Thursday, May 24, 2007

Oh Canada! A Texan (?) Perspective

So a long time ago, I said that if you guys had any questions for me, you could email me at and I'd be happy to use them for fodder for a post.

Jodi (with no blog that I know of), delurked and emailed me to say that she's a Canadian who lives in the UK. Becky's mum might live next door to her for all I know. That's the thing with Canadians, we live all over the world. Because it's our pacifist way of taking over the world. We just infiltrate your countries quietly, get you to love us and then teach you important things like recycling and that maple syrup really is the perfect condiment for everything, not just pancakes.

Jodi asked me the following, probably about five years ago, but I had a backlog of posts, about Earth-shattering things like fart stories that had to be written before all the details went down the drain that is my grey matter. So Jodi, I apologize for the delay. And I'm sure this post will be a huge let down, the way this year's American Idol was.

The questions is: "What have you learned about being Canadian and Canadian-ness since you moved to the US?

I have pondered this question a lot since I left Canada nearly ten years ago and would love someone else's perspective.

Some things I have come up with and constantly revise as to their truth:
That it is better to say nothing at all if you have nothing nice to say. Social lubrication is important. It's better to get along than make an argument. Canadians think they're funny, but are probably only so to themselves."

See how Jodi talks? She sounds an awful lot like a mom from the 50's right?

Just to let you Americans know, this is exactly what Canadians sound like all the time. Unless we're drunk. Then all bets are off.

So here, Jodi, is what I've learned about being Canadian.

That even though I've been gone for 6 1/2 years, I still love that country to death. I don't care that the taxes are higher there. I don't care that in a lot of the country it is freaking cold for a long part of the year. There's something magical about Canada to me, because it is home.

I've said before that if someone had told me even two years before I moved here that I'd end up living in the U.S., I would have thought they were crazy.

Because in Canada, we're raised to have a very mild disdain for our neighbors to the South. Not that we'd ever tell them to their face, because that's just not the Canadian way. But much of Canada's culture is based on our snickering of the brashness and loudness that is America.

No offense to my American brothers and sisters, but you guys drink the cherry-flavored America Kool Aid by the gallon. You're like that popular blonde girl who talks about how pretty she is all the time. And we're the mousy brunette with glasses who's really cute if you look past the glasses, and who never has the confidence to speak up.

When you drive down any street in the U.S. you will see flags left right and center. Many, many American flags. And if you ask people about being American, they'll tell you that they live in the greatest country on Earth. Which always strikes me as amusing, because really? Have you lived in every country in the world to say that?

That's like experiencing ice cream for the first time and claiming that this in fact has to be the greatest flavor in the world. And it very well may be. But maybe, just maybe, somewhere out there there's a pint of chocolate ice cream with chocolate truffles in it. And chocolate covered almonds. And maybe that's better. But being American and admitting that maybe potentially one of the 193 other countries just might be better than the U.S. is probably considered treason.

Ask a Canadian if they live in the greatest country in the world and they'll launch into a long tirade about how we have universal healthcare, and golly that's really good, and we're really pretty good about not littering, and our beer is really great, but we've been told that the Swiss have an even lower crime rate and they have really great chocolate, and, well, Switzerland sounds really pretty cool too and really we should go visit there together.

I think the reason Canada and the U.S. are so different, is because of the ways we earned our independence. Because the U.S. had it just as bad or good as Canada in the 1770's. We were both overtaxed. And we were owned by the British. And the U.S. went "screw this! They may talk with a fancy accent, but we ain't giving them another cent!" And then to show they were serious, they dumped tea in the Boston harbor, which is totally a Little Man thing to do, by the way. And the British don't like people wasting perfectly good tea, so they went to war to teach the Americans about respect. But the British lost and they finally thought "these guys are too much trouble, lets them leave and we'll just get the Canadians continue to pay for us to build even more castles."

