Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Invisible line

When you cross a border in Australia into another state nothing much happens. The number plates change colour and the police cars look a little bit different but that is about it. Let's face it, a state border is simply an imaginary line on the ground so the surroundings are no different and the only thing you have to worry about is getting rid of your fruit before you hit a fruit fly quarantine zone. 

In Germany, when you drive into Austria or Switzerland, the border is pretty much the same. Thanks to the Schengen agreement, you don't have to show your passport and everybody still speaks German. 

When I crossed the border from America into Canada for a race, I didn't really expect anything to be different. Every Canadian I have met has an American accent and speaks perfect English so I have never thought anything of it. The thing is, we crossed into French Canada with a car full of guys from 6 different countries including the USA, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and Hong Kong so at the border control, things may have looked a little strange and consequently, we had to sit in immigration for a  while as they checked our details. To the American guys that were with us, this was a source of some laughter as they joked that there is nothing worth protecting in Canada except the maple syrup! A fine example of the love/hate relationship similar to Australia and New Zealand.
 
Sitting in immigration is also where I started to notice a few more differences. All of the signs and brochures were in French first and English second. All of the immigration officers spoke perfect French and then when they discovered that we needed English that changed instantly into an American accent. I was bizarre. I kind of felt like I was in Europe but then I kind of didn't. Did I cross a border or some sort of time-space continuum? 

Once out of immigration and back on the road the bizarre transition continued. The speed signs and distances change from miles to kilometers and fortunately so did the Prius with the press of a button. The road signs and every other sign for that matter change from English to French and town names have a distinctive French taste such as Sainte Etienne or Monte Sainte Anne. My favorite difference that I have noticed so far is PFK or Poulet Frit Kentucky. 

With all these sudden changes, I am forgetting that America is just across the border. It is crazy that an imaginary line on the ground can separate two totally different places!

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