Sunday, April 14, 2013

Canada, Here I Come! (Or, where do I live again?)

I love traveling.

At the top of my list is a visit to a new city, in the middle of the list is a repeat visit to a far-off city where I've established local knowledge, and at the end of the list are repeat visits to closer destinations.

Driven (Red) and Flown (Black) Travel through 4/2013. (Click for larger version)
Looking back to the beginning of the month, and through the middle of June I'll touch on each of those. My first-time trip to Phoenix was fun, and next week I'm driving to Northern Michigan for a quick visit with my grandparents before driving down for a three-day visit to Columbus.

After that, I'm back in Cleveland for four and a half days before embarking on a week-long trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, back in Cleveland for a week, then in Northern California (Chico, more-or-less) for a week, back in Cleveland for a bit and back to Rochester, Minnesota for a quick visit.

Columbus is somewhat ho-hum -- not my favorite city, but at least it's not Ann Arbor -- Chico is new destination but in an area I'm passably familiar with (and in In-N-Out Burger territory), Rochester is always fun, with a relaxed client and the Marvin's Burger at Newt's, my favorite burger outside of In-N-Out territory.  

But Vancouver is both exciting and a little nerve-wracking at the same time. It's a new client, which always has be a little (too) on-guard, it's a new city, and essentially a new country. My first "new country". I've had a passport since March 25th 2010, but as yet the furthest it has moved is from one corner of my home-office desk to the other as I occasionally thumb through it and wistfully think of all of the places I want to see.

Yes, I've technically been to Canada twice, the extent of both visits being quick trips into Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Both while I was in my mid-teens--at the latest. And as I recall, both were on Canadian national holidays where everything was closed. To the best of my recollection, my feet have never actually touched Canadian soil.

The client doesn't really have me that worried, but I'm in hyperdrive worrying about all of the mostly trivial details.
-  Customs and Immigration? How does it work? What do I need to say or not say to avoid raising any red flags? How do I answer the "Business or Pleasure" question since I'll be doing both? Does my laptop fall within the definition of "Business or commercial equipment" that the declaration card interrogates for?

- How much, and what kind, of documentation do I need for the business portion of my trip to avoid problems at the border?

- Local customs: I know the US and Canada are physically close but culturally considerably different. How do I avoid unintentionally offending the locals? I actually find that sort of knowledge very interesting [along with this old Northwest Airlines commercial]-- for example, In Japan the way you handle a person's business card is seen as an extension of the way you treat the person (and that makes a lot of sense to me). Even tipping is an area I'm foggy about.

- Money: Is Credit Card acceptance in Canada as broad as it is in the US? Do I Canadian currency--or rather how much Canadian currency should I carry?

- Do I really want to rent a car, or should I plan on public transit/taxis?

- With the client, how forceful should I be regarding our "typical" policies and procedures, developed entirely for the US market, versus how much should I yield to their expectations. In other words, where's the fine balance between being a push-over and a jerk?

- What should I do as my two-and-a-half days as a tourist?

- Perhaps most ominously, what should I be worried about that I'm not currently worrying about?

I suspect I'm over-thinking this by at least an order of magnitude -- but I'm about to enter foreign territory, figuratively and literally, and I want to be prepared.


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