A tale of two countries

Since moving to Canada 13 years ago, I have spent a lot of time making constant comparisons between “the way things are done”, much of which has admittedly been based on a certain nostalgia and romanticism for the country I left behind.

I have recently returned to the UK temporarily, though I have been here long enough (eight months) to make real, fact-based comparisons.  Having actually experienced several situations recently that have happened to me in both countries, I am now in a better position to report fairly.


I was incensed to learn, when I moved to British Columbia, that car insurance is a government-run monopoly. Incensed, I tell you. I would declare loudly to anyone who would listen (which was not many people as it turned out) that car insurance is a no-consumer-choice-con – I think I may have used the term dictatorship – and I would announce that insurance is much cheaper, much fairer, and clearly much better in the UK!

I was wrong.

I had a car accident in BC in 2014, when a driver rear-ended my Jeep on the motorway. My Jeep and I were hurt (and not just emotionally). I won’t bore you with the details, other than to say that after a quick, 10 minute phone call, the matter was dealt with efficiently, quickly and fairly. I was begrudgingly impressed with the system that I had so derided for so long. (I should point out that I did involve a lawyer, which made everything much easier, but that is irrelevant – it was still dealt with quickly.)

Fast forward to yesterday. A lorry reversed its trailer into my van here in England. I wasn’t in the van (it was parked) but the accident pretty much demolished my vehicle, and it is now without a driver’s side door. The lorry driver admitted liability, and he is a driver for a huge haulage company; I was sure that his insurance company would deal with the matter swiftly.

I then spent 90 minutes on the phone to my insurance company. I was promised a tow truck and a hire car. Neither materialised. I was stuck 20 miles from where I live, and no-one cared. Again I won’t bore you with details, but suffice it to say that my insurance company has now passed the onus on to the other insurance company, who are refusing to provide me with anything, not even the courtesy of a phone call, let alone a courtesy car. I am currently stuck in my house without a vehicle, my business is closed because I can’t get there, and no-one is bothering to explain anything to me. The general rule of thumb here with insurance companies seems to be: pass the buck, deny everything, and hope the problem will go away.

This is what I have learned: when it comes to insurance, you get what you pay for. Where are you when I need you, Government-Run Monopoly? I miss you.


In early 2015, whilst still in Canada, I suffered an unfortunate nose-bleed incident. I don’t do things by halves, though; this wasn’t your standard run-of-the-mill nose bleed. This was arterial gushing of epic proportions, and continued for hours. I eventually had a procedure at the Emergency department. I am definitely not going into detail here – you will not be happy if I do. Just know that this extremely painful procedure was administered without any apparent expertise, drugs or after-care. It was, quite honestly, one of the most traumatic experiences of my life.

Fast forward to April of this year, and the whole dramatic gushing thing happened again. This time I was in the UK. An ambulance was called, I was immediately admitted to hospital, and I was given the exact same procedure as I had in BC. This time, though – different story. I was given strong painkillers, treated with care, and admitted to hospital for 5 days. I was not released until I was pain-free. The UK wins this one.


Sadly, I can also now compare the funeral experience in both countries. My father-in-law died in 2014 in Canada, and my dad died in the UK in May of this year. I was involved in planning both funerals. At the funeral home in Canada, we were ushered into a room, given some glossy brochures and spoken to like we were planning a holiday… with some add-ons. We were sold the funeral. And it was not cheap. And I have to be honest, it was not a proper funeral. No cars, no coffin, no real service: just a room for an hour or so. I find this kind of selling / grief-preying reprehensible.

Here in the UK, I was shocked at how different it all was. We were treated with respect, we were not sold anything, and the process was simplified, yet more dignified – and, well, better.


In the interest of balance and fairness, I will add this one, because I have experienced holidays in both countries lately too. Obviously, the UK and Canada are very different holiday destinations. It isn’t possible to compare the countries and their attributes. So I will compare service – restaurant, hotel and tourist attraction service. Here in the UK, I find that most people in the service industry resent their job, hate the public and hate and resent the service they are providing… and, quite rightly, do not necessarily expect a tip. In Canada, good service is not only the standard, but is expected… but then, so is a tip – and the going rate is now between 15 and 20 per cent. A smiling server is expensive… but has the ability to make your experience so much nicer. Right or wrong, I know what I prefer.

Article by Juliet Sullivan