Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What the Canuck?! 5 Reasons being called Canadian abroad is a compliment

The old Neighbor to the North. Its easy to make fun of Canadians, as friendly as they may be they do pose quite an easy target. As the late great Robin Williams once said:

"Canada is like a loft apartment over a really great party."

But when you look past their laughable Canadian tuxedos, their affinity for ice sports, and how they all say "Eh?" all the time, they're actually quite awesome as people. So when I started constantly being confused for Canadian as a traveler I was a little, perplexed to say the least. I grew up in Chicago, but I've always been told if anything I have a lack of an accent. I definitely don't mind the cold, but this is Australia, it never really gets that cold, maybe there's something about me that just says, "Hockey for Life!" possibly the long hair and man bun, I couldn't figure it out. Finally after almost a year traveling I've come to the conclusion that being assumed Canadian, is actually quite the compliment. It means you sound like one of those Western Folks, but not the bad ones that wanna blow up all the brown people. We Americans unfortunately have a hard earned reputation in the international community, so until we change that, which isn't likely anytime soon, I present "5 reasons it's a compliment to be called Canadian."

5. It's Code For "You Don't Seem Like a Dick".

Like I said, us Americans have a quite infamous reputation around the world, and frankly you can't really blame them. Most of the modernized world looks to Americans for the latest fashion, film, and social trends, and when you look at the amount of garbage publicity we give ourselves, you can't really blame people for assuming we're all kind of self absorbed, mindless, socialites **Cough** Kim Kardashian **Cough**. You add that on top of our affinity for being extremely patriotic (because if you don't like 'Merica... You can GET OUT!), and our habit of starting long and drawn out military conflicts, and we aren't exactly painting a great first impression of ourselves. Now I love my country and I know it's filled with plenty of people who chose not to fall into the paradigm, but as a "whole" you simply can't argue with a lot of these impressions. 

The other problem rises when people from other places in the world are exposed to these stereotypes in person. If you take the cast of the Jersey Shore and send them, well, send them quite frankly anywhere, the locals probably aren't going to be to crazy about Americans in town. The truth however, is that most Americans who travel full-time or aren't simply going somewhere for a quick vacation, are very low-key, and unassuming, which means most people don't know they're American. And since the world expects us to all be loud, flag-waving, gun enthusiasts, when we are not, they assume the only other possible alternative... Canadian. We look the same, we talk relatively the same (assuming you live in the mid-west), minus the "eh?" but Canadians as a whole seem to the rest of the world like Americans, who aren't very "American-y". Canadians, at least all the ones I've met, also tend to be extremely friendly and hospitable (again similar to my mid-western friends), which means when foreigners see those qualities in you, they once again assume, Canadian. 

At fiirst, I was a little confused, and I must admit a little upset. Again I love Canadiens, and we have a fun, friendly rivalry with our northern neighbors, but no real red-blooded American really wants to be confused with those moose hunting, syrup slurping, maple leaf lovers, right? Well at first, yes, I'm a proud American and I would always respond somewhat defensively at first, "Actually no, I'm an AMERICAN!" But it kept happening, and happening, and happening, to the point that if you lined up the thousand plus people I've talked to bartending in this country, at least 950 of them would have guessed Canadian. Finally, after about a month or so, I realized after continuing the conversation with a few patrons that they assumed I was Canadian, simply because I was so friendly and as one customer put it, "You just don't seem like a dick, most Americans I've met are kind of a dick." And just like that, I realized that when people assumed I was Canadian, what they were actually were saying was, "There's no way you're AMERICAN, right?!"

So basically what I learned from all this is not simply that being assumed Canadian is a good thing, but if you do find yourself overseas and this happens too you, take it in stride. Obviously correct the person and let them know you like real football, not that weird Canadian mutation, but then leave a positive impression on them that will spread way beyond your encounter. Actively be a poster-child for the "cool, fun, not gun crazy" American, and see if we can work together to change those stereotypes. Also, keep an eye out for any Canadians, who get accused of being American, because they will lose their shit... and it's hilarious!

4. Canadians are super friendly eh?!

If you don't have any Canadian friends, do yourself a favor and get on it. Aside from being apparently full of beautiful, and friendly (and many time easy eh?!) women, the Canadian guys I've met aren't too bad either. Canadians are basically our first cousin in world relations (the cool one, not the creepy pedophile one... that's the Brits) and they can be a breath of fresh air when you're feeling a little overwhelmed in a new place. They also love to travel, so anywhere your adventure takes you, you are bound to run into some awesome Canucks. 

I'm currently coming to the end of my time in Australia and spending my last few months in Perth. My first month here I had a Canadian girl come into my bar, backpack in tow, and order a couple of pints off of me. Eventually, we got to chatting (after I agreed to charge her phone for her) and she told me her sister, and her sisters two friends were coming to visit, and she was waiting for them here. What she didn't know (because it was day time) was that the bar I work at is an LGBT venue, and as fate would have it, her sister, and her sisters two friends were all lesbians. And since there are only two openly gay friendly venues in all of Perth, it was pretty likely I would be seeing them again. We exchanged numbers after her sister and her friends showed up and the very next night, they were back. Not only did they have a blast at my bar, but they were also