What I learned about Canada
My three weeks in Toronto were fantastic. I had such a good time there, and I will be back as soon as I can afford it. This was the second time that I’d been there (the first time being in 1999) and I was impressed both times by how friendly the locals were, and also how lovely the city is. I spent quite a lot of time with my sister and her family this time, but I was also able to form a few impressions of Toronto and it’s native Canadians and other inhabitants. I thought it might be a good idea to write down what I have learned about this magnificent place. Canadians are not North Americans. Well, they pretend not to belong to the geographical continent of the same name, even though that is actually true. They prefer to distance themselves from their nearest neighbours, much the same way that us Brits prefer not be called “European”. I had a conversation with one Canadian lady (very nice she was too) who was adamant about not being called a “North American”, like it was akin to me calling her a “Fat, stupid, gun-toting moron” or something. Toronto has some very tall buildings. The CN Tower used to be the tallest free-standing structure in the world, but now there are one or two new buildings that have over-taken it – that one in Thailand towers over it. Toronto can get very cold. I almost froze my bits off going for a walk around town on a few occasions. Bloody hell, it can get a bit chilly during the winter. There appear to be lots of Brits in Toronto. Wherever I went I seemed to be falling over Scots and Scousers etc. The place is awash with ex-Brits along with no end of other migrants. There are a number of Chinese and Italian communties dotted around along with plenty of Portuguese, Greeks and West Indians. This makes Toronto a particularly interesting mix of cultures. Toronto has plenty of weirdos. There are a lot of very strange people wandering the streets, some of them on bikes, some of them vagrants (or similar) but there does appear to be some very peculiar people among the populace, more than I would expect. There are many, many wonderful, intelligent people also, it’s just that when some bizarre lady swears at you for no reason then you start to wonder what they put in the water. Canadians are language confused. They may sound slightly like Americans in the whole but some even speak French and the English-speaking ones can’t decide whether they want to spell the British way or the American way. They spell words like colour, favour and centre correctly but not tyre (tire) and probably other words too, plus they still mispronounce the odd word like apricot and depot. Talking of depot, Home Depot is just B&Q complete with lots of Orange displays and green aprons. Pedestrians are in constant danger of getting run over. I suppose this is the same in the States, but cars can turn right at most junctions even if the lights are at red. This is of some convenience to the driver obviously (how many times have I wanted to turn left at a junction but couldn’t even though the way was clear) but causes some danger to those poor people crossing the road. Naturally the people have the right of way, but you’ve got to hope that the driver is concentrating on not breaking your legs. Drivers in Toronto are not very polite. When driving around the expressways or other major roads it’s often difficult to join a different lane or get to a slip road because no bugger will let you in. Driving tests over here a bit of a joke apparently, and so the skills of some drivers is questionable. Defensive driving is a must for those trying to get about in a car. Nothing like as bad as the Italians or Saudis though. Canada is HUGE! It’s almost as far from Toronto to Vancouver as it is from London to Toronto. Lake Superior is nearly as big as the whole of England, and almost as wet. You can’t smoke inside anymore. Laws have come into place that prevent people from smoking inside public buildings, including pubs. You have to go outside to get your daily nicotine fix even when the temperatures are -30 or so. In fact, Ontario is turning into a bit of a Nanny State with many laws that seem intent on spoiling people’s fun. I don’t even smoke and I think that pub owners should be able to decide for themselves whether to allow smpking in restricted areas of their businesses (smoking rooms etc). You can’t buy alcohol from the Supermarket. How stupid is this, you can only buy alcoholic beverages from licenced liquor sellers such as the LCBO or the Beer Store. People are unable to grab a few tinnies or a bottle of wine while out shopping for bread and Doritos or whatever. I saw queues of people trying to buy booze! The Binmen in Toronto are surly buggers. I’m sure that this isn’t only a problem there, but the blokes going round emptying the bins were the most miserable sods going. Once a bin was emptied they’d just fling the bin back towards the house so that once they’d finished a street the pavement (sidewalk) is strewn with partially empty bins – they don’t spend any time making sure that they’re empty. It’s strictly work to rule with these bastards so it’s no wonder they don’t get any Christmas tips (other than “Cheer up Mr Frown”). I’ll be back. Just like Arnie I’m sure to visit this wonderful place again.