A Canadian South of the Border

Stereotypes can be insulting and hurtful, but I think most stereotypes about Canadians are pretty toothless.

Some stereotypes that I encounter on a regular basis:

  • Canadians are polite.
  • Canadians like hockey.
  • Canadians can endure cold weather.

I don’t doubt that some people find this fairly streamlined interpretation of Canada’s identity irritating. After all, people are more complex than three generalizations about their country. This clip from Jim Carrey’s stand-up takes about thirty seconds to get going, but illustrates what I mean by “irritation.”

To be honest, given that the stereotypes that I deal with come with good-natured curiosity rather than hostility, I don’t mind discussing the “little differences,” to use the words of Pulp Fiction‘s Vincent Vega.

Besides, that:

  • My wife often tells her friends that I’m “just being polite.”
  • I like hockey.
  • I prefer winter to summer.

Still, I thought it might be funny to share some of my “go to” answers when asked about Canada.

A “go to” answer is pretty useful if you try to live as though you’re a representative of your country (paid or not, you are always a representative of your country). So while I often feel the temptation to follow Jim Carrey’s lead and invent things that happen “in my homeland…,” in my experience, most jokes are better left unsaid.

Go-to answer: I’ll just point out how much colder it is where I grew up (I still check the weather there every day).

When asked where I’m from in Canada, I usually need to say more than “Manitoba.”

Go-to answers:

  1. It’s in the middle.
  2. It’s north of North Dakota.
  3. We used to have a hockey team, the Winnipeg Jets.

(And we’ll get those Jets back.)

When it comes to the Canadian accent, I get all sorts of comments, including:

  • You don’t have any accent at all.
  • Oh, you just said “about!” Now I hear it.
  • When you said “hawkey” instead of “hackey,” I thought you might be Canadian.

To be honest, I find the accent comments amusing when talking to people that pronounce “bought” with two syllables. “Bough-aut.” Still, it’s always fun to compare accents, no matter where you travel.

Go-to answer: I guess I should keep working on my accent, eh?

Often, I think the main thing that people want to hear is what you like about their country.

Go-to answers include:

  • How welcoming people have been to me.
  • Diner breakfasts.
  • The Revolutionary generation.

And, of course, there’s always sports.

These “go to” answers might not sound like much of a toolkit, but these are the sorts of things that we live with everyday. People often have a lot to say about any one of these innocuous topics, and I am always happy to satisfy their curiosity.


5 Responses to “A Canadian South of the Border”

  1. Any country that produces Alanis, Jim Carrey and hockey lovers is good by my book. But then, growing up just across the bridge from Windsor, I’ve always been a fan of the red maple leaves.

  2. Oddly, I have a Jamaican flag in my basement hanging with a matching soccer ball to remember my honeymoon, but I don’t have the U.S. flag anywhere either. (Other than the tiny ones that you get at parades.)

  3. I’ve always had a blast when in Canada. It’s the only place I’ve ever seriously considered moving to if I had to flee the U.S. If is wasn’t for that cold weather…..

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