Sunday, October 21, 2007

Things I Like About Canada

We've been here for almost two months now, and not everything has been easy. I have yet to get used to the exorbitant price of dairy products, for one small thing. And the rain, it makes Seattle seem like Arizona by comparison. And while CBC is a worthy organization, I have to admit that I miss my NPR.

But there are a bunch of things I like. Here are a few:

1) Butcher shops in the malls! Also, greengrocers. And bakeries. This seems to me to exemplify Canada's felicitous blend of United Statesian and European sensibilities. There are malls, yeah, with department stores and food courts and gigantuous parking lots and the like. BUT the malls are also part market High Street, so after you finish buying your office supplies and eating your sushi and getting your glasses adjusted, you can pick up some chicken legs for dinner, and an onion, and a couple loaves of cheap day-old bakery bread, all at different, small, relatively charming (for a mall) storefronts, without setting foot in the overpriced mega-supermarket up the street. And without going outside and slogging through the rain, either. I have seen this at a couple different malls, so it's not just an anomaly at the one near our house.

2) Generous, standardized maternity leave. Now, obviously, this comes too late to benefit our family directly. But from my professional vantage point, I can see how it benefits society as a whole. Having a categorical one-year mostly-paid maternity leave means that most new moms take a year off, period. This opens up their jobs for a year for, say, new professionals in the field (like my colleague whose first library job was a maternity-leave post some years ago), and also means that social services and suchlike can be planned with the assumption that most babies up to one year old will be home with a parent.

Here's an example: part of my job involves co-leading a weekly baby storytime, as well as another one for toddlers. When a group of us were planning out these story times last month, someone pointed out that some of the toddlers would be coming with nannies (I'm working in a pretty affluent area). "And the babies," I said, without thinking. "Oh, well," my boss shrugged, "Most of them will be with their moms, on mat. leave." It struck me as so different from the States, where some babies are in childcare centers, some with nannies, some in makeshift care arrangements with relatives, some home with their moms for a few weeks, or a few months, some with both parents in exhausting shift-work arrangements so they can cover the baby care and the bills. Of course, there are older kids in all those situations. But for that crucial and labour-intensive first year, you can pretty much count on knowing where the babies are and who's with them.

3) The money is pretty and comes in different colours. And because there are one- and two-dollar coins instead of one-dollar bills, you can think you're just walking around with a pocket full of change and yet still turn out to have a substantial amount of cash on you.

4) The Canadian spellings of words like "labour" and "colour" and "honour" are really starting to grow on me. Even though my computer doesn't recognize them and wants to let me know that I'm making spelling errors.

And now, to bed.


Anonymous rachel said...

This really has been an extra wet October. We usually get a lovely indian summer during most of October, and then the wet sets in Halloween week (we typically trick-or-treat with an umbrella). This is November-worthy weather, this is. Maybe that means it will end in May this time, instead of June. A girl can dream...

11:58 AM  
Anonymous MonkeyPants said...

Rachel's telling the truth. This is like an early soggy present from November.

Re: Dairy products. That's how we got to be called Cheeseheads. We'd cross the border with our coolers and fill them up with cheap 'n' delicious American cheeses. Not 'American cheese', aka Kraft Singles, but real stuff, like Tillamook cheddar. The government here regulates the prices, I guess so the dairy farmers are okay?

10:35 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

Hee! Monkeypants, I thought it was people from Wisconsin who were called cheeseheads?

I will take both your words about this October.

*scraping moss off backpack*

11:05 PM  
Anonymous Arwen said...

For possibly seasonally affected; Vitamin D in supplement form can make all the difference in my mood...

12:19 AM  
Blogger PPB said...

Now I want to move to Canada, too.

7:46 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

Don't look now, but there's a big scary golden orb up in the sky!! WTF??

Haha, that joke never gets old!

8:25 AM  

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