From Winnipeg to Maryland.
Hi friends! For those of you who don’t know, I’m Jennifer, and I’m a Canadian who’s been living in the US for four whole years now. And can I just say that I have been wanting to write a post about my life as a Canadian in the US for YEARS now?! I’ve been dying to shed some light on the fact that even though Canada and the US are side-by-side sharing a continent, there’s still some culture shock for those of us who dare to venture ‘cross the border.
My experience as Canadian in the US is especially unique because I moved from a small-town near Winnipeg, MB–a city in Canada situated just above the North Dakota and Minnesota state lines–to the north eastern corner of Maryland on the United States east coast. Don’t get me wrong, everyone’s experience is unique but I don’t think there’d be quite as much as culture shock for someone who moved from say, one large metropolitan area like Toronto to another on the same end of the continent such as Boston. (But, if this is you, I’d love to hear your take!)
How did I end up in Maryland?
Before we dive in I’m going to provide a short and sweet little answer to my most asked question: how did a girl from the absolute middle of Canada end up living in MARYLAND?!
When I was 19 I attended Bible school in Germany. (Um, best experience of my life by the way!) Little did I know…that that sprightly, handsome, and hilarious guy assigned next to me in class would one day be my husband. It’s. So. Crazy. To. Think. About.
This guy, named Jarryd was from Maryland, US. (To be honest, I’m not even sure I’d ever had a single thought about the state of Maryland before meeting him.) We did the whole long distance thing for a few years, and once engaged we had to decide what country we wanted to start our married life in. (Most couples just have to decide what street they want to live on, those lucky butts!) So, after our beautiful wedding in 2014, we decided to move to Jarryds’ hometown in Maryland and we’ve been doing the marriage AND the Maryland thing since!
F.A.Q a Canadian in the US gets asked:
As soon as I moved here in 2014 I realized that according to most Americans, Canada is just a large, unknown wintery land mass above the US (America’s top-hat, anyone?). They don’t know much about Canada–and I guess you can’t really blame them if it wasn’t a part of their education system.
In fact, I have been the very first Canadian in the US that most Marylanders have met, which is actually quite the burden to bear. I have been the face of Canada to most of my friends, fellow church-goers, in-laws, and co-workers here. I do hope I’ve worn my proverbial Canadian crown in a way that would make all Canadian people proud.
With that being said, I’ve been asked some pretty hilarious questions over the years from everyone I’ve met here; questions about what life in Canada was/is like and they’re all too good not to share.
- Do you have Christmas in Canada? Halloween? Easter? Um, yes, yes, yes, and many more.
- Is the official language in Canada “Canadianese”? You guys, this was a 100% serious question.
- What side of the road do you drive on there? I have no words for this.
- Is there McDonalds in Canada? Again, I’ve lost all ability to speak. 😐
- You’re from Canada? You must speak French. HA–nope, I speak English and German, actually. Way to put me into a stereotype.
- Is there summer in Canada? Does it ever get warm/hot? YES. Sometimes I’ll check the weather back home and it’ll be warmer in Canada than it is in Maryland. But I will say, Manitoba has a dry heat compared to Marylands’ humid heat.
- Do you guys have regular bacon like we have or just Canadian bacon? Sigh…
- You’re from Canada? You MUST be from Montreal then. This statement is probably the most common thing I’ve heard yet–apparently all Canadians must be either from the city of Montreal or really close to it.
- You said “Eh”!!! HAHAH. You said “SORR-RY!” HAHA! YOU’RE SUCH A CANADIAN! *Cue the dying of laughter* Well, that’s one thing you’ve got right. Canadians DO indeed say both of those things religiously. To be honest, about two years into my life here in the US I’ve completely stopped saying “eh” simply because it’s SO distracting to Americans that anything I’m saying in conversation will come to a complete halt and be totally forgotten about.
- Why are YOU cold and wearing a sweater? Aren’t you from Canada? LOL. Americans are always shocked when I say I’m cold. I’m only human and believe it or not, I HATE the cold.
- Also, fun fact: Americans absolutely love when you live up to their preconceived ideas of Canada, it gives them a kick. So after all these years, I’ve learned to play along. Jarryd and I once completely sold someone on the idea that my family back home owns a dog sled team and we use our doggos to get around to and from our igloos to the grocery store.
In conclusion of this F.A.Q., as ridiculous as some of these questions may be, I can totally be a walking-Canadian-stereotype at times. I LOVE maple syrup and would drizzle it on almost any food if I could. Hockey is my absolute favourite sport. I like to think I’m polite, proper, and friendly. I apologize often. I actually like Justin Bieber’s music. I totally have a Canadian accent–and proud of it! So there ya go!
