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Can I Bring My Cat?

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Did you know that your cat needs a passport when traveling outside the U.S.? It's actually called a Certificate of Health, but it serves as a passport. The veterinarian may give this to you, anyway, but it doesn't hurt to ask.

And there are so many questions to ask. Ironically, laws of any given land seemed the least cautionary topic to me when it came to emigrating. After all, if you're used to following the laws in your own country, unless the law is truly unusual, you can follow those of another easily enough. Right? We got into a situation in Japan once. After having seen countless Japanese citizens breaking the same law, we thought it was...lawful. When the police officer stopped us, I got off the back of the bike and took the overpass over the train tracks while my husband took the bike. Our Japanese language skills weren't given a chance when the officer disregarded any thought of an explanation and shooed us along. Recollections like these affirm that with emigration, including a basic and general framework of awareness of customs and laws, compromise is essential, even on the part of law enforcement.

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Regarding language skills, it could prove helpful to get used to spelling some words differently if you're moving to, for example, New Zealand. Tire is tyre and analyze is analyse. Punctuation varies as well. When e-corresponding, Finns don't use punctuation after the Dear So-and-So. As another example, quotes close differently between American English and British English, something I've learned while home schooling my children. It also reminded me of the transition my students have had to go through, a process which it is my turn to undergo.

And, of course, there is a little getting used to military time and a lot of getting used to the metric system. If you have a car and want to bring it with you, you can, and your car may have the option to be reprogrammed into metric, something our hybrid has. For a ballpark idea of temperature, I approximate after checking a Fahrenheit/Celsius conversion formula off the internet. For example, -4 degrees Celsius in Finland is actually pretty easy to take if the wind isn't blowing. If it is, it'll go right through you.

When it came to cars, one of the first issues I was always curious about in my internet globe-trotting was on which side of the road they drive...and speed limits. Oh yes, and how strictly are they enforced, not that I'm interested in putting the pedal to the metal? In New Zealand, they drive on the left. In Finland, it's on the right, and the fine for speeding usually goes according to your salary, making hauling ice for a living sound pretty good.

Another issue of concern was recycling. Switzerland has a program whereby stores that sell merchandise in bulky packaging are obligated to take back the packaging after you've opened the item at home. Finland has rules about recycling, but they are vague. Many Finns do care about any kind of program for environmental health concerns, but may be unsure of how to act on it, given that the program tends to involve a cooperative effort among neighbors. If it sounds confusing, it is. Canada has waste management programs, and Toronto even has a sector of the public school system deemed EcoSchools, a network with a curriculum for teaching families how to reduce home energy and vehicle use.

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And, of course, there's the focal issue of politics. Any country that gave any clue of siding with Bush, having a pungency of conservatism or being particularly vulnerable to Bush's policies, in some cases, were sadly disregarded, job or no job. And although Canada's new prime minister is conservative, I've been informed that the situation north of the border is less of an issue than conservatism is here, and that, to some, their version of conservative behaves to the left of U.S. Democrats.

When considering winter in Canada, we discovered that downtown Toronto provides underground passage or walkways for getting out of the cold. The GO train gets you from the Toronto suburbs to the City Centre, and the locale we're moving to makes it so that, if we were to need milk in a surprise blizzard, we could get to it.

As an added note of potentially substantial convenience, Americans going to Canada need either their U.S. passport as proof of citizenship, or you can use your birth certificate and driver's license instead, however you get there.
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Rachel emigrated to Canada in the summer of 2006.- She has an M.A. in Teaching ESOL, and her poetry, short stories and articles have appeared in print and online. Rachel is a member of Fair Vote Canada.

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