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, the Canadian version.  However, Amazon like most businesses operating on both sides of the border, takes on a Canadian character in

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

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