We all have that person in our family: the gregarious relative who slaps you on the back, laughs too loudly, and somehow takes up all the space in whatever room (s)he happens to inhabit. In the world order, that relation is the United States.
I live in Canada, the soft-spoken, more respectful, more tactful cousin, with whom you have a surprisingly great conversation and can't wait to see again.
Before anyone assumes that I fled the US due to the recent political strife, I've been gone for a decade.
I left for love in 2008, right as the world was falling off a precipice due to the financial crisis. Initially, the plan was to stay for a year or two, but the longer I stayed, the deeper my roots here grew, and the more the US feels like a place to which I can never return.
Here are some of the things that keep me tied to the Great White North:
The politics are quieter
I can engage in political discussion with people holding opposing viewpoints without it turning into a character assassination of ourselves or politicians (for the most part). The pre-election campaign cycles are much shorter, and there are five active political parties.
Politics are still politics, but most of the time, it's not incredibly sensational.
Their borders seem more open to me
The world is faced with a migrant crisis, and Canada is committed to opening that golden door so the huddled masses come to breathe free. Rather than just providing charity for refugees and immigrants, Canada's goal is to solve labour shortages and wants to bolster the population to power the economy for years to come.
As an immigrant, being given the chance to have a positive economic impact and contribute to a thriving society is much appreciated.
They have a cross-country train
Like in the States, train travel is expensive. But both the Trans Canada Railway and VIA Rail offer options to take you coast to coast, giving people a way to see a large swath of the country. This one's on my bucket list.
They have pseudo-socialised health care.
Contrary to popular rhetoric, healthcare in Canada is not free; it's funded through a combination of personal and corporate taxation. But as long as you have your health card, you don't have to pay for the most basic services, including doctor visits, ultrasounds, and hospital stays. (Well, unless you want a private room. That will cost extra.)
For the most part, guns are for hunting
There are plenty of guns in Canada. Yes, some of them are used for violent crime and there aren't strict gun regulations in place, but the culture around guns doesn't seem as fanatical (yet).
For reference, Canada has 5.1 gun-related homicides per million people, America has 29.7, according to Vox.
I like their money
No more worrying about taping that bill back together - the bills are made of polymer. The newest design also features a person of colour - civil rights activist Viola Desmond… And the currency has fun nicknames.
The dollar bill and two dollar bill are coins, nicknamed the Loonie and the Toonie.
Poutine is seriously amazing
It's not just cheese and gravy on French fries. The secret lies in the cheese curds, the fresh, squeaky bits of curdled milk.
While some Canadians think any variation is sacrilege, lobster poutine is pretty divine.
They are on their way to legalised recreational marijuana
Whatever your thoughts about using marijuana, it's a fact that criminalising usage is expensive for courts and law enforcement.
Legalisation is scheduled for October in Canada.