Canada: Pros and Cons
I've been in Guelph, Canada for roughly three months now, and I have discovered that I miss things that I least expected to be missing. I would like to give a rough summary of what I miss about home and what I like about Canada. Apart from the usual cliché stuff about missing friends and family (which nobody wants to hear about anyway), here's what I miss from Iceland:
1. Being able to smoke in bars
This is so unbelievably lame that it's actually on the top of my list: It is forbidden to smoke in all bars in Canada, except in the occasional joint which masquerades as an "Exclusive Club". There is no way for me to enjoy a beer and a cigarette simultaneously within any drinking establishment for miles around.
2. Being able to (legally) carry open alchoholic beverages in public
Yessiree, it is forbidden to carry an open alcoholic beverage of any sort in public. It is therefore impossible for me to go outside for a smoke with my beer, an incredibly nuisance. Although I have been known to violate this law on occasions, it is unwise to engage in it on a regular basis since the fine is quite stiff. I regard this Nazi law as nothing less than a violation of my fundamental rights as a human being present on the surface of the Earth. You would think that a country as cold as Canada would adopt some sort of vodka-swilling public drinking orgies to stem away the frostbite, but this is obviously not the case.
3. Being free from that horrible Politically Correct attitude
I've alread touched on this topic before in these online revelations of mine, but it bears mentioning again because it gets so badly on my nerves. I have to watch every word in case I offend someone: of course, being the arrogant loudmouth that I am, I have already (metaphorically) tread on several mines. I miss being able to make crude jokes. People here are so easily shockable that my *hundred-carat-solid-gold* nasty jokes are lost on them. Instead they eye me with shocked bewilderment.
4. Eating good food and drinking good drinks
Let's just say that the University caféteria was tolerable for the first couple of weeks. At this point, the very thought of going in there makes me want to vomit. Granted, there are other places to buy food around here, but it is all of the junk food variety. I could, of course, theoretically go downtown with the bus and buy something good in a restaurant but it is difficult to persuade my impoverished fellow students to join me since it is not possible to use the University meal cards outside of the campus.
As far as drinks go, both the Coca-Cola and the water available around here tastes like shit. The only beverages that really meet my standards of quality is imported beer and I can't very well go about swilling Stella Artois (which, apart from causing inebriation, is also illegal in public -- see Item 2 above).
Now, let's turn to the things that I really like about Canada:
1. Low Prices
Stuff here is cheap. By cheap I don't mean USA-cheap, but almost everything is very inexpensive in comparison with my *beloved* home country, the Racketeering Business of Iceland. I would say that things here cost roughly 55-60% of what they cost back home. They're practically giving away food here -- I can get a good, filling meal for the equivalent of 300 Icelandic Kronas.
2. Amazon and Internet Retailing in General
Yes, this is actually number two because it is so amazing: You visit a website, you pick the stuff you want (be it books, films, digital equipment or whatnot), click a few buttons and the stuff ships directly to you, Free Of Charge (US or Canada only). No VAT, no *International* shipping costs, no extra crap which inflates the price to twice what you originally thought you were going to pay. Truly, this is a consumer heaven for an online geek such as my humble self.
3. No Evil, Hateful Looks From Strangers
As most of my fellow countrymen (at least those with a modicum of honesty) will readily acknowledge, our little shoal in the North Atlantic is not home to the friendliest people on earth. It is a thoroughly enjoyable surprise to no longer receive unwarranted hostile glances from strangers, or get treated like a piece of human offal by people in various levels of the service industry.
I like animals. They're so much nicer than human beings. Of course, my harshest critics would say that I like them because I don't have to justify my superiority to them -- an accusation I received when dwelling on this topic recently -- but I shall let that be for the moment: Guelph has tons of little animals scurrying about. There are squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and skunks crawling around everywhere. In fact, the entire campus is infested by squirrels. There are two different species, the Blacks and the Grays, and they fight each other with a vindictiveness that one would more readily attribute to one's fellow human beings. The Blacks seem to have a secure upper hand in this evolutionary struggle, for they are far more numerous. However, the University campus is hardly a *State Of Nature* by any reasonable standards: there is so much offal and so many leftovers everywhere that the squirrels have degenerated into fat, bloated creatures so clumsy that they occasionally fall out of the trees (and that is no exaggeration, I have seen it with my own eyes). Apparently they don't hibernate around here either anymore, which is quite understandable in light of the circumstances: Why hibernate when there are plenty of scraps to go around during the winter?