Friday, February 25, 2005

That 70's feel

One thing that I have noticed here is that I have this feeling like I am back in the 70's at times. What I mean is that life seems simpler here, like when I was a kid. I am not talking about everything, just certain aspects.

For instance, Traffic. I had the feeling when I was a kid, that people were courteous enough that when two lanes were merging, each lane would let one car go after another. In Chicago, I felt that there was an anxiety among a large number of drivers that each driver felt they had been cut off too many times in their life that they were never letting another car cut in. At times, I felt that way myself and started to find myself always on the defensive. At times here in Montreal there are people who show that I must not let anyone in, but the numbers are far less. I will elaborate on traffic and anxiety later in another post.

Another point is courteousness among people. I had lived in France for a total of year and a half. Over that time I came to expect anyone speaking French would be reluctant to speak to me and would not be very helpful. There were notable exceptions to that. Plus it may have been due to the circle of friends we had and the fact that I had long red hair and a black leather biker jacket. Anyhow, I was extremely taken aback with almost all of the people I have met here. Almost everyone immediately switches to English when they hear my accent. And they don't seem annoyed by it. They actually seem eager to practice their English. If I have difficulty speaking French, they are eager to help. It has really blown my mind. The same goes for people in the service industries. There is not the apathy that I had encountered time to time in the US. OK, they are not as quick as in the US, but that also shows less of a rat race attitude. Life is more relaxed and less anxious.

I guess I will go into depth about the anxiety point since it is so tied to the 70's feel. After three of the top documentaries over the past few years, Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 911, and Supersize Me, I saw an anxiety in America that I had not noticed before and that is lacking here in Canada. First the gun thing. Contrary to seeing about the latest shooting on the news in Chicago almost every evening, shooting here seem very rare. It always seems like the murders are crimes of passion or the offender and the victim are connected somehow. Or the deaths are accidental. One thing I noticed soon after coming up here is that I didn't have a feeling that strangers would do bodily harm to me. There are people who dress up to show a tough side, but for some reason I don't fear it like I had in the states. I have not figured out why yet. It's almost like they are dressing up because it's their personality and they are only showing their image. Also, I noticed that there is not that fear of bodily harm on the road, road rage. I don't fear that if the driver gets pissed off because I cut him off after he cut me off, he will pull out a gun and shoot. That always seemed to be a question in the states that leaves you feeling helpless.

The other anxiety point has to do with commercialism. The whole advertising thing about doing something in order to fit in or to be like by others. I found that people got so wrapped up or were so influenced by the advertising they saw everyday. I am guilty of it too. Maybe I'm not watching the right programs, but it just seems like that pressure is not here.

Lastly, let me finish with a caveat. My posts will tend to point out the positives in Montreal and the some negatives in Chicago. This is not to say Chicago is a horrible place and Montreal is heaven. I love Chicago and could live their comfortably. I always look forward to returning for visits to see family, friends, and the city. Same goes for many US cities I would be interested in living in if life should take us there for whatever reason such as New York City, LA, and San Francisco. It is just that currently, Montreal seems to be the right fit and maybe I'm still in the honeymoon phase of our stay here. Until the next post, adieu.

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