Happy 4th of July, American Neighbours

Joshua Tree National Park - Bruce Witzel photo

My last post was all hip-hip hoorays for Canada. Today, I have the pleasure of saying Happy 4th of July to my American neighbours.

We really have the best times when we travel in the States. We love to drive the scenic byways and stop at the funky roadside stands and cafes. And we love your National Parks, Monuments and Forests. We’ve visited several and I can’t say I’ve ever had a bad experience. The sites are easily accessible (sometimes stunningly so) and the National Park rangers are friendly and well-informed.

Death Valley Travles - Bruce Witzel photo

When I think about our many road trips across the line (that’s what we say in Canada when we travel down to the US), the one thing that really stands out is the friendliness of Americans. We Canadians are known for being polite but in that courtesy there can be an ever-so-slight standoffishness. The Americans we have chatted with during our travels are almost always smiling, helpful and genuinely happy we chose to visit their country.

Eastern Sierra Nevadas - Bruce Witzel photo

American helpfulness can be quite above and beyond at times. When asking for directions, we’ve had a person say he didn’t know but he would call a cousin who was sure to know and get him to come down and tell us. We’ve had a guy start to explain how to get somewhere and then shrug his shoulders and say, “Oh, just follow me,” as he hopped in his truck to drive totally out of his way. We’ve been ‘god blessed’ so many times we don’t even think it odd anymore. Americans travelling in Canada might notice that we don’t do a lot of ‘god blessing’ up here.

One thing I have learned, after a few trips to the USA, is that when I want a bathroom I shouldn’t ask for a washroom. The term is common in Canada and always means bathroom. In the States, when I use the term washroom, I first get a slight frown, a shake of the head and then the person helpfully tells me that I might find a Laundromat a few streets down.

American the beautiful – you are certainly that. Happy 4th of July and many thanks for your hospitality and welcoming smiles from an ever-so-slightly standoffish Canadian who enjoys her visits to your great big land of wonders.

Olivera Str. LA - Bruce Witzel photo

26 comments on “Happy 4th of July, American Neighbours

  1. Rose says:

    Yep, sounds about like us. 😀

    • I’m glad my reactions ring true. We all look at things through such unique lenses – some days it is easy to doubt our perceptions. And of course, some days we should. But that’s definitely a thought for another post.

  2. Yolanda M. says:

    Lovely post Francis. Great pics. Have yet to ‘cross the line’ but we are planning on going on a road trip soonish (in a year or two) 😀 SO much to see in the USA! As a ‘new’ Canadian (we immigrated 6 + yrs ago) I too found it odd that bathrooms are called washrooms here.

    • Bathroom seems to be another confusing term when crossing the line – I was once told that the facility in question did not have a shower and this information was accompanied by quite the raised eyebrow. In the USA, restroom seems to be the word of choice. When I’m desperate, I resort to loudly stage whispering the word toilet while jumping up and down on one foot. That usually does the trick.

      • Yolanda M. says:

        Restroom. Didn’t know that! Of course in Britain and South Africa it’s everything from toilet and bathroom to loo. Toilet should do the trick everywhere though surely?

  3. evelynralph says:

    It is so nice to give a little back. I have found the same when visiting Canada. Happy travelling.

  4. diannegray says:

    That photo of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is awesome, Francis!

  5. Gwen Stephens says:

    I always took the friendliness of Americans for granted, probably because I’m, well, an American. Then we moved to mainland Europe, a much more polite and stand-offish place than anywhere in North America, and the cultural differences really hit home. Of course we assimilated somewhat during the years we lived over there, so when we moved back to the States in 2005 I found the overt friendliness a bit off-putting and sometimes overwhelming. It’s a great case study in how environment affects a person, I suppose. I’m glad your travel experiences here have been pleasant ones. And the word “restroom” really doesn’t make any logical sense, does it?

    • Yes! Why is restroom more telling than washroom or bathroom? None of those words indicate toilet and that is what I’d be looking for. Too, funny. On our first trip to the States, the friendliness made me nervous. I wondered what on earth people wanting from me, being that friendly. Of course they didn’t want anything, except the opportunity to smile and wish me well.

