Oh, Canada… tsk, tsk.
A couple of years ago, I was dating Yvonne, the Mad Woman of Chaillot… well, Gatineau, really… a French-Canadienne who, with her husband and two children had moved from the Ottawa area to the Atlanta area in the late seventies. Too late, I learned that the ex-husband’s proclamation, “Yvonne, if it wasn’t for me you’d still be in the gutter in Hull,” was all too accurate.
Yvonne and I were in a retail store one day and the clerk helping us had a distinctly non-Southern accent. The clerk told me, when asked, that she was from somewhere in Ohio. Further conversation brought out that she didn’t like her daughter going to school here in the South, because she was coming home with a decidedly Southern drawl.
The retail store was Kay Jeweler’s and that lady from Ohio had just talked herself out of a sale. If you don’t like it here, Delta airplanes not only fly into Atlanta, they fly back up north as well. If you don’t like us, then don’t have anything to do with us.
What got me into the US was a small Canadian company in a small Canadian town called Tillsonburg, Ontario. The Executive Assistant at the firm was a hard-working, very competent ‘Gal Friday’ named Caroline, who booked us all flights, hotels and rental cars as well as doing our expenses, quotes and general office work. I hope she was well-paid.
Fifty percent of the small company’s business came from the United States. Not all did, but I enjoyed taking the US projects and on one trip, bought a very patriotic, American-flag golf shirt, which I wore to Caroline’s back-yard cook-out one weekend. Her husband, after a few pours, had some choice anti-American comments about my shirt and the country, even though a fair chunk of his wife’s paycheck was coming from US dollars.
Caroline, who did not share her husband’s sentiments at all, apologized for her his comments. Out of respect for her I stopped short of suggesting he give half her paycheck – the American half – back to the boss.
Canadians seem to be in a quandary. They are 90% identical to Americans in speech, food, entertainment, customs and automobiles, but feel they have to prove somehow that they are NOT Americans. This is generally accomplished by American-bashing… “Canada, we’re NOT the United States”, the implication being, “We’re BETTER than the United States.”
What Canadians don’t seem to realize is that they’re having this argument amongst themselves, the US isn’t listening. The forty-ninth parallel has been described as “the longest one-way mirror in the world” – Canadians peer closely at Americans, trying to make sense of their every move, while the United States sees only its own reflection.
Rightly or wrongly, Americans are exceptionally patriotic and exceptionally ego- and geo-centric. They firmly believe that theirs is the greatest country in the world and they are aware only of what goes on inside their country.
Americans, simply, are self-assured patriots. One could argue that Canada has a better banking system, that China has more jobs or that Britain has the Queen. Details matter not, Americans know resolutely that they live in the greatest country on earth. They will wave the flag and fight to the death for their country. Such overt patriotism does not sit well with Canadians.
On the other hand, Canadians are much more reserved in their patriotism, perhaps leaving a foreigner with the impression that Canadians are apathetic. Canadians feel the need to assure themselves that they are as good as, if not better than, Americans.
Canadians can be downright insulting to their American visitors. To me, this is biting the hand that feeds you. Close to eighty percent of Canadian exports are to the US. A great deal of Canadians work either for a Canadian subsidiary of an American company, or they work exporting raw materials to the US.
Here’s the deal. Just like the jewellery lady should have gone back to Ohio if she didn’t want her daughter having a Southern drawl, if y’all Canadians dislike Americans so much, stop using American products.
Television: No more America’s Got Talent, NCIS, Under the Dome, Big Bang, Bachelorette, 60-minutes, Dateline, Late Night talk shows, not even The Simpson’s or Jerry Springer. Also out, the British comedies on PBS. Instead… local news, The Beachcombers, Coronation Street and the CBC.
Movies: Out… Silver Lining’s Playbook, Django, Hunger Games, Pixar movies, Shreck, Twilight series, Disney or The Wizard of Oz. Instead… Vic and Flo Saw a Bear, The Nut Job, Still Mine and the National Film Board.
Sports: Out… NFL Football, Major League Baseball – except for Blue Jay home games, NBA – except for Raptor’s home games, College Football, NASCAR, Tennis, Golf – except for the Canadian Open, NHL games not played in Canada. Instead… Hockey Night in Canada, CFL football and curling.
Music: Out… Rihanna, Beyonce, Blake Shelton, Darius Rucker, Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, even Michael Jackson or The Eagles. Instead… Justin Bieber, Bare Naked Ladies, Anne Murray and Gordon Lightfoot, who looked embalmed at last year’s Grey Cup. (Actually, there is plenty of original Canadian (French and English) music available on “Mes Hits, Mon Fun”, CQOI – ‘Say Kwa’ – quatre-vingt sieze, virgule neuf, (96.9) Montreal. ( Ici: webradio en direct ) Just learn to speak French.
Food: Out… McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC, Dairy Queen, Starbucks, Dominoes, Olive Garden, Red Lobster or Florida oranges. Instead… Harvey’s, Pizza Pizza, Swiss Chalet, St. Hubert, Tim Horton’s and PEI potatoes.
Vehicles: Out: Ford and GM – including trucks. Probably a good idea anyway. Parking spots in Toronto are painted so small, I have to park my F-150 pickup out in East Moses and take up two spots so I don’t get my doors dinged. Instead: Kia and Hyundai. Canada is nearly there already.
Retailers: Out: Wal-Mart, The Bay, Zellers/Target, Staples, Office Depot, Sears, Winners, Home Depot, Lowes, La Senza, Mappins & People’s Jewelers. Instead… Dollarama.
Beverages: Out… Coke, Pepsi and Labatt beer/ale, with Molson’s, headquartered in the US, being questionable. Instead… Pop Shoppe and Sleeman Breweries.
Technology: Out… iPhone and Facebook. Instead… Blackberry and Canada Post.
Getaways: Out… ocean cruises, winters in Arizona or Florida, weekend jaunts across the border to get cheap liquor and cigarettes. Instead… Canadian Tire for a new snow shovel and windshield scraper, the Legion for cheaper draft and the Reservation for cigarettes.
Deal?? I didn’t think so.
Okay, how about this then: be kind to Americans.
They don’t know that there’s a battle going on in Canada that might be perceived as overcoming an inferiority complex. When an American is treated with harsh words and his/her country is insulted, she doesn’t know why and takes it personally.
Mocking an American accent – are you kidding me? The country with Acadians eh?, Newfoundlanders eh?, Quebecois henh? and Prairie accents? Believe me, contrary to popular opinion, there isn’t one soul in Ontario who speaks like Peter Jennings did.
Americans don’t know much about Canadians – or any other nationality for that matter. You’re the Canadian Ambassador in their eyes, and if you show your ass, that’s the lasting impression they will have of Canadians.
Let me finish up by once again quoting the Bible, Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Treat Americans in Canada the way Americans treat my Canadian mother when she’s down here… with respect and as an equal.