Things that are strange about North America, part 1

- Coins are 1c (useless bits of copper), 5c, 10c and 25c. Canada sensibly has $1 (a 'Loonie') and $2 (a 'Toonie') coins. The US still has scraps of tattered paper for $1, and nothing for $2.

- The 5c coin is bigger than the 10c coin. So is the 1c coin. Yes, the 10c coin is the smallest coin of the lot.

- 10 coins are 'dimes', and 5c coins are 'nickels'. The 10c coin doesn't even say what its value in cents is, just 'one dime'.

- Pedestrian crossing buttons are sometimes on the side of the pole facing the direction you want to cross, and sometimes 90 degrees from that (with an arrow pointing the direction you should cross for this button). They are never on the opposite side of the pole to the direction you are going so you can press it as you approach.

- The only 'barn dance' crossing I have encountered has a recorded voice telling people how to use it.

- Cars drive on the right (duh).

- Most roads are more than two lanes, even right in the middle of town.

- The lanes are really narrow.

- Instead of one set of signals, possibly with additional left and right arrow signals, there's often a set of signals over each lane.

- Cars can ignore the red light when turning right if there's nothing coming. Smart idea.

- Some crossings in Vancouver have a counter under them indicating how much longer you have to cross. Another smart idea.

- In the US, your taxi driver will always ask you if you like "this country". This is a trick question. There is only one correct answer.

- Tipping.

- When you eat in a resteraunt, your bill is brought to you in a little folder. You insert cash and/or credit-cards, and they take it away again.

- A manual transmission car is a 'stick shift'.

- Everyone thinks you're from Australia.

- EFTPOS is called Interac instead.

- Late night bookstores, with multiple large shelves of sci-fi and fantasy titles. I'm going to end up spending waaay too much on books.

- The books are really cheap, though.

- Cars stop for you at corners, even when there's no pedestrian or signalled crossing.

- You can buy a reasonable lunch for under $5.

- 'Kiwifruit' is called just 'Kiwi'. Saying you're a Kiwi is liable to get some odd looks.

- It's winter.

- Most power plugs can be inserted upside-down.

- Toilets have some sort of weird system where they first drain, then refill, instead of just using a u-bend.


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