Wrapping up our last holiday season in the cold before moving to Malaysia in a few months, Diane and I headed south from Edmonton and spent New Year’s Eve in Calgary with her family. Reminiscing about my six years as an American expat in Canada, I began reflecting on all the Canadian businesses either gone or gobbled up by American corporations. Asking most Canadians what defines their identity usually yields the proud response “We’re not American”. While that may still be true, scores of major Canadian industry staples including Molsons, Tim Hortons and The Bay allowed themselves to merge into American corporations with little fanfare.
Sadly, a post 9/11 world dominated by the world’s only superpower desperately clinging to keep their global status intact means citizens of Canada have little or no say in the Americanization of their proud nation. Fortunately, there are always some icons that simply can’t exist in the mighty American homeland for various reasons from political correctness issues to culinary taste differences. Sharing my own personal list of favorite Canadian things not found in The States, I offer up the following list and wish everyone a happy and healthy 2015.
Sidenote: Only Americans call it “America”. The rest of the world refers to the USA as “The States”, probably so they can also disassociate themselves and be “not American”.
With honorable mention to the world’s best cocktail as pictured in the post’s featured image, I present the top 12 Canadian things not found in America in no particular order. Yes, I’m aware that two of them are now defunct television series’ but they live on in reruns and have a cult following in America as well as Canada.
1) Coffee Crisp Bars
Clearly the world’s tastiest chocolate bar, this Nestle’s treat is not sold in America for reasons unknown. Although it doesn’t really taste like coffee to me, the perfect balance makes it “a nice light snack”, exactly like they tell you in the commercial. Honorable mention to Canadian TV commercials which are funnier and more original than most of their American counterparts.
No, it’s not just Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Well, OK, actually it is but it tastes much different. Originally made with real cheese ingredients, the Canadian version has a lip smacking deliciousness unmatched by its American cousin. Known as the official food of college dorm students, every Canadian knows “KD”. Praised by Bare Naked Ladies in their song, If I Had A Million Dollars, there’s a reason why they would eat Kraft Dinner, they’d just eat more and you have to taste it to really understand.
3) A&W Chubby Chicken
Unavailable south of the border, A&W’s Canadian version of fried chicken rivals the best including KFC and Popeye’s. Deep fried and always hot and fresh, it’s my choice for southern fried chicken in a northern fried country. Honorable mention must go to the Canadian version of Teen Burgers. Made with Alberta beef, they taste better than any American fast food burger I’ve ever eaten. (not that I eat many)
4) Corner Gas
Putting Saskatchewan on the map globally, this awesome Canadian TV show set in the sleepy fictional town of Dog River delivers a one-two punch of dry, yet likable Canadian comedy uniquely different from anything south of the border. Discovering a cult audience once they aired it on American cable, the show remains popular in syndication, reruns and on DVD. Three million viewers watched the last episode in 2009, making it the largest series finale in Canadian TV history. Apparently, they’re making a movie scheduled to air this holiday season so you know where to find me.
5) The Canadian Five Dollar Bill
Making one truly unique monetary note, only one nation would put hockey on their currency. Nuff said.
6) Lays Flavored Potato Chips that Americans won’t eat
Although I’ve heard ketchup chips are available in some northern border states, I’ve never seen any of the other myriad of flavors sold in the USA other than anything related to salsa or anything Mexican. Dill pickle is my personal favorite , probably owing to my New York Jewish heritage. Like the USA, Canada also has contests for name your flavor but their selections are far from anything Americans would ever think of. Below are the winners from the last contest. Sadly, I was unable to find the perogy platter in Alberta, probably owing to the large Ukrainian population.
7) Homo Milk
Could you imagine this simple product appearing on any shelf in America? Anderson Cooper would have to devote an entire series to getting it pulled from the shelves. There’s nothing special about this product; it’s homogenized milk. Excuse the immaturity; I just chuckle when I see it.
8) Little Mosque on The Prairie
Yet another Canadian show set in a fictional Saskatchewan town, this masterful series did what America couldn’t and wouldn’t ever do; show an entire comedy series with Muslims as the main characters. Almost laughing at the ridiculous paranoia and fear created by American right-wing media, the plot is simply life as seen through the eyes of a Muslim family living in a midwestern town where they just want to blend in like everyone else. Devoid of any negative cultural stereotypes , the series ended in 2011 but is certainly worth your time. American networks could learn a lot from reading the script carefully. But I suppose too many TSA jobs would be at risk if we stopped racial profiling.
9) Wayne Gretzky Drive
Perhaps someday they’ll change the East River Drive in Manhattan to “Derek Jeter Drive”, but I guarantee no matter how many Stanley Cups any American team wins, there will never be a street named after a hockey player. Located in Edmonton, the city is building a new downtown arena which means the street will no longer be anywhere near the hockey team’s address but the team sucks so badly it really doesn’t matter anyway.
Thinking it couldn’t be very hard, Diane and I tried curling once with some friends in a Calgary curling arena. Learning the hard way that good posture and strong kneecaps play a role in the lives of successful curlers, we ached for about a week after but still had fun. Nothing beats the thrill of a Canadian audience inside an Olympic arena watching the national team defend its title. No issues with Team USA domination on this front.
Simply surviving as one of the only remaining Canadian owned large retail outlets is reason enough to include them on the list. Providing a low-cost blend of quality products, Superstore is always my favorite place to shop in Canada. Offering a huge product line like Costco’s Kirkland line, President’s Choice (PC) is one of the best in-house brand names anywhere. Honorary mention to Rona, seen in the background for somehow surviving even after Home Depot invaded.
12) The Toonie
Understanding the financial advantages to minting coins and not paper, Canada switched all one and two dollar bills to coinage awhile back. As a new expat in Canada, I had some difficulty getting used to coins counting as real money and felt cheap leaving them as tips. Quickly seeing the many benefits, I wish the USA would finally ditch their stupid single dollar bills but with trillions of US banknotes all over the world, don’t count on that anytime soon. Embraced with a polar bear, the toonie remains a truly Canadian icon representing the pride of America’s awesome Northern neighbor.
Happy New Year to All from The Experimental Expats !!!
Coming in 2015: We finally file for MM2H in April and get the show on the road. Please stay with us as the real adventures begin.