Lessons from America’s HatPosted: November 23, 2011
For the past three months, I’ve been in Ottawa working for the Royal Canadian Mint as a consultant. During this time, I’ve gained several insights about this large, yet relatively unpopulated neighboring country that sits atop the United States.
· Not even the Canadians care about the CFL.
Even though the CFL is right in the middle of its playoff season, no one is really talking about it. Canadians everywhere were discussing their NFL fantasy football teams, and tossing out predictions for the upcoming matchups each week. Not a single mention of a CFL game. It must be difficult to get excited about a league where every team makes the playoffs each year, except two. Making the playoffs in little league baseball was more competitive. Despite Canadian football’s long and storied history, it doesn’t match up to football in the United States.
· The black squirrels are winning the race wars in Ottawa.
I had no idea that black squirrels existed until I was walking through a park along the Ottawa River on my way to work. Although these squirrels aren’t as entertaining and fearless as the squirrels at Georgia Tech that would run along the electrical wires since there were no trees on campus, they are still quite the sight.
· TSN is not the same as ESPN.
Yes, Canada’s beloved sports network tries to be like ESPN, but falls painfully short. Thankfully, they leave some room in the lineup for some American shows (thank you PTI) and they broadcast Monday Night Football…so I guess I can’t be too upset. But a person can only watch so many CFL and hockey highlights without going a little crazy.
· If it freezes, it will be skated on.
About the time the Ottawa River begins to freeze in early December, the river will be cleaned and people will be allowed to skate around the city. I can’t think of a more fun way to get to work in the morning. I would even take the occasional broken bone, which if you know me would be inevitable, over the onslaught of traffic each day.
· French fries, cheese, and gravy makes you happy, then sad…very, very sad.
The Canadians have a dish called poutine. It consists of a bowl of French fries topped with cheese curds, and covered in beef or turkey gravy. The take-away here is that just because they serve it for lunch doesn’t mean it should be eaten. You would think I’d learn my lesson after one or two times, but sadly, I’ve continued to make poutine a lunch staple in the cafeteria each week.
· Two official languages is not twice the fun, but it is twice as confusing.
The only thing worse than being lost in a new city is being lost in French. I can’t even read the lunch menu at the Mint without it changing to French before reading all the options. It becomes tiring looking at dual web pages, street signs, commercials, and exit signs.
· Being the third cleanest city in the world is like being the best looking kid at fat camp…it doesn’t mean much.
Ottowa is certainly beautiful in its own right, but the truth is cities are still cities. Ottawa has traffic, noise, congestion, uneven sidewalks, and overly expensive restaurants, just like they do in every other major city. However, I’m still waiting to see the city in after a fresh snowfall. I can only imagine how beautiful it will be.
· Freezing nights and sunsets before 5 o’clock are exactly as depressing as they sound.
The first week in Ottawa after daylight savings ended, I walked out of the office around 5 PM and everything was black. I mean pitch black. If I didn’t have my phone, someone could have told me it was midnight and I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. And yes, the last thing you want to see when you leave the office is the cold darkness that is usual of the Canadian winter, but at least I still have mornings full of sunlight.
· Canadians have a lot of national pride.
Make fun of Canada all you want, these people love their country. There were multitudes of Canadians wearing poppies pinned to their shirts in remembrance of the soldiers who have lost their lives in war. They love America, but they also have a strong sense of national pride. When I first heard “O, Canada” sang at a pre-season hockey game – completely sold out game, by the way – it was a great experience.