Monday, June 22, 2009

A Tale of Two Borders

We're four months into our year-long Canadian adventure. Suffice it to say, the cultural differences have been more significant than we'd anticipated, and more than you'd ever realize in a two-week holiday jaunt. Not in a bad way, mind you, but surely in ways that make you think.

At the risk of oversimplifying, our goal while we're here is to follow the Switzerland principle: Take no sides. We've encouraged our kids to err toward silence while the States' way of doing things takes a daily bashing from classmates and teachers. My wife and I have strived to be models of neutrality in the face of same. (It's actually quite humorous when someone goes on an anti-U.S. rant thinking that we're Canadian.)

But as we were chatting over breakfast this morning, we hit upon kind of an interesting nonparallel (perpendicular?) situation from our experience in the States. Our home is in Phoenix, a few hours from the Mexican border and the Sea of Cortez. We have friends, many of whom have lived in Arizona for years, who hate Mexico. They do not go there. They do not care that the beaches are beautiful, the beer is cheap, the food is great, and the people are friendly. Like Dr. Seuss's Sam I Am, they won't go if invited, and they'd never go on their own initiative.

In contrast, you don't have to go very far around here before finding scads of people professing to dislike the U.S. who nonetheless cross the border on a regular basis for cheaper and more-varied shopping, half-price booze and vacations. (As above, I find it humorous rather than injurious to my patriotism.)

I make no judgment presenting this here, not on Canadians for going to the U.S., nor Phoenicians for refusing to go to Mexico. I know full well that we are just one data point in one province, and I am aware that you can't draw an equals sign between traveling to the U.S. and Mexico.

It is simply, as Rod Serling used to say, "for your consideration..."


  1. They say the only thing Canadians really have in common is a dislike of the U.S. (although in Quebec, ironically, Americans are generally well liked--despite their English-speaking tongue).

    A lot of the bashing comes from feeling ignored (after 911, for example, Bush thanked half the countries in the world--and left out Canada), and a lot of it has to do with stereotypes (the loud tourist is the squeaky wheel, after all).

    Just don't try to take our Florida away...

  2. Just this week I heard or read the corollary to what you're saying: that each Canadian border city has far more in common with its U.S. counterpart than its neighboring province. So...we've got our choice between the booming metropolises of Calais and Houlton. Hmmm.

    Call me Mr. Milquetoast, but I'm not going to defend tourists, nor Bush's old or Napolitano's more-recent slights to our good neighbors. How 'bout we give you Florida and call it even?