Monthly Archives: April 2010

Canadians And Their Social Values

I have an ongoing dialogue with a few of my close Canadian friends about the distinct differences between Americans and Canadians. We may be neighbours, but in reality we’re very different. For me, the conversations I have with this group of smart, open, but opinionated friends is extremely healthy, and has been a huge part of my Canadian learning experience.

One of these said friends sent me an article from the Canadian Marketing Association in partnership with MacLaren McCann that details four dominant themes that are unique to Canada called Canadian Social Values: Dominant Themes in Canadian Culture (just like the article title says. Ahem.). The article is the first in a series addressing the four key defining defining values in Canadians, and I found it to be spot on. I highly identify with the social values referenced in the article, which is probably why I’m so deliriously happy in Canada (and why so many Americans who don’t identify with those values so unhappy here).

Of course, you could argue that the points are so broad that anyone might identify with them, but I believe that, after living here for three years, these are more uniquely Canadian attributes than they are anything else. And, while the author makes the inevitable* comparisons to the US, I think the article does a fantastic job of discussing just what makes Canadians so, well, Canadian.

Canadian Social Values: Dominant Themes in Canadian Culture

Defining Value #1
We Canadians value a unique balance between individual autonomy and collective responsibility. It is a very special attitude we uphold as Canadians, in that we believe in having the ability to self-determine the way we want to live, but importantly, we also expect and even defend the right for others to have that same privilege. So while one may choose differently from another, Canadians generally believe in each person’s right to make their unique personal choice. Said simply: Canadians respect difference.

Where does this come from?
Canada is a nation founded ultimately through cooperation, with a history of accommodation, and this is reflected in the founding principles of ‘peace, order and good government’ (outlined in more detail by Michael Adams in his book Fire and Ice). Through these historical roots, the wants and needs of various diverse Canadian groups were acknowledged and accommodated to create a workable collective.

Additionally and importantly, the Canadian ‘system’ is built with an emphasis on the provision of social support services. Canada features a public education system, a public health-care system, a public welfare system and with that, a corresponding tax system to fund it. This system functionally places responsibility on the community to be supportive of its residents.

And thus Canada has bred an orientation to life amongst its residents that believes the collective has a responsibility to the individual, and concurrently, the individual has a responsibility to the collective.

Points of Evidence
Respecting Difference:

– More than two thirds of Canadians say they relate to non-conformists, compared to just half of Americans (Michael Adams, Fire and Ice);
– 60% of Canadians approve of homosexual relations, where only 38% of Americans feel the same way. “We’re one of the world leaders there.” In fact, in 2005, Canada become the fourth country in the world to legalize gay marriage (Reginald Bibby in 2006 Maclean’s Canada Day Poll and 2009 Maclean’s Canada Day Poll).

And the Collective:
– A third of Canadians want a more active government (Michael Adams, Fire and Ice);
– And more Canadians feel a sense of social responsibility than Americans (Michael Adams, Fire and Ice).

A Marketing Reference
Speaking of ‘respecting difference’, recall as far back as 1995, when RuPaul was signed to a modeling contract for Canadian company, MAC cosmetics, making him the first drag queen supermodel?

Watch for the next post, Canadian Defining Social Value #2: Attitudes of Tolerance and Acceptance. We continue to look forward to hearing your comments and reactions.

Heidi McCulloch, V.P., Senior Strategic Planner, MacLaren

So, what do you think? If you’re American, do you identify with any of these definitions? Do you think they’re applicable to us, too? If you’re Canadian, do you think they’re true of Canada?

* Inevitable because there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t hear someone here comparing something with the U.S.

Photo credit: ridgeglobal.com

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It’s A Girl!

I was never a fan of cats. I’ve always been a canine girl. I grew up with a Cocker Spaniel named Buffy, who I literally carried around wherever we went, and, later, a black Miniature Schnauzer named Heidi who was smart and seriously precious. Once I grew up, I wanted to get my own dog, but I never got around to it, mostly because I’m lazy I travel a lot and didn’t think it would be fair to my dog to be alone.

When I moved to dog-crazed Toronto, I started getting the dog itch again, mostly because of the hot guys at the dog parks I didn’t have any family here and was craving some unconditional love. I know myself well enough, though, to know that in the midst of six months of subzero temperatures, I’m not going to get up out of my warm, cozy bed to, not only walk a dog in the snow, but pick up its poop in the snow. As if.

I knew several people with cats and started thinking about getting a cat as an “unconditional love” alternative. But since I didn’t know a thing about them, I decided to go with the “try before you buy” mantra and foster a cat rather than adopt one right away.