Things in the US I Had to Adjust to:
Tolls force you to always have cash on hand–which I never do. And I can’t even tell you the amount of times I’ve made a wrong turn and had to go through accidental tolls. Some tolls near us are as much as $8.00! AND one time Jarryd and I didn’t pay our $2.00 toll bill that we got in the mail on time, so they charged us with a $50.00 late fee on top of that. The worst!
There is so much traffic here and not enough roads. My commute to work is strictly a two lane road and with there being so much traffic the thought of passing that Sunday-driver in front of you–well, you may as well forget it. OH and because of all the traffic, don’t be surprised if you get cut off and have to slam on your breaks at least 5 times a day–because everyone’s trying to squeeze onto the busy roads and you can’t really blame them.
People show love here by pickin’ on you and making fun of you! Four sarcastic years later I’m MUCH more used to it and take every jib and jab with a grain of salt–because that’s the exact taste it leaves in your mouth, salty. 😛
The speed of life.
A prime example is the simple “Hey, how are you?”. It’s NOT a question. I repeat, it’s not a question! It’s solely a greeting and that’s it. People don’t actually want to know how you’re doing in that moment. Trust me, I found this out the hard way when when I’d start explaining how I’m doing and what’s going on in my life only to have people keep walkin’ right on by! Ouch–it hurt my polite little Canadian heart.
I went from small-town slow-down Canada, the land of making conversation with EVERYONE–to the lightning speed go-go-go fast pace east coast of USA. For example, back in Canada if you’re driving and you see a friend you know comin’ up the road towards you, you both stop your vehicles, roll down your windows and chat. You make time to talk. Your “hello! How are you doing?” isn’t just a greeting, it’s an actual question that you WANT to know the answer to. The speed of life here in this corner of Maryland is too fast for me and it’s not my favourite thing in the world. I imagine if I would have moved to a state like say…Texas, it would have been an easier transition for me.
How the rain and snow have the ability to bring life to a halt.
Oh–there’s just a chance that it might snow tomorrow? We’d better close all schools until further notice. They bring out the snow plows and have them sit on the side of the road hours before it even starts snowing! (No wonder my taxes are so high…)
Oh–it’s raining? We’d better drive at 20 mph with our hazard lights flashing. It’s slightly foggy? Cancel all evening meetings! People here can’t even believe how “fast” I drive when it’s snowing. Honestly, an American winter storm that’s been declared as a state-of-emergency-we-must-buy-all-the-bread-and-milk-we-can-find is the equivalent of a normal snowy day in Canada.
For a state that’s always so go-go-go and in a hurry, they sure drive slow in “bad” weather. 😛
You don’t ask, you tell.
In this area of the United States, you don’t wait to be asked about your day or what’s going on or what’s new–you just gotta TELL. This was a rough one for me to adjust to because of my introverted nature. I’m a pretty private person and don’t enjoy talking about myself with people I’m not 100% comfortable with.
However, I LOVE asking questions and learning about other people and their lives so in most of my interactions here I’d come to realize that I knew ALOT about others but they didn’t know much about me. I was always waiting to be asked and didn’t realize that I just had to go for it and spew information out of me out of nowhere. Where I’m from, asking specific questions is how the conversation starts and continues to flow, but here it’s different; you have to be verbally assertive and that was a major adjustment for me. If anything it’s made me more outgoing in conversation.
One thing I appreciate about Canada is their colourful dollar bills. $5 bill is blue, $10 is purple, $20 is green, $50 is red, and $100 is brown. It’s like having your own personal rainbow in your wallet! Here in the US you can’t just reach into your wallet, see a certain colour and know that you’re about to grab a $20 bill. Each bill of American money is the same shade of green, and takes me way too long to sort through at the toll booth.
And fun fact, Canadian bills are made of plastic now; nice and sturdy. American bills can sometimes feel soft and wrinkly like kleenex. Also, I was so excited when Canada stopped producing pennies in 2012–and then I moved to the US in 2014 and had to deal with pennies all over again. Sigh.
In Canada, you say words the way that they’re spelt, and there’s always room for each letter to be pronounced on your tongue. For example, here you don’t say Maryland like “Marry-land”, as all of my people back home do. In Maryland they say: “Mare-lynn—d”, with the “d” being silent at times.
Baltimore = Bal-more.
Water = wooder
America = ‘Mare-ca or ‘Merica.
