Time Delayed Culture Shock

Funny thing about coming back to Canada – I’m old now. It’s like I jumped ahead a decade.

I don’t know why I expected life to be put on hold while I was away, like I was entering some kind of hyperbolic chamber, but clearly I did. I notice it every time I see a movie on the TV listings that I recognize but haven’t watched.  Like The Ring, when I saw that my first reaction was “That was made in 2002? But I was in Japan when that was released-ooooohhhh….”

Stuff like this has been happening to me a lot. Some part of my brain expected life to continue where I left off when I got back. But that’s not what hammers the feeling home most.

Maybe I’m missing the plot here, but the biggest irritation I’ve had since returning to Canada are BS fees and charges that never existed in the UK.

Take banks, for example. A basic chequing account here costs ten bucks a month, more or less, regardless of where you bank (though I hear credit unions are different). Ten bucks a month for the privilege of keeping your money in their bank and taking it out again. You know how much I paid in the UK?

Zero.

Oh, sure there are cheaper accounts, like four bucks a month, but then they start charging you extra if you make more than ten transactions a month.

And regardless of your account, if you use an ATM other than those of your bank you get charged for it – $1.50 last time I tried. You know how much other banks charge you when you use a different bank’s ATM?

Zero.

Then you get into phones, where you get charged for incoming calls, not just outgoing, which just blew my friggin mind. I’m getting charged for YOU to call ME? The hell is this? In fact the whole cell phone situation in Canada is endless frustration. If you want to get a pay-as-you-go type of phone account you first need to put down fifty dollars to get your phone number (no such thing in the UK) which then becomes credit on the account. Then if you only want to top up with ten dollars, for example, the credit is only good for one month (no expiry date in the UK that I remember).

What you have to keep in mind is that I’m looking at the low-end entry level positions. For example, with the bank, if you have several thousand dollars in the account then the monthly fee is waived. Well isn’t that nice for poor people living hand-to-mouth?

In the UK you could get a no-frills phone with a sim card on a pay-as-you-go system for as little as 5 pounds for the phone, and 5 pounds starting credit, so ten pounds to be up and running. What’s the cheapest you can do that for in Canada?

I’m willing to bet the higher-end monthly plans are comparable in fairness to other countries (though I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t looking at them). But again, isn’t this nice for poor people?

What frustrates me is wondering how they justify these charges, other than “because we can.” The mobile phone industry thrives in the UK, and whatever problems the banks are having there, they sure as hell can’t be attributed to not charging their clients for basic services or using someone else’s ATM. That’s just BS.

I know we’re polite in Canada, but are we really too polite to complain about these practices?

However, I will say this in Canada’s defense.  We have the best damn looking money in the world!

This is the way money should look.

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