And the Americans were proud, and had every reason to be. They once were a colony, but now they no longer were. And more than 200 years later, that pride lives on, it's part of the country's identity. You're either American, or you're not. You either get it, or you don't.

Canada didn't really see a need to get its independence. In fact, in 1812, the Americans looked over towards us and yelled out "dude, you're totally getting screwed by your British Mom and Dad! Run away with us!" And Canada said, "oh, we're fine, it's not that bad, we don't mind them. Plus we get to put their king on our money, which is pretty fun!"

And the Americans went "dude, you're so dense! We'll come up there and fight you to teach you that you should be independent."

The Canadians were like "what? Why don't you chill and have a great Canadian beer? And maybe a piece of this yummy maple syrup coffee cake we just made?"

And somehow, the Canadians won the war of 1812. Although, to this day, Americans still won't admit that. It's a sore point with them. They also won't admit that the beaver is a way cooler national symbol than the eagle, because really? Eagles, they're majestic and all, but beavers? they can karate chop you with their tail.

Canada finally became independent in 1982. I'm not freaking kidding you. And you know how we did it? We just asked. We said "hey there, Queen Elizabeth II, so we're thinking that maybe you'd let us be independent. Although we'd love for you to still be a figure head for our country, and our money's so cute with you on it, we'd like to keep your face on it."

Queen Elizabeth thinking that really, she was tired of getting shipments of beaver tails (the pastry, not the animal's appendage) and maple syrup, figured why the hell not.

So it's hard for Canada to have the rah rah rah sentiment that Americans have developed. You fought for it. We didn't.

Another difference with Canada is that for some reason, we're very good at infiltrating Hollywood. Name just about any celebrity and odds are pretty good that they're Canadian. William Shatner? Canadian. Avril Lavigne? Canadian. Alex Trebek? Canadian. Rachel McAdams? Canadian. Keanu Reeves? Canadian. Jim Carrey? Canadian. Pamela Anderson? Canadian. Howie Mandel? Canadian. Michael J. Fox? Canadian. 3/4 of the great NHL players? Canadian. Peter Jennings? Canadian. Mike Myers? Canadian. Celine Dion? She's really an alien who claims to be Canadian, we really don't have any part in that one.

Why are Canadians so good at entertaining? It's the snow. Not much to do on those long winter nights, except for practice scenes and Oscar speeches.

The thing that's great about Canada, is that nobody ever hates us. So living in the States, I don't ever have to hide that I'm originally from Canada. It doesn't matter what Canada does, it can't cause ripples. Like you know that little Iraqi war thing that won't end? Remember how France refused to go and Americans were horrified? Calling them all sorts of names, boycotting the entire country, like Jean-Pierre in suburban Paris had himself agreed to the government's decision. French toast and French fries were renamed. It was quite the debacle.

And Canada? Canada also refused to go to Iraq. And nobody raised an eyebrow. Because really? Picking on France? Way more fun. Plus, the fact that the New York City police force is larger than Canada's army might also make the U.S. think "well, if Canada's not going to send Bob and Joe out for this war, I guess we can do without two more soldiers."

Being Canadian in Texas means that you get to tell people how much better Sleeman's Cream Ale is than any microbrewery beerhere. It means scoffing at the weather people when they speak of doom for the entire city of Dallas because 1/4 inch of ice is expected. And then telling your coworkers about those times you dug out your car with your bare hands after four feet of snow came down and buried it.

Living in Texas means that I get to regale people of tales of Canadian TV shows like "Danger Bay" and "The Littlest Hobo" and "You Can't Do That On Television". And swoon when I watch an episode of Degrassi where I recognize something from Toronto. And feel homesick when the sportscasters don't bother talking about the Stanley Cup, because the Dallas Stars are no longer in it, and they figure who cares. And feel sad when a Canadian team wins a large sporting event and I can't be there to celebrate. It means that people look at you funny when you say that you don't get what the big deal is about College football and March Madness. And that you get excited when an American sitcom makes a reference to something Canadian. Even if it mocks the country.

