Using comparisons when discussing two different places can be a double-edged sword.
Whenever I would travel to off-beat places overseas with friends who were not used to visiting places which may have not been the cleanest, the “home comparison game” would inevitably come up. It’s a natural reflex to say “I wish this place were cleaner, I don’t trust the food here, why can the toilets be like home, why can’t local etiquette be better”, etc. etc. At the risk of sounding patriarchal, I’d eventually step in and just tell them to stop looking at the ground and to stop the negative comparisons — and just enjoy the trip for the sake of enjoying the trip. Otherwise they would never focus on all the good things going on around then which they travelled so far to see. This is the negative side of making comparisons.
But there is a flip-side to making comparisons. They can also allow you to see what you have in common. In a Canadian sense, because we do have a socio-linguistic duality, comparisons can be a good thing. They can help you appreciate differences, they can help you appreciate our deeply shared values, and they can help you embrace our socio-linguistic duality, and to incorporate it into your own lives (with all the differences and similarities that come with it).
Sometimes the comparisons don’t have to be mind-blowing statistics or earth-shattering differences, or even obvious things such as how a holiday festival may be celebrated differently from one end of the country to the other. Sometimes simple comparisons can be all that’s required to find points of commonality which make you feel at home where ever you are in Canada.
I can give you an example… A couple of days ago I did the 3 hour drive on highway 2 connecting Edmonton and Calgary (the Edmonton-Calgary corridor). Only two weeks earlier, I did the 3 hour Autoroute 20 drive between Québec City and Montréal. These two drives are remarkably similar in terms of the layout of the land, the look of the farms and clusters of trees along the way, how the cities look when you drive past them, what services are available along the route, the amount of traffic – everything actually. In fact, the “city-to-city” portion of highway 2 in Alberta and Autoroute 20 in Québec are so similar that if it were not for the signage (ie: everything in English in Alberta, and everything in French in Québec), that you likely wouldn’t know which of the two provinces you were driving in. Very few other major routes in Canada share such similarities.
It’s funny how something so simple and so mundane as a 3 hour drive between two major cities can make you feel you’re on “home-turf”, despite more than 4000kms separating the two. Even when you pull of the highway and drive through a city like Drummondville in Québec or Red Deer in Alberta, again, they feel the same. Because people in Red Deer and people in Drummondville grew up in mostly the same systems, with the same type of education, economic systems, life-challenges, employment realms, and other similarities, they’re basically people who are cut from the same cloth (yeah, there are differences between some of Québec’s and Alberta’s social programs, but on an overall degree scale, those differences wouldn’t be any more than 3, 5 or 6 degrees out of a total 360 degrees). But drive a few hours south, across the US border, and the cities have a very different feel.
It’s these types of small comparisons which bridge gaps and can give you common ground. They’re also the types of comparisons which give you the incentive to learn more, and to also appreciate the differences which do exist.
But what I find to be one of the most important components in such a comparison equation is that many cities like Drummonville in Québec and Red Deer in Alberta are still what constitute a very large portion of Québec’s and Alberta’s population and society, as well as every other region across Canada. Cities such as Montréal and Calgary and Québec (City) and Edmonton are the anomalies since they’re “one-offs” surrounded by seas and seas of smaller places like the Drummondvilles and Red Deers of Canada.
But what’s also cool is that we don’t have to venture far from what’s in common to find some pretty amazing differences which we can also share and incorporate into our own lives. Of course, cultural differences can be appreciated, celebrated and shared with one another. But some of the geographic differences can be awesome.
At the Québec City end of the Montréal-Québec Autoroute 20 corridor, just need to cross the St. Lawrence and drive a couple hours further along its banks, and you’ll pass through the amazingly beautiful Charlevoix region. I spent a little time there three weeks ago, just hanging out in Charlevoix, checking out the ski slopes, and reconnecting (it had been a while since my last time in Charlevoix).
In the same vein, at the Calgary end of the Edmonton-Calgary Highway 2 corridor, you just need to turn west and drive a couple of hours further, and you’ll pass through some of North America’s most scenic Rocky Mountain landscapes. I did this drive and spent a couple of days there earlier this week. But just like in Charlevoix, I was surrounded by ski resorts…
I guess that goes to show that even when we’re in the thick of some pretty obvious differences… we’re still surrounded by the same! It’s all good!
Quiz: For those of you who have driven the Edmonton-Calgary and Québec-Montréal corridors, guess which photo below is from which highway (you might be surprised). The answers are at the bottom of the photos. See how many you get right.
Quiz : Pour ceux d’entre vous qui avez déjà conduit les corridors Edmonton-Calgary et Québec-Montréal, devinez quelle photo ci-dessous correspond avec le bon corridor (attention car vous risquer de vous tromper). Les réponses se trouvent en bas des photos. Combien avez-vous deviné correctement?
ANSWERS: A (Alberta); B (Alberta); C (Québec); D (Québec); E (Alberta); F (Québec); G (Alberta); H (Québec); I (Alberta)
- Photos of the Charlevoix region (mentioned above) — all within a 90 minute drive of Québec City
- Des photos de la région de Charlevoix (metionnées ci-dessus) — à 90 minutes de Québec.
Centre de ski Mont-Ste-Anne:
Traîneau à chien:
- Photos I took in the Rockies a few days ago (mentioned above) — all within a 90 minute drive of Calgary
- Des photos que j’ai prise dans les Rocheuses il y a quelques jours (mentionnées ci-dessus) — à 90 minutes de route de Calgary.
The Prairies suddently end and the Rockies rise up out of nowhere. Les Prairies subitement prennent fin (avant scène) pour donner lieu aux rocheuses (arrière scène).
Canmore: 12,000 people, of which 4,000 are Francophone. Here’s an interesting YouTube clip on the Francophone aspect of the town: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOI9hPLSnNA. Canmore: une ville de 12,000 habitants, qui compte 4,000 francophones. Ci-dessous est une vidéo Youtube sur l’aspect francophone de la ville.
Le centre de ski de Lac Louise / Lake Louise ski resort
- Un traîneau de chien (une activité “touristique” très populaire dans les Rocheuses — tout comme dans certains endroits au Québec (pour les lecteurs hors Canada, NON, la plupart des canadiens non jamais embarqué dans, ou non jamais vu un traîneau de chien… ce n’est qu’une attraction touristique pour certains, ou un passe-temps pour d’autres. C’est une blague récurrente au Canada dans le sens que nous pensons que le reste du monde croît que vivons dans des igloos et que nous avons des traîneaux de chien à la place des voitures). 😉
- Dog sledding, a very popular “tourist” activity in the Rockies, just as it is in certain areas of Québec. (for readers outside Canada, NO, most Canadians have never rode on, or even seen a dogsled… it is simply a tourist attraction now or a hobby activity for a certain few. It’s a running-joke in Canada that we think the rest of the world believes we live in igloos and ride dog sleds to work). 😉