‘Hey, my name is Steve, I’ll be your waiter for tonight. Where are you from? Is everybody so tall in the Netherlands? Oh on exchange, goood for youuu! What’s your name? Floor? What a wonderful name. A coke? Amazing choice! Just call me if you need something, Floor! Did you enjoy dinner? Perfect, I’m so happy. Have an amazing evening!’
The stereotype about America seemed to be true when we had our first dinner in the US: they are extremely friendly, but they also want your tip (‘gratuity not included’).
Other American stereotypes turned out to be real as well. Already at the border control, earlier that day, we realised that ‘homeland security’ indeed is serious business. It took us an hour and a half to get into the US, during which the customs inspected our car, and kept typing up information in their computer, which made us wonder what on earth could be so interesting about us.
And it is true: there is a MacDonald’s at every exit on the highway, including ‘drive thru’ (I had never been through one before, and though you’d think that it can’t be that hard, we managed to fail: we passed the order machine without ordering which resulted in one of the employees running after us with our drinks), American pancakes are normal breakfast and you get a free refill for your coffee, or coke (which already was very large).
During my semester in Canada, I’ve often been surprised by the way Canadians contrast themselves with Americans. And I always thought that the difference isn’t so big, and that the few existing differences may not be the best building blocks for Canadian national identity. But last week, when we went on a road trip to Chicago, Illinois, I suddenly realised that Canada is different. I don't know what exactly it was. Chicago is one of the most amazing cities I’ve ever been to, but getting back into Canada felt like coming home. I just told the customs that I had studied at Queen’s for a semester and they welcomed me back.
Name: Floortje Rawee (21)
Study: second-year UCM-student
Goes to: Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada
From: 3 January until the end of May