It means that the second you find out someone else is Canadian, you feel an instant bond to them. Because really? No one bad ever came out of that place, so they must be a great person.

Living here also means that I get chills and goosebumps every time the American anthem plays, because it's such a gorgeous and heartfelt song that makes me misty eyed and proud to have been allowed to live here. And when I go home and attend a hockey game against an American team, I get to sing proudly to both songs without ever feeling like I've abandoned my home country.

Being Canadian in Texas gives me something unique from everyone else in my department. Something that they can tease me about and that I can talk about endlessly if they'll let me. Being Canadian is being able to talk about the country tongue-in-cheek without feeling like I'm being unpatriotic. As Jodi said, Canadians love to laugh at themselves more than anything. Having a self-deprecating sense of humor is as mandatory as thinking that maple leafs in the fall are one of the most beautiful things ever. Does anyone outside of Canada think we're as funny as we think we are? I'm not sure. But I don't think Canadians care one way or another.




Kellie said...

I lived in a small town in Upstate NY. Hell, I worked 40 minutes from the Canadian border. When I moved two hour South of home? Yeah, I laugh HARD at people and winter. Some freak out over 4 inches of snow. Me? My winters consisted of having to drive through a foot or more of it 45 miles ONE way....

What the hell is my point? Yeah, I don't know. Don't ask.

Umm....I think you rock. I think Canada is awesome and you peeps sure do have some great beer :)

Beccy said...

Independence in 1982...I never knew it was that late, hell I was 12 then!

You make me want to visit Canada!

Julie said...

I believe you left 2 big Canadian stars off your list - what about Bob and Doug McKenzie? : ) Do Canadian's really say Take Off Your Hoser?

beebop said...

Dude, you can take back Avril!

And did you seriously give a shout out to "the littlest hobo!" if that was teh show about teh dog that would carry the (k)napsack, then I totally watched that show too, was it in black & white? hahahahahaha and you cant do that on television...LOVED that show.. "I DONT KNOW" *enter slime here*...

Great post! I went to canada once (ok three times) but the first time my family of 6 was in that spinny restaurant overlooking niagra falls and I threw up on the table...nice!

Rachel said...

Great post! It was funny!

I used to live in Longview, TX, but I was young so I don't remember the freak out about ice. But, I do live in the South still and, can I just say, it's definitely not just a Texas thing, lol.

Also, I wouldn't really be proud of Pamela Anderson. She married Kid Rock!

Just sayin is all.

jesse said...

Great post! I would love to go visit Canada, it looks beautiful.

Sher said...

You make me wanna move to Canada and eat Beaver Tail.

That sounded dirty.

Melissa said...

Amazing post Catwoman! We spent 6 years in the US and you've just totally hit the nail on the head.

OMG - The Littlest Hobo! I totally forgot about that one. What about the Beachcombers? Or King of Kensington?

Melissa said...

PS - Dont ever try to tell an American about how when we won the war of 1812 and we burnt the white house down and then they rebuilt it and painted it white and that's actually when it became the "white" house because it wasn't white before we burnt it. Because they won't believe you.

Loukia said...

I am a proud Canadian, even more so since becoming a mom and realizing how great we have it here. It's safe... no gun fears.. .free and great health care... just a great country overall! And I wanted to add: GO SENS GOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

Alpha Dude 1.5 said...

That is the absolute best history lesson I've ever read.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

War of 1812
A war between the US and Great Britain - it was British soldiers who put their life on the line to defend Canada and they burnt the White House not some Canadian lumber jacks. Issac Brock one of the major heroes of the war was a British soldier.

JSM said...

I realize this comment is eons beyond you posting it... A friend of mine directed me to your site, and as a Canadian living in Alabama I about fell off my chair laughing at it..! May have to post some of it on my own...
Congratulations on the newest sweet addition to your family!