Had an amazing stay in Florida this year.  In the previous two years, we really got cheated out of warm weather, but this year was perfect – we got several swims in the ocean and DQ was able to build sandcastles without her mittens and tuque on!

Eleven days in the US helped me to see one thing very clearly: as much as Canada and the United States appear so similar on the surface, they are two very different and distinct countries.  So following are my observations about two countries born of the same continent but that could not be more different (kinda like fraternal twins):

I love how Americans are so engaged in their politics (but I don’t always love their politics). We were there during the Florida primary for the Republican leadership campaign, and I was impressed by how much talk on the streets there was about the campaign.  We have a lot to learn about caring how our country is run.

Super Bowl to the Americans is bigger than the Stanley Cup is to Canadians.  Americans love the game; Canadians love their teams.  The condo where we stayed – with primarily senior residents – had a Super Bowl party and the buzz was equivalent to a teenager’s first unsupervised house party (Betty White should have been here!).  Super Bowl is a national event.

Americans really need to be scared about obesity.  We were at Outback for FuBu’s birthday dinner and I was – frankly – quite revolted at the people at the next table: two of them could barely fit on the chairs, they had scarfed down a Bloomin’ Onion and had a table full of glasses of pop, and of course, large steaks.  I say it again: these people are making choices that have led them to this.  I almost wanted to walk over and shake their shoulders and yell, “What are you doing to yourselves?!?”

Why are Canadians so poor at service?  The merchandiser at Winn-Dixie says hello when you walk down the aisle; the cashiers will actually look you in the eye when they talk to you.  Restaurant servers really want you to have a great meal and bring you a refill on your drink before you ask for it.  They smile! They act like they care!  And believe me, this did result in bigger tips.  To the Toronto restaurateurs who are starting some crazy PR campaign to create a new standard of 20% for gratuities for their underpaid servers: the equation is not that hard to figure out.

I can get liquor on sale at a supermarket!!  LCBO: pay attention!  Cheers to a truly free market!  As FuBu had said: from the outside looking in, it’s no wonder Americans must think Canada is a socialist country.

With the exception of the building superintendent, I was the only visible minority within a 5-mile radius.  I had to do a double-take when I spotted an Asian server at Outback.

I love the way Americans respond to “Thank you” with “Uh huh”.

Gun and ammo shops.  Let’s not even go there.

I always enjoy my time in the United States, but I really don’t think I could ever live there.  While I believe Canada could stand to take more leadership on global issues, I do think we are a kind, caring nation that does have the interests of its people at heart.  That’s not such a bad thing.