      Gwen, we had a hilarious experience outside of Chicago back in 2005. We were driving one of the very new to Canada even, Smart Cars. These cars were almost completely unknown in the US at that time. Driving on a 4 or 5 lane highway outside of Chicago, our hearts in our throats for fear we’d take the wrong exit and end up who knows where, we noticed that we were slowing traffic in both lanes around us as people were literally leaning out there windows to snap pictures of our car. We were stunned. A couple of days later, two states over, we had pulled into a rest stop and a man approached us and said, “I heard about you guys in this car back in Illinois.” Every where we went on that trip, people stopped us and chatted about the car. Many asked if they could sit in it. You can imagine that for a couple of shy and reserved CNDs it was more than overwhelming. Lucky for us, Bruce is quite a bit more chatty than I am.

      • Gwen Stephens says:

        What a great story, Fran! I remember being completely enamored of Smart Cars when we lived in Europe, especially because at the time, they had not hit the North American market yet. Our first visitor came just months after we moved over there, and she had to have her picture taken beside one of them. Of course, there was nobody sitting inside the car 🙂

        Amazing that someone two states away from Illinois had heard about your car. That’s what I’d call “going viral,” probably before the phrase even existed!

  6. Gallivanta says:

    I have also had some wonderfully friendly encounters in the US.

  7. I agree, Fran. As a whole, Americans are a friendly bunch until you meet them in rush hour traffic during your Monday morning commute. 🙂
    Thanks for the awesome tribute to the good ole USA!
    Loved your photos!

    • I hear you on the traffic thing – we’ve had more than a couple of edgy times – one comes to mind on the bridge over to Berkley, CA. But when on holiday one can plan to hit the major traffic zones on the off hours and we really try to do that. You are most welcome for the tribute – it is heartfelt.

  8. Roy McCarthy says:

    I was only ever in the States for two weeks, and maybe Orlando and the Keys are not representative, but we found nothing but friendliness. Contrast with the people of Tenerife who show total disdain for holidaymakers, though unfortunately our young louts may have coloured their perception

    • There are definitely spots in Canada, as well, where being a wide-eyed tourist is not seen as such a great thing. My dad lived for years in Osoyoos, a small town in the interior of BC that experiences a doubling (or more) of the population in the summer months. The town is very dependent on tourism dollars but, boy oh boy, the locals are not keen on the traffic snarls or the line-ups or the drinking on the beaches and all the other antics that go with an influx of holidayers. I always use to tell him – if you want to live in paradise, you have to share.

  9. smilecalm says:

    wonderful perspective
    of desert’s
    refreshment 🙂

    • There is something so stunning about a desert – it is one of my all-time favourite spots to visit. The starkness, the subtle shadings of light and shadow, the bursts of bright colour and the emptiness. These things fascinate me. We once stayed overnight at Arconsanti, outside of Phoenix, on the edge of the desert. The night was stunning – the sense of empty space, the dark sky and the stars.

  10. jackiemallon says:

    I need to cross the line in the other direction. I’ve heard only great things!

  11. oldmainer says:

    Thank you Francis. I appreciate your tribute. Here in Maine we are very familiar with our brothers from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that frequent our towns, cities, and beaches. Bien Venue

    • You are most welcome. When we get a chance to travel in Atlantic Canada, we will make our way down into your area. I’ve always wanted to see that part of the US. Good to know Canadians are a familiar sight.

  12. As an American-Canadian (or is it a Canadian-American?), I thank you for this nice tribute, Fran. I’ve lived in Canada for almost 30 years now and guess I have got over seeing Canadians as more reserved and Americans as more friendly. Perhaps that comes from being raised in a Scandanavian-American family. Maybe we were a bit more reserved than the others but also picked up the friendliness. I rejoice in both my nationalities and appreciate the similarities as well as the differences (except for guns, that is!) I spent most of my 20s and 30s in Europe so experienced other cultures there and found returning to the States a bit daunting at times. However, after 9 months in Wisconsin, we moved to Winnipeg and, low and behold, found that Canada, for us, was a nice blend of both America and Europe. It became the place we wanted to settle. How nice that we can celebrate our similarities and our differences. (By the way, I find both terms “washroom” and “restroom” pretty inadequate. I’ve settled for the “ladies’ room” – or, for the other sex, the “men’s room.”) I loved your pictures, too.
    Gayle Moore-Morrans

    • Thanks, Gayle for another option when asking for that pesky room with the toilet in it. Surely ladies’ room or men’s room would be clear on either side of the line. True what you say about Canada being a nice blend of Europe and American influences. We do have that unique kind of history.

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