After nearly a year of research, I can safely conclude that Canada is NOT America. It is not in any way, shape or form American-esque. Quebec, in particular, is NOT American, and is barely Canadian some days – depending on who you ask.
As an American, this has been a year of adjustment for me. Sure, I lived on a lake in New England without street lights and a septic tank for that past 14 years. One has to assume that there will be some “Transition” time from New Hampshire, with all its rural glory to Montreal(!!!). Home of Club Super Sexe! And Arcade Fire! And Hockey! And lots of other things that are spoken in French that I do not understand! Oui!!
There are, however, more subtle things that I have noticed.
Yep, you read that correctly. Banking in this country? I am still trying to wrap my head around the banking system. Of course it took me six months before I could open a Canadian bank account, since we had to make sure that my mighty 205 Canadian dollars a week I earned as a TA was not being funneled to a terrorist organization of my choice elsewhere.
And Canada? Has like 5 banks. Which is fine, but the difference between American ATM debit cards and the Canadian “Interac” system is vast. For the first two months, I continued to insist that my American Debit card WAS a Debit card, even though it has a VISA symbol on it. Cause it's connected to my American checking account. Which is not how they do it here. Debit's are Interac and Visa's are Visa's.
So, now that I have a Canadian bank account in which to deposit Canadian cheques and an American bank account in which to deposit American checks, I can further observe the banking system in Quebec.
The main thing I noticed? People use ATM's to do their BANKING. I don't mean "getting 20 bucks out of the ATM" banking, but their BANKING. Major, long term, complicated transactions. Which, as an American, perplexes me. That is what the teller is for. But OH NO. The twelve extra steps into the open bank and up to the teller would rob the Canadian of the opportunity to do their money laundering here, at the ATM. And much like the people who would get to the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru and begin to order bagels with one side toasted with butter, and the other side un-toasted with honey, and a cup of coffee, but with half milk and half cream....I resist the urge to grab the person and scream "THIS IS NOT WHAT THE ATM IS FOR!!!! YOU GET MONEY OUT AND LEAVE!!!"
After a year, I have made some peace with this. I mean, what can I do? Beat the person up? I just make sure my ipod is fully charged before stepping into the ATM line.
However, the other day, I saw something that was...comical. I mean. I started to laugh. Out loud.
I stepped into the line. An elderly gentlemen seemed to be close to completing his transaction. Or at least that is what he wanted me to think. A young woman got into line behind me. This seemed to be the cue for the elderly dude to lose all consciousness of the 20th century. He began pressing buttons and staring at the machine...then reading something, then more button pressing, then more reading.... A door opened and closed. Envelopes were retrieved from mysterious places.
The young woman behind me started making noises of irritation. And then there was more beeping, and more button pushing. I started to laugh. The ATM whirred and seemed to be finishing....BUT NO! There was more banking to be done! It was like a SNL skit that doesn't end, my own personal bottles of beer on the wall. Sung by an out of tune, possibly out of touch with reality elderly gentleman. Who kind of smelled. And we all know how I love to be in enclosed spaces with smelly people.
And, I shit you not, this went on for 20 - TWENTY- minutes. This man stood there and fiddled with the ATM for 20 minutes!!! I have had sex, decent sex, in which both parties were satisfied in LESS time than this mans banking ordeal.
He finally finished. Or at least I thought he had. The machine spit his card out and I forced myself to not grab him by the shoulders and throw him out of the foyer, his ATM card bouncing off his head as I flung it in his general direction.
With the timing of a comedic genius, he lingered. I was mid step towards the ATM. He turned back to face the ATM, checking once again that whatever magical entity was speaking through the machine to him had concluded it's manifesto. I stepped back, embarrassed to be caught trying to bum rush the ATM. Only once I was safely back to the wall, did he turn and S-L-O-W-L-Y walked out the door.
You win, old smelly dude. You win.