I took a trip to Canada during this summer vacation and even though I only spent a total of six days and only visited two cities (Montreal and Quebec city), I was struck just by how different two neighboring countries can be from each other. A couple of examples:
- In Canada whenever we bought anything we were asked if we want a bag. In the US, no one asks you – they simply pile your purchases into as many bags as they can and sometimes you need to point out to them that you don’t need that many bags.
- In Canada, when buying coffee in a café you are asked “for here” or “to go” and if it is “for here” you are served in a ceramic cup. In the US, it’s always a disposable sippy cup and if you want ceramic, you have to ask them yourself.
- We drove through quite a few rural areas in the province of Quebec and hardly saw any churches. The minute we crossed into the US, there were as many churches as there were fast food restaurants.
Now, I am not passing any judgments here, but it makes for a curious inquiry – how can two countries that are geographically and historically (we are not talking about Russia and Finland that are neighbors but have had a very different historical course in the past couple of centuries) so close be so different? What are the major influences that create these differences in societal cultures?