My fellow Americans: I know you are freaking out right now. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so crazy to move to a place where people LITERALLY plug their cars in at night so that they will start in sub-sub-zero temperatures. (The good news: that’s real zero, not bullshit Fahrenheit zero.)
But there are a few things you need to know before you get too excited about the idea of moving to Canada. And I should know, because I’m not only an American: I’m a Canadian, too.
Yes, it’s possible to be both American and Canadian. My parents immigrated to Canada for professional reasons a few years before I was born, at a moment when a lot of Americans were moving to Canada in order to avoid or resist the Vietnam draft. I’ve lived in Canada most my life, but I’ve also spent seven years living in the U.S., and truly feel both American and Canadian.
Unlike most countries, which seem more similar the more you get to know them, the differences between the U.S. and Canada only become apparent once you spend a lot of time going back and forth. Which is why I feel it’s my patriotic duty — as both an American and as a Canadian — to point out the most crucial differences to any American who is tempted to head north. Here is what you need to know:
1. We only have three flavors of Oreo.
You’ve got your basic, your double stuff, and maybe a seasonal novelty flavor. But S’mores-flavored Oreos? Forget about it.
In possibly related news, Canadians are quite a bit slimmer than Americans.
2. Amazon Canada blows
Ok, it doesn’t blow compared to Amazon Canada a year or two ago, when you couldn’t get anything other than books and iPhone cables. But it totally blows compared to American Amazon: I doubt it has even 1% of the products you can find on the U.S. site, and most of what it has is two to ten times what you pay in the U.S. Plus: no Amazon Prime video. (Gasp!) And even though Amazon recently announced same-day delivery in Toronto and Vancouver, there is almost nothing you can actually get the same day…so you may actually have to leave your house if you want to buy stuff. And in most parts of Canada, for big parts of the year, leaving the house is cold as fuck.
3. There is no Trader Joe’s.
You heard me right: if you want to live in Canada, you will have to live a life deprived of those amazing mini dark chocolate peanut butter cups. If you really want to, you can drive across the border and bring some back, but even in Vancouver — which is much closer to the U.S. border than any other major Canadian city — the nearest TJ is two hours away. But the good news is that you don’t have to pay duty on any groceries you bring back to the country.
4. You pay extra to bring in your good good American goods.
If you are wondering why I mentioned duty-free groceries, it’s because just about anything else you bring into Canada will get hit with duties (taxes) at the border. So yeah, you can cruise across the border and do all your shopping at Target (which ALSO does not exist in Canada) but you will definitely get pulled over when a border guard spots all those red-and-white shopping bags.
5. We do not have a wall to defend our border.
If you are interested in sneaking into Canada, you will probably find it pretty easy, because our two counties share the longest undefended border in the world.
But if you actually want to work and have a driver’s license and enjoy the other benefits of legal migration, you will find that — like America! — Canada does not open its doors to everyone. There are paths for folks with specific skills, or Canadian family members, or huge gobs of money to invest. Sadly, thinking that Donald Trump would be a shit-scary President does not, in and of itself, make you eligible for a visa.
6. Our systems work — but we pay for them.
The one consumer experience where Canada really kicks America’s ass is mobile data speeds. If you want to Google something or stream something or tweet something from your phone, you are not going to experience this crazy bullshit that I always experience in the States, where the icon whirls and whirls and then the webpage times out. And you will pay hella bills for this privilege. Our three-person, 15GB/month voice/text/data plan costs us $600 month. Yup, you read that right.
And guess what? The same is true for the amazing Canadian healthcare system that Americans love to fetishize. I mean, our health insurance premiums are teeny tiny compared to what Americans typically pay, and we get generally fantastic medical care. But Canadian income taxes are higher, and we have an across-the-board national sales tax too. All those taxes make some Canadians whine and fantasize about moving to the States, just the way Americans are now fantasizing about moving to Canada.
But hey, maybe if you want stuff to work right, you have to pay for it. Worth pondering, America.
7. We are not crazy.
For most of my life, Canada has had a more progressive government than whatever was going on in the States. Then there was this very disconcerting seven-year period when Canada had Prime Minister Stephen Harper (tl;dr: George W. with a vindictive streak) and the U.S. had Obama. But eventually Canada elected Justin Trudeau, the world drooled over his cute panda photo ops, and the natural order of things was restored.
But apparently America won’t settle for being slightly to the right of Canada: we have got to go whole hog, and vote for the batshit craziest right-wing asshole we could lay our hands on.
And whole hog is one thing Canadians don’t do. Canada may be cold, it may lack inventive processed foods, and it may even be a little bit boring. But it is moderate.
And moderate looks pretty good right now.