I contacted Toronto Cat Rescue and, after a couple of false starts, finally found a foster baby that didn’t need medical attention*; in March, an adorable, six year-old female Tabby came to live with me! Her name was Agatha, but the only Agatha’s I know are old, warty, and witchy, so I decided to call her Abby**. To say the first night was rough would be an understatement. She moved in with me on a Wednesday night and because I’m sure she was completely anxious and nervous, she meowed literally all night long. I may have slept two hours (note to self: don’t start fostering a cat on a school night). There were some litter box and some sofa-marking issues the first week, but with the help of my new best friend aluminum foil, she eventually settled in. In fact, I’ve had her for exactly one month and she now sleeps on my extra pillow every night, which I think means she likes me. 🙂

I’m technically only fostering Abby, but I’d pretty much fallen in love with her after day three. When she cuddles up to me and purrs, my heart literally melts. It totally calms me and even when she gets annoyed that I practically lay on top of her, she still lets me get my purring fix. I bought Abby a $24 bed that she wouldn’t go near, but when I brought home a free box top from work, I couldn’t get her out of it. She loves playing with her crinkle ball and mouse, string on a stick, and pink catnip mouse, and when I can’t find her, she’s usually chillin’ in my soaker tub.^ The final sign that I’ve officially become a crazy cat lady, though? I started a Twitter feed for my cat. What can I say? She’s a true bird lover, after all. 😉 Check out Abby’s fierce tweeting skills at twitter.com/abbysmeow.

Clearly my poor foster cat is having to make up for the fact that I currently have no sugar daddy. Ahem. 😉

* Every cat they called me for required shot or medicine-giving. Being a first time cat parent, I was just not prepared to give some cat shots in his gums.
** Okay, I didn’t totally take away her identity, so don’t freak out. Her original family called her Tabby, so I figured Abby wasn’t too far off. What?

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It Really Is Like A Whole Other Country

For once, I’m changing subjects*. Instead of talking about how passionately in love I am with Toronto, I’m going to do a little educating about the beauty of my home state; yeah, you know the one — the Great State of Texas!

As I’ve lamented time and time again, Texas doesn’t really have seasons like other parts of North America. The beginning of Spring in Texas, though, marks a change in season unlike any other; the arrival of Spring brings some of the prettiest bursts of color you’ll see anywhere in the world.

Between March and May, the interstates in central Texas turn into virtual seas of blue and red wildflowers with an abundance of blooming Texas Bluebonnets (the state flower), Indian Paintbrushes, and Indian Blankets. Bluebonnets are so legendary in Texas, that, other than the Alamo and deer hunting, the thing you absolutely cannot miss is driving the Bluebonnet Trail through central Texas. In fact, it is a right of passage in Texas to take a “Sunday drive” through the Texas Hill Country to have your picture taken lying in an ocean of blue. I would post some of the photos of me doing just that, but the last time I went on this type of road trip was well before the earth cooled, by which I mean there is no digital proof**. Ahem.

The bluebonnet became the state flower of Texas in 1901. It wasn’t until Lady Bird Johnson returned to Texas from Washington DC, though, that the government of the State of Texas was persuaded to seed bluebonnets along highways throughout the state. The notion that she’s responsible for the gorgeousness along our highways was so ingrained in us in school, that when I see bluebonnets, I think of Lady Bird to this day. It was also ingrained in us that it is illegal to pick a bluebonnet lest you spend a year of your life in jail for wanting some color*** in your house. Alas, that is apparently NOT true according to Wikipedia, and I know Wikipedia would never, ever lie about something like this. The moral of the story is to pick away, but just don’t park your Ford F-90,000 illegally on the highway because THAT will get you thrown in jail, flowers in tow.

I’m going home for a special someone’s special birthday in a couple of weeks and I hope I get to feast my eyes on the loveliness that are Texas Bluebonnets, for as much as I love Toronto, there’s nothing like driving down a Texas highway and seeing miles and miles and miles of blue.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, I’m adding a few more photos^, so you can read, weep, and book your ticket to Texas faster than you can say “bluebonnet”. 🙂

* Don’t get used to it. I’m just homesick. 😦
** Just physical proof. As in actual photos, which is likely crammed inside some box in my parents’ attic.
*** Yes, I’m spelling it the American way. Because this is an article about Texas. Also, see bullet one above.
^ Photos are courtesy of a friend of my family’s, who doesn’t need to be named, but knows who she is.

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Toronto The Good. No, Really.

I was parked in a parking lot one day last week and grabbing some stuff from the backseat of my car, when another car pulled up next to me. The driver rolled down her window and asked if I knew where the new Winners* was located. I didn’t, but I’d seen a billboard in the area saying that Winners had, in fact, moved. All I could remember was that it said the store was now located on Laird Drive…the same street we were on. I said to the lady “oh yes, I saw a sign that they moved somewhere on Laird, but I haven’t seen anything around”. We laughed about it, she drove off, and I went inside the store.

