There are not many cultural differences between Canadians and people in the U.S., but there are a few. Among other things, our reputation for mild-manneredness is indeed warranted, and I always feel very out of place on the streets of New York, where apparently it is NOT the custom apologize if someone else bumps into you.
I have said many times that I fear the changes it will take to turn me into an Israeli… and then an Israeli driver.
There’s another cultural difference which I have observed many times on past visits to the U.S. but completely forgot, and forgot to warn my kids about.
Canadians are nice, kinda-Britishy people of tidy habits, and sometimes we feel a need to visit the bathroom, or, often, the washroom. The toilet is the thing you find in the middle of that room, the thing which is most unmentioned if you have any couth whatsoever.
In the US, apparently, “toilet” is the whole thing – room, stall, appliance. I tried it a couple of times when asking directions, because I got sick of being stared at while people process my request (just as I have sometimes been known to say “napkin” instead of serviette, or “pants” instead of trousers, just to be understood).
But I still forgot to warn the children.
So when YM excused himself from the office of the yeshiva we visited, he went off in bold Canadian style to find the washroom. There was actually a toilet (in a bathroom) just a few feet from where we were sitting, but the students helpfully escorted him way the heck and around (like Uncle Moishy: “up, up, down, down, right, left and all around!”)… to the place where they take their showers.
Which left me waiting and swearing under my breath, staring into the empty bathroom, and wondering where the HECK he’d gone for about ten minutes while the Rosh Yeshiva waited for us in his car and I ran out every two minutes to give him an update (“still can’t find him”).
In case you’re wondering – I know you’re wondering – I refuse to call people who live in the U.S. “Americans” for the simple reason that Canadians, Mexicans, and for that matter, Chileans are ALSO Americans. Not that residents of the U.S. would ever admit it. In my head, I call them “United Statesians.”