Studying Abroad


An extensive amount of social research may have led you to believe that the Canadian population might be happier, nicer, or more polite than the rest of us. Perhaps it is because of their beautiful scenery. Maybe it’s the clean air. Some promise that it’s just universal health care and a distinct absence of mind-numbingly farcical world leaders. Whatever the reason, we’ve been taught to expect held-open doors and apologies when venturing north of the border. As a jaded student of the world’s populace, I packed my duffle and ventured to the quaint Ontario town of Stratford to find the truth.

Stratford has garnered fame among the Canucks for its extravagant Shakespearian theatre festival which has run every summer for over fifty years. Unlike William’s Stratford, however, this one is in Canada. With a budget of just over 60 million dollars for the 2017 festival, the Stratford Festival is the largest non-profit theatre company in the English speaking world. The festival employs hundreds of honest, hard-working Canadians every year. These women and men work tirelessly every season to spread the joy and pseudo-intellectualism of classical theatre. I could not have found myself a more suitable location to witness the fabled etiquette of our sister nation.

What I found in this town may frighten some of my more sensitively natured readers. On the surface, Stratford could be seen by the untrained eye as a shining beacon of hospitality and intellect where the only strife follows the expertly bitten thumbs of Montagues and Capulets. But much like the local dramaturges, my experience allows me to see beneath the surface details. What I found was the seedy underbelly, what a local chef living above The Mill Stone on Ontario St. (he wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons) described as “real Stratford”. What, then, is the real Stratford? It is a world of sin, Wal-Mart, and jean shorts.

The first thing that crept up from underneath the façade was a not-so cleverly disguised advertisement of drug trafficking in the city. A sign, placed in the front yard like a good American might place his Jill Stein campaign poster. This was no libertarious exercise of democratic freedom, however, instead it read “Contact: Weed Man”. No wonder a nation so devoid of good Christian value is looking to legalize marijuana this very year. Another incriminating incident occurred in my second day in town, a beautiful 85 degree (somewhere between 10 and 40 degrees Celsius) day by anyone’s standards. I discovered the effects of the mild heat on Stratford’s population to be concerning. Multiple drivers assaulted me with horns and appalling hand gestures as I exercised my God-given pedestrian right to cross the street whenever I want. The heat, as it seems, was quick to melt the sugary and artificial exterior of Stratford’s beauty. In a short time, I had exposed the Canadian psyche.

I fear that my journalistic pursuit has caught the attention of local authorities. As I write these words at the hotel bar, I worry that my work and safety may be in grave danger. The bartender is far too conversational and polite, a poorly concealed attempt by the festival’s board of governors to find out just how much I have discovered. I will remain steadfast in bringing the American people the truth. That is my only duty.

-Andrew Puthoff