I was standing in line at the PetSmart counter to return my items** when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but the lady who had just stopped me in the parking lot — and she was walking straight towards me. I thought to myself “surely she came back in to pick up some dog food, or some cat litter, or to shoot me or something”, but, alas, no. She marched right up to me and said “I wanted to let you know that I found the Winners; it’s at Laird and blah blah blah***. Then she turned around and walked right out the store!

I stood there in shock. I think my mouth actually dropped open a tiny bit. I actually don’t remember where she said the store was because I couldn’t believe what had actually just happened! Had this woman really driven off, found Winners, turned around, parked her  car, gone inside Petsmart, and found me just to tell me where Winners was?! I mean, who does that?! I’ll tell you who — Torontonians the Good, that’s who.

 
 
 
 

* For my American readers, Winners is the Marshalls of Canada
** I bought my foster cat a super soft, super fluffy $24 cat bed that she literally never touched. Tonight, I brought home a box top — you know, the kind that pops off of a paper box — that was FREE, incidentally, and she won’t get out of it. Go figure.  Anyway, I was returning the cat bed to PetSmart which is where the incident occurred.
*** Like I said, I couldn’t get to the new Winners if I wanted to because I didn’t hear anything the woman said. Either that or I’m finally losing my hearing. ;-)

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The Funny

Over the weekend, I googled a cat question that was something to the effect of “why do cats flick their tails” (yeah, I got a cat. I might get around to blogging about it before 2012 when the world ends. Anyway.). When I keyed in the word “why”, the first thing that came up was “Why can’t I own a Canadian?”. After I pulled myself up off the floor from laughing hysterically, I thought to myself “you know, why can’t I own a Canadian”? Is it against the law? Can an American not own foreign property? Do you have to say “zed” before they’ll allow you to own a Canadian? 😉 The answer to this question confounds me. Not to mention that, technically, I already own a Canadian. A feline Canadian, but a Canadian nonetheless.

There were some other great questions that came up, such as the third one: “why are Canadians afraid of the dark”, and, of course my personal favourite: “why is my poop green?”. Keep in mind that these are *actual* questions people asked the interwebs. Wow.

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To Market, To Market

I didn’t grow up going to Farmers’ Markets. There aren’t many in Houston and the ones that are there are quite small. In fact, I didn’t go to my first farmers market until I moved to Toronto. It seems that every neighbourhood in the city has its own farmers market with all kinds of locally grown produce. Those markets, though, are dwarfed by the mother of all farmers markets — Toronto’s legendary St. Lawrence Market.

The St. Lawrence Market is a complex made up of three buildings, including the North Market, which was established in 1803 (!) and is known primarily for its Saturday Farmers’ Market where producers from across southern Ontario sell their wares seasonally; on Sundays, the North Market turns in to a giant antiques fair. The South Market, and the larger of the two, has more than 50 specialty shops selling everything from rare French cheeses to Moroccan candies to olive bars into which I’d like to dive.

I never really got into the habit of going to the Market on Saturday like so many of my friends. Rather, I got into the habit of going to Loblaws on my way home from work on Fridays, so I didn’t have to deal with the crazy grocery store masses on the weekend — you know, like strollers the size of Hummers packed with screaming triplets and lines wrapped through the store. Anyway. With the invention of my Toronto Bucket List, though, I decided I needed to spend a Saturday morning roaming through the St. Lawrence Market.

I saw so many delectable, delightful goodies that my eyes nearly popped out of my head. I can’t list every store I went into simply because I pay by the inch* and it would be cost prohibitive. 🙂  Some of my favourites, though, were Kozlik’s Canadian Mustard (honey and lime mustard FTW), Scheffler’s Deli & Cheese (where they sell hanging cheese!), Everyday Gourmet (for delicious, delicious coffees and teas), and Di Liso’s Fine Meats, where I snagged 4 pounds of extra lean ground steak for $12. Sweet. I have a serious addiction to olives, and I saw an olive bar so vast that my eyes welled up with tears. The Carousel Bakery, a Toronto institution, is also inside the Market and sells its “world famous peameal bacon sandwich” in droves — people were literally snaked through the market standing in line to buy a sandwich. I tried one, of course, but not being a huge fan of “back bacon”, or peameal bacon, I didn’t really care for it. Apparently, I’m the only one, though, so don’t listen to me.

The St. Lawrence Market is the world’s largest indoor farmers market and it’s been right in my own backyard all this time. I’m sad I didn’t take advantage of it sooner than I did, but better late than never. Reason # 54,912 to love Toronto.

P.S. Check out a few photos I took while at the SLM.

* kidding

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