Brendan McKenzie

Adanac is Canada Backwards

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Today marks the one month point of me starting my new life in Canada and there have been certain things that I just can't get my head around. Granted I have been living in London (England, not Ontario) for the past two years and the city is significantly bigger, older and more established, but sometimes I just find myself saying: "Seriously?"

Debit Cards Debacle

This is one that I just can't seem to figure out. In the United Kingdom and in Australia -- the only two countries I can directly draw experience from -- when you apply for a bank account you generally are issued with a debit card, which as most people would know is essentially the same as a credit card except for the fact that you are using your own money, instead of borrowing money from a bank and then paying them back; much the same as pre-paid (pay as you go) mobile phones work compared to post-paid (pay monthly) phones.

The concept is simple, you have your card, and when you make purchases the fact that it's a debit card or a credit card should make absolutely no difference to how the process works. The cashier processes your card via the EFTPOS terminal, a request is sent to your bank to determine whether you have the funds available, if it's a debit card then check if your balance is greater than or equal to the requested amount, if it's a credit card then check if your available credit is greater than or equal to the requested amount. That's it, simple.

Canada for some reason couldn't understand this logic however and somehow have completely segregated debit cards from credit cards. Debit cards cannot be considered as credit cards for online purchases or any other purchases for that matter. In Toronto (and in various other cities around the world) they have a system called the BIXI bikes, where you can hire a bike at one location and drop it off at another, it's $5 (plus tax.. I'll get to this later) for 24 hours access and the first 30 minutes of each journey is no extra charge. Whenever I try to use my CIBC debit card it simply won't process - I can't hire a cycle, however if I use my Barclays (UK bank) debit card it works fine. Both cards are dubbed "debit cards" yet for some reason the Canadian banks don't understand this.

Tax NOT Included

This one is not unique to Canada, but is present across all of North America and possibly elsewhere in the world. Whenever you make a purchase, of ANYTHING at ANY store the price listed will never match what you actually will pay. In the province of Ontario on most purchases you must add 13% (and environmental tax for electrical purchases, and tips for meals at restaurants and drinks at bars, and extra tax on alcohol purchases), on top of any purchase you will make.

This first became an issue for me when I was travelling through south-west USA and stopped for a cheeseburger at McDonalds in Las Vegas, advertised as a 99c cheeseburger I had my dollar bill ready forgetting the fact that it's not tax included. So I walk to the counter and ask for a 99c cheeseburger, the cashier asks for $1.18.

If something costs $1.18, tell me it costs $1.18. Do not list it as 99c and then make me figure out how much I'm actually going to pay for it.

Tips Please

Further to the tax problem if you're dining in a restaurant the price you see on the menu does not include tax, nor does it include the obligatory tip.

I'm happy to pay extra for good service, but making it just one of those things that you're meant to know about makes foreigners just appear as dicks to the wait staff. In Australia I'm aware that bar/restaurant staff are paid fairly and don't rely on tips to make a living, the same goes for the United Kingdom (where, well, the bar staff aren't paid that well but at least they can survive on their wage). We are not obliged to tip the staff and we are not despised for not tipping. In North America staff in the service industry are not paid fairly and do rely on tips to survive, which is fair enough. But coming from the outside when you think about it, let's say for example you order a dish that is listed as $20, that's $20 plus tax, plus tip so ends up being roughly $25 with 13% (tax, in Ontario) + 15% (tip, at least). Not so bad for something that's just $20, but it starts to add up over time.

Education Required for Employment

This is one that's annoyed me all over the place but was made more apparent here in Canada.

I have been working professionally since I was 18, I am now 27, that's 9 years of experience that I've gained.

I never went to university or studied further outside of high school however I have managed to work for 9 years for a number of companies in Melbourne and London (England, remember..) so it astounded me when applying for jobs in Toronto that I was even questioned about my education. By this point of my career whatever education I may or may not have had 10 years prior would be completely redundant. It's probably only by chance that I attended (but did not complete) a TAFE course at Swinburne University that I was actually able to get a job here.

Relying on education as a factor for employment is probably the last thing any employer would want to do, well, in my field (Software Development) anyway. I suppose I wouldn't really want an uneducated doctor removing a tumour from my head.

Bags of Milk

This one is just weird! Nowhere else in the world have I seen milk on the shelf in supermarkets come in bags. Cartons and jugs, fine.. but bags.. I just don't get it.

7438122394 ee9f13c18d