Then there’s the sentences that don’t even make sense. Such as if you wanted to say: “I did not do that”, here they say: “I ain’t done nuttin!” It doesn’t even makes sense which really irks my soul but there’s nothing that can be done about it now–they’re too far gone.
Things that I LOVE about living here in the US.
As grammatically incorrect they may be at times, American accents are fantastic. I can’t get enough of how Jarryd says “phoewn” for phone and “hoeewm” for home. And how when he’s at a family gathering his redneck accent comes out in full-force.
Or how the lady at the drive-thru calls me “baby” or the grocery store clerk calls me “hun”. For us Canadians it’s just so heartwarming and endearing, but I’ve learned to not take it to mean more than it is–because when you call them out on it, they don’t even notice they’re saying it! They’d probably call the person trying to rob their house their sweetie-pie. It’s just how it is.
The climate, the seasons, and the landscape.
Believe it or not, we get all four seasons in Canada (yes, even summer)! But here in Maryland, the winters are SO much shorter and milder for the most part. The springs have the most beautiful blooms (the giant pink magnolia tree blossoms are to die for), the summers are incredibly hot and HUMID, and the colors of fall are vibrant and GORGEOUS.
And then, there’s the landscape. This Canadian LOVES Maryland scenery because where I’m from it’s completely flat prairie-land with a few forests of elm trees and oak trees. Don’t get me wrong, Manitoba is beautiful in its own way, of course. But in Maryland it’s love at first sight with the rolling fields, winding roads, and the lush trees and greenery. It’s absolutely gorgeous you guys!
Location, location, location!
The location of our apartment is pretty sweet. We live in Maryland, I work in PA, and because it’s tax-free we shop in Delaware. First of all, we’re less than 2 hours from the OCEAN (which coming from the centre of Canada is so amazing to me!). I once drove to the beach and swam in the ocean and got a sunburn all by myself in the middle of the week just because I could.
Washington D.C is an hour and a half away, Baltimore is 45 minutes away, Philly is 45 minutes away, Amish country is right next door, and last but not least New York City is just 3 hours away. There is so much to see and do here! Not to mention all of the state parks, little nautical towns, historical lands (Gettysburg and Williamsburg), and cities in between!
Where Jarryd and I live, the choice of game tickets to buy is practically endless and it’s one of our favourite things to do together. So far we’ve been to a bunch of Philadelphia Flyers games (NHL) only when they play the Winnipeg Jets of course, Philly games (MLB), a D.C United game (MLS), a Nationals game in D.C (MLB), several Baltimore Orioles (or as I say, Oreos) games (MLB), and one Devils game up in New Jersey (NHL). I’ve yet to attend an NBA or NFL game but maybe one day?! Once again, it’s a huge perk to our location.
I wouldn’t dare order a soft-shelled crab sandwich in Winnipeg, MB–honestly…I’m not even sure that you can! Maryland is known for their crabs and they are SO good. In fact, busting open a bushel of steamed crabs open with a wooden mallet over a paper-tarped picnic table with corn and cold drinks is a common social activity here that lasts at least 3 hours. It’s incredibly messy and Old-Bay-coma-inducing but so worth it. Don’t even get me started on the lobster.
Exclusively American Stores & Restaurants.
There are certain places to shop and places to eat here that don’t exist in Canada. Stores such as…um, I don’t know…TARGET?! KOHLS?! TARGET?! HOBBY LOBBY?! TARGET?!
And then there’s restaurants, like Texas Roadhouse, Rita’s Italian Ice, my favourite chinese restaurant that’s just down the street from us, and Chic Fil A. Note: Canada has one Chic Fil A but it’s in the Calgary airport, so that hardly counts. At least Canada has Tim Hortons to make up for what it’s lacking.
Last but not least, my favourite thing about my life in the US is the people! If Jarryd and I would have chosen to live in my hometown for the first four years, I never would have met my friends here or gotten to know my in-laws as much as I have. Would life have been easier and more comfortable for me if we’d have spent our first four years in Canada? I’m sure, because familiarity in itself is comfortable.
But that’d would have been four years spent without ever getting to know my American friends, family members, church people, and co-workers. What a journey it’s been since meeting Jarryd at 19 years of age in Germany–life’s such an adventure and you’ll never know the people you’ll meet or the places God can lead you if you’re not open to taking it and trusting His will.
Are you a Canadian in the US too? Or even if you’re someone living outside of the US, is there anything about American culture that surprises you or that you just can’t help but love? Tell me in the comments below or shoot me a message on my Contact page. I’d love to hear your thoughts because I KNOW there’s people out there that can totally relate to this!
Thanks so much for reading, friends! And have a great day, eh?! 😀