October 31, 2006

The great, odd, and frustrating things about Canada

Category: Canada — Biella @ 8:21 am

Since the last few days have been:

and thus utterly and totally northern (Albertan) Canada, I thought I would write a little about what, in the last couple of months has taken my fancy here and what I have found a little annoying.

Since the general tenor of life in Canada is similar to the US, many of the differences are subtle. Take for example that coke (the drink) is not made with the high fructose corn syrup but “fortified” instead with plain ol’ sugar, (I guess they don’t have as strong of a corn lobby here); the radio station “Joe FM”, is like the American counterpart “Jack FM” (which has taken over the radio waves in the US, playing “what we want” minus the DJ), in that it has the same collection of cheesy 80s and 90s music, and the same generic Jack(ass) announcer, but in fact, there are still Djs for most of the day… Canadians I guess do put some limits on what large megacorporations can do to destroy people’s livelihoods.

Other differences are a little more noticeable. Top among them is radio in Edmonton is about a million times better than the US, even in major cities. There are 4-5 alternative type FM stations, including CJSR the U of Alberta radio station, which I would say is a notch up or two from most college radio stations. They really know what they are doing and I really recommend The Terradome as well as the dance music they play on Sat night.

There are a few things that strike as remarkably different, and of course, health care, is totally number one on the list. I have been fairly impressed with health services and so far, 2 out of 3 doctors I have seen (one to remove my staples, one to check up on my moles, and one just to set up a visit with my primary doctor) totally dissed on American doctors and medicine. And I don’t blame them. With so much hysteria, almost moral panic, among right winged Americans, about the awful state of Canadian socialized medicine, I too would want to vent in whatever way I could when some American specimen came by the office. When I leave here I will probably miss the most and it will be a very tragic day if Canadians move even an inch closer to our broken system

There are a class of differences that are just a little odd like:

Curling… There is a curling club literally right around the corner from where I live. One night, when I was in a foul mood, I was dragged there, pretty much against my will, in the hopes of purging my bad mood. It mostly worked. I have never been up and close with curlers, and this club and two viewing decks. We went to the cozy upstairs one, with a wooden bar, smooth wooden tables, couches, and warm fire places. 80% of the people in the club were up there… And of course… Why would you spend time on ice when there is beer and warmth upstairs? But then again, brooming outside of house cleaning does seem like a heck of a lot of fun.

Another odd thing is they just don’t plow the streets here or shovel much. It does not snow much (although it already dumped a lot since Friday) but because it never melts, it does mean a constant white and icy swath over the city streets and sidewalks. Thankfully there is free health care because I bet a lot of people fall and break some collection of bones.

People don’t lock their homes, but they do for the most part lock up wireless access. Maybe it is just in my hood which is close to the University so this bears a little more research but I find it annoying and ironic given that you can just go into people’s homes.

The West Edmonton Mall… For those who don’t know it is the largest in North America… Aside from the crazy indoor water park and amusement park with upside down roller coaster and all, it is not all that impressive because it is long instead of tall. What I liked about it the most though were the postcards proudly displaying the mall that were being sold in various stores, were clearly from the early 1980s…. I picked up a few they were so retro.

There is a small class of frustrating things and number one of them so far is:

Teleus… I don’t even want to go into it but trust me, they suck.

The mail is slow and spotty. But this is also a US problem too. Though there is supposedly mailforwarding from Canada to the US, it is basically a lie. Don’t fall for it if you move! While I had changed my address for the most important mail, I did not change it for things like my Alumni college magazine. And basically will never see that stuff (which is probably ok).

But mailing stuff to the US also kinda is unpredictable. I mailed something to PR, for example, and it was supposed to take 6 days… It is now bordering on the 3rd week.

There is a little window into life here in Canada… And so far, so good.


  1. One of the best radio stations on the planet is CKUA. It’s eclectic and the announcers are downright different. They have two studios – one in Edmonton and one in Calgary – as well as 17 transmitters throughout the province. I don’t know of another station like it. It’s one of those things that makes Alberta unique.

    Dan W. Armeneau

    Comment by Dan Armeneau — October 31, 2006 @ 5:30 pm


    Comment by Tana — September 5, 2007 @ 2:34 pm

  3. agreed :p it kicks butt 2.

    Comment by Biella — September 5, 2007 @ 2:48 pm

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