I don’t know many Americans who think a lot about Canada. I grew up thinking of them as our friendly neighbors to the north. In college, I loved going to Canada: while we could drive up from Massachusetts to New Hampshire to procure beer on a Sunday, Canada was even better because it was legal to be drinking there. It always seems to be an interesting side-note to a biography for a celebrity; “Oh, and he’s Canadian! Well how about that?” Not exactly exotic, but more interesting than American.
In my more recent life, I’ve taken a greater interest in Canada. Now I live in Washington, so it’s close. I’ve visited a few of the provinces over the years, and always had a good experience. Except in high school. I went to Toronto for a band trip and it was a nightmare, but that’s another story that would involve besmirching people who I’m sure are perfectly lovely people now. Also, I wasn’t with Canadians, so it doesn’t count. I spent about a month living on a Native reservation in Alberta in my 20’s and then more recently went on a vacation to Montreal with my mother. I learned enough to know that there is a cultural richness to the country that distinguishes it from America, as well as some quirky social practices and obsessions with sports and foods that I don’t understand.
Now, as with all cultural humor, I’m just as subject to the shame of laughing at that which we find funny because we think it’s true. But I’ve always laughed at jokes about Americans, feminists, white people, Irish, Germans…classifications all of which have a stake in my identity. So while I will “get my dander up” in support of an ethnicity being made fun of, I laughed through the Canadian jokes on How I Met Your Mother. If that reference doesn’t resonate for you, think South Park, maybe Jim Carrey’s bit about being a Canadian. At any rate, here’s a pretty funny clip of Molson commercials that cover many of the generalizations about Canada:
Funny, right? I know we’re not supposed to say it, but many Canadians do say “ay?” at the end of sentences and it does sound, at least to this American, like they’re saying “aboot”. What I really want to address, though, is the reputation the Canadians have for being nice. Even-keeled, friendly, willing to help, and kind, even under pressure. I’m sure there are plenty of Canadian serial killers, and they have all the problems of any modern culture when it comes to crime, drugs, environmental issues, and such. Plus, we can’t forget that they gave us Justin Bieber. Thanks, Canada.
. A few weeks ago, I went on a grand vacation to British Columbia, designed entirely by my wonderful husband. In honor of my birthday. We were going to drive up to Victoria and spend the night in an absolutely beautiful hotel. Then we were off to Tofino, a resort town on the western coast, where we would stay at a five-star resort on the rocky coast that, evidently, is world-renowned. Then, we would ferry over to Vancouver, spend the night, and mosey on home in our smart little two-seater sports car.
And…..we had a wonderful time. Because of Canadians. Believe me when I say, the cards were stacked against us. Here’s what happened: we were leaving on a Tuesday. The Saturday before, my husband, in pain, went to the doctor, which resulted in a quick trip for an MRI on Monday. We were preparing to leave Tuesday morning and he was in pain. I mean real pain. “We should stay home,” I said, knowing full well the machismo emanating from the man would not allow for any lapse in the plan. So off we went. We found out from his doctor that he had a herniated disk, serious enough that we should go right to the emergency room. Because we are American, we feared a hospital not in our country. Robert would use Alleve and just gimp around. Nothing would ruin this vacation! We’d go to the hospital when we got back!
I won’t go into all the gruesome details that began to build a wall of misery around us, but I will tell you this: the people we met made our experience a perfectly awesome one. I left my phone in the hotel room in Victoria (very typical); all I had to do was call the local UPS and ask for him to mail it to me. This man WALKED OVER TO THE HOTEL, retrieved my phone, and mailed it to me. Maybe he was pretending, but he sounded damn happy to do it. I went shopping in Tofino, and in the drug store, I cut off a man turning down an aisle…obviously my fault. “Excuse me,” I said under my breath, looking at the floor. “Oh, no! It was my fault. Excuse me!” said the man. Then the woman behind the counter walked out to point me in the direction of the wine store (I needed it). Dogs were cavorting and people hugging on the streets. At the liquor store, a woman approached me and enthusiastically gave me a tour of her favorite wines. Then she went outside to talk to my husband about how beautiful his car is. As we drove away, a group of locals waved. OMG. Nice people that weren’t being paid to be nice to us were everywhere.
For the duration of the trip, and in the following week, I referred to my travel companion (I will not say “my husband”, because the hoser in the car with me in no way resembled the sweet, intelligent man to whom I’m married) as “very un-Canadian.” We wound up leaving Vancouver at 6 AM, which would put us in an emergency room in Seattle around 9:30 and we only got caught at the border for aboot 40 minutes. This particular threshold between Canada and the US should be appreciated for its intended purpose of letting Americans know that they aren’t in America anymore (or if they are crossing back into America, cursing is now appropriate again). And, of course, to slow down drug trafficking. We saw someone getting arrested at the border. Exciting, ay?