • Lots of balls in the bushes.  People don't worry much if they lose a ball.
  • Mid to high range courses always have a beverage cart driven by a good looking young lady in Daisy Duke shorts and a tight low cut T shirt.
In Canada, there are plenty of golf courses ranging from low cost converted cow pastures to very nice resort facilities (nothing really famous).  A few things are common:
  • Not many power carts at courses that charge less than $75 a round.  Canadians want to save money and get some exercise.
  • Almost no balls in the bushes.  Canadians consider a great round of golf to be one where you end up with more balls than when you started because you scoured the bushes between shots.
  • Only high range courses always have a beverage cart driven by a good looking young lady in Daisy Duke shorts and a tight low cut T shirt.  Less expensive courses will sell you some cans of beer before your round and you can carry them with you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Differences Between Canada and the USA #3

I now have a better perspective on the differences between Canada and the USA. These variations are not dramatic, but they are interesting. In an effort to discourage anyone still reading this blog, I will write a series of posts about these contrasts.

Cargo Shorts

Women hate cargo shorts on men.  In their view, these shorts with lots of useful pockets were out of style before the last ice age.  However, most men love them.

In the USA, men know that women hate cargo shorts so they only wear them when they are out with their buddies and try to stick to stylish versions accessorized with a nice shirt and sandals.

Canadian men love cargo shorts, especially when accessorized with dark colored socks and old dark colored walking shoes.  Most cargo shorts worn in Canada were bought before the last ice age and were last washed and pressed when Columbus discovered America.  It is important to stuff the pockets with anything that might be needed before winter sets in.  Cargo shorts are definitely OK to wear to the office almost any day except when your boss from the USA is visiting.


Guns

In the USA guns are considered almost an integral part of society, written in the constitution by God himself, and necessary for self defense, recreation, and keeping the government in line.  Gun owners would sooner give up their kids than lose the right to buy as many guns as they want whenever they want.  Smart Americans always assume that someone is armed and do not get into arguments with someone unless they are armed themselves.

Canadians view guns as useful for hunting or target shooting, but not much else. Canadians expect protection from the police, not by having a gun. The only places where you need a gun "to defend yourself" are places like Churchill Manitoba where polar bears regularly get into town.  Carrying a handgun outside the home is considered crazy and is a felony unless you have a rare permit from the police.  Canadians are not afraid of government tyranny as Canadian politicians are generally wimps and more interested in a good pension than raw power.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Differences Between Canada and the USA #2

I now have a better perspective on the differences between Canada and the USA. These variations are not dramatic, but they are interesting. In an effort to discourage anyone still reading this blog, I will write a series of posts about these contrasts.

The Post Office

In the USA, the post office is a political football.  Republicans point to it as a money-losing government boondoggle with nasty unions.  However, all congressmen (Republican and Democrat) want all post offices to stay open, stamps to be cheap, special services to be offered (passport anyone?), and door to door mail delivery everywhere 6 days a week.  Letter volume is dropping in spite of these handouts, parcel volume is increasing due to Internet shopping.

In Canada, the post office has to break even.  Therefore, most post offices are run by private companies, stamps are expensive, no more door to door delivery and only 5 days a week.  Letter volume is dropping dramatically, parcel volume is increasing due to Internet shopping.

Recycling


Recycling in the USA is considered a necessary evil if you care about the world your children inherit.  If you don't have kids or don't care about them, forget recycling because its a pain in the behind.  Outside of the home, recycling is never done.

In Canada, recycling is a universal religious activity practiced by everyone.  There are public recycling stations everywhere, you must separate your recycling into 4 different types, and you would never admit to anyone that you do not believe in recycling.

Christian Religion

In USA, religion is almost universal.  There are big churches everywhere, and you would never say in polite company that you do not believe in God.  You are expected to be able to characterize your Church, e.g. "Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America".  If your church is not satisfactory, there is probably one you will like better within a mile or two.

Religion in the Canada is considered an interesting but little practiced historical custom.  If you don't have kids or don't care about them, you probably don't go to Church often if at all. Many church buildings are shared by 4 different branches of Christianity. Churches are few and far between, many of the older ones have been converted into condominiums or community centers (Americans, I kid you not!).