It's sad, but some people don't realize what a big world it is. They don't see how much there is to learn from other cultures. Me, I've never shied away from exposing myself to foreign ways of life: From drinking margaritas in Key West to riding the teacups at Disneyland, I've been a lot of places and seen a lot of things. But when I took a trip to the Great White North last month, I had no idea how much it would broaden my horizons and open up my mind.
Have you ever been to Canada? If you look for it on a map, you'll realize it isn't far from the United States. But once you cross the border from America to Canada, you'll immediately know you're in a foreign land.
Case in point: the food. While I was in downtown Toronto looking for a place to eat, just something simple like a McDonald's or Hardee's, I came across a restaurant I'd never seen before called Mr. Sub. I figured, "Hey, when in Rome..." And you know what? My open-mindedness paid off! It was a sub shop, but it had a breaded-fish sub. I'd never seen anything like that in a Blimpie or Subway. I guess those Canadians really like their fish. In the end, I got a "Great Canadian Sub" so I'd get the full Canadian experience. And guess what? It was great. Just goes to show what can happen when you leave yourself open to new experiences.
Something else that's a little strange about Canada is how they don't use pounds or miles or inches. Everything is metric. I remember learning about the metric system in chemistry class, but this is an entire country that measures everything differently. That's the sort of thing you only learn by actually going out there into the world.
Another thing that really gave me pause was seeing road signs in French and English. The first time I saw a bilingual sign, I didn't know what was up. But the Let's Go Toronto guidebook said that a lot of Canadians speak French as their first language. How odd is that? As I soon learned, the French colonized a lot of Canada instead of the English, so not only did I get some French culture, but I got a history lesson, as well. That's why you take trips—to learn a little bit more about the world around you.
What also threw me off was that Canadian money looks completely different from ours. The bills are different colors, and instead of presidents, they have prime ministers and queens on them. I guess if you spend your whole life stuck in the U.S., you never really think about something like currency. But when you're confronted with a bill that doesn't have George Washington or Abraham Lincoln on it, you really start to think about how each country is unique and how that's reflected in their money.
Seeing the Canadian money also made me think that Canadians wouldn't understand what rappers were talking about when they used the term "dead presidents." You see, even the universal language of music wouldn't translate well between our two diverse cultures.
Did you know that Canada also has a space needle? I figured Seattle was the only place to have one, but Canada has one, too. Except it's called the CN Tower. It's amazing how you can have two totally different countries and still have a common thread that binds them. It's kind of reassuring to realize that maybe Americans and other cultures aren't so different, after all.
I'm really glad I got the opportunity to take in the wonders of Canada before it got too Americanized. It would be a shame to see something uniquely Canadian like the Hockey Hall Of Fame turn into our Baseball Hall Of Fame.
When I finally made it back home, I started to see things through a different lens. I no longer viewed the world as being all the same. Now I see it for what it is: America and a bunch of other places with subtle differences from us.