This is a list of sure signs that you're in Canada. Everything is labelled in English and French. Everything is measured in metric. (No, the temperature does not drop fifty degrees when you cross the border, and the speed limit doesn't double.) Milk comes in plastic bags as well as in cartons and jugs. There's hockey gear everywhere. A guy can get onto a bus wearing goalie pads, a helmet -- everything but the skates -- and nobody gives him a second look. Restaurants serve vinegar with French fries. There are $1 and $2 coins. The paper currency is in different colors, and it's pretty. The Trans-Canada Highway -- Canada's analogue to the US Interstates -- is two lanes wide for most of its length. (There are great big huge wide highways around the major cities. The 401 north of Toronto is sixteen lanes wide in places.) There is still the occasional musical variety show on network TV, and such a show that was on until recently was hosted by a very, very large woman (Rita McNeil). The CBC's evening news anchor is bald and doesn't wear a toupee. When new coins are introduced to replace paper currency, people actually use the coins. Contests run by anyone other than the government have "skill-testing questions" that winners must answer correctly before they can claim a prize. These are usually math problems, and are administered to get around the law that only the government can administer lotteries. Lots of people run around in clothing from Roots. The following gas stations are around (and don't exist in the US): Esso (instead of Exxon -- a visitor suggests "Esso" comes from the "S" and the "O" of Standard Oil) Petro Canada Irving (only in eastern Canada, and a visitor advises me that there's now at least one in Maine) Canadian Tire Husky Mohawk (primarily in western Canada) These are the biggest department stores: The Bay (the Hudson's Bay Company, the oldest company in North America and possibly the world -- it was incorporated on May 2, 1670) Eaton's (Toronto, Montréal, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver are among the cities that have large malls called the Eaton Centre (Centre Eaton in French)). Eaton's has been having financial troubles for several years now, and finally closed a number of its stores and sold the rest to Sears Canada. Zellers -- owned by the Bay, Zellers is similar to KMart (which recently pulled out of Canada) or Target (which isn't in Canada at all). These are the big banks: Toronto Dominion Bank of Montreal Royal Bank The Bank of Nova Scotia Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) The National Bank of Canada The HongKong Bank of Canada Credit unions are also popular in Canada, especially in Quebec, where they're called caisses populaires. These are the most well-known Canadian restaurant chains: Harvey's -- fast food burger joint Mr. Sub -- similar to Subway The Keg (Le Keg en français) -- a big, high-end yet still generic steakhouse Pizza Pizza -- similar to Domino's Tim Horton's -- do(ugh)nuts! See below. Swiss Chalet -- sit-down chicken and ribs place Robin's -- another do(ugh)nut chain, popular in western Canada. The big mass-market beers are Molson and Labatt, and they're a lot stronger than US beers. Molson Golden was recently reintroduced to the Canadian market, but I hardly ever see anyone drinking it -- I get the feeling Molson ships most of it to the States and tells the Americans it's good. The major cigarette labels are Player's, Craven A, DuMaurier, Matinee, and Export A. Canadian cigarettes are milder than American ones. Mountain Dew has no caffeine. Coke and Pepsi use real sugar instead of corn syrup. Instead of seeing Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores, you see Coles and SmithBooks and Chapters and Indigo (at least for now). There are lots and lots of do(ugh)nut shops, especially ones called Tim Horton's (named after the hockey player who started the chain). (The number of Tim Horton's diminishes as you go further west, but I'm assured there are lots of them in Edmonton.) When you step on someone's foot, he apologizes. (This really happened.) There are billboards advertising vacations in Cuba, and Cuban cigars are freely available. Nobody worries about losing a life's savings or a home because of illness. In pharmacies, you can buy acetaminophen or ASA with codeine over the counter, but you can't buy hydrocortisone ointments or creams without a prescription. When you go to the dentist to get a cavity filled (or worse), she or he puts a needle in your mouth first to "freeze" it. (Asking for Novocaine (a brand name) immediately pegs you as an American.) At county fairs and the Canadian National Exhibition, red ribbons indicate first place and blue ribbons indicate second. (Canadians: it's the other way around in the States.) Any conversation will inevitably include a brief discussion of the weather. It's almost impossible to get a glass of unsweetened iced tea in downtown Toronto. Teenagers can drink legally. The drinking age in Quebec, Manitoba, and Alberta is 18; it's 19 in the rest of the country. Potato chips come in flavo(u)rs such as salt and vinegar, ketchup, and "all dressed" (a collection of just about all possible seasonings -- the person who suggested this one liked it to a "suicide slush" in the States). There are "chip vans" (aka "chip trucks" or "chip wagons"). These are like the van driven by the ice cream man, only they sell French fries. They are most ubiquitous on the roads to "cottage country." (A visitor from British Columbia noted that "chip trucks" don't sell French fries in BC; they drive on logging roads and carry wood chips there.) Every weekend during the summer, southern Ontarians go in droves from Toronto and its environs to their second homes (ranging from campers to great big houses with all the amenities) in cottage country (usually Muskoka -- I'm told that calling it "the Muskokas" marks you as an outsider). Every weekend during the summer, southern Quebecers go in droves from Montréal and its environs to their cottage country (usually the Laurentians; the Eastern Townships; Burlington, Vermont; Lake Champlain, New York; or Plattsburgh, New York). Every weekend during the winter, the cottage country people go back to cottage country to go snowmobiling. Gas stations are just as likely to be filling snowmobiles as cars or trucks. Cars (especially on the Prairies) have electrical plugs sticking out from under the hoods. These are for block heaters, to prevent engines from freezing when it's -40. People give distances in times, not miles. People ask whether you'd like "a coffee" rather than "some coffee." Canadians tend to use British spelling. They write about "colour," "cheques," "theatres," and so forth. Most use the American "-ize" rather than the British "-ise" verb ending, however. People drive with their headlights on during the day. Since 1989, all new cars have had to be fitted with daytime running lights. In Ontario, you can buy beer only at the Beer Store (formerly known as "Brewers' Retail"). The experience of going into a beer store is documented nicely in the 1983 film Strange Brew. Movie theatres have one night a week, usually Monday or Tuesday, where they charge matinee prices. There is no mail delivered on Saturdays. "Lieutenant" is pronounced "leftenant." Mortgage interest is not tax-deductible. The interest rate on most mortgages is not fixed, but rather, is renewed at the end of a term which can be as short as six months or as long as seven years. Most Canadians will tell you that the last letter of the alphabet is pronounced "zed." Sharon, Lois, and Bram, popular children's entertainers, make it a point in their performances of "The Alphabet Song" to say "zed" instead of "zee." People end sentences with "eh," eh? And, to keep this on topic, only Canadians will drive 24 hours solid the second Friday in March, to spend 7 days at Disney, and then drive like a bat out of h@#l back to make it home in time for the 3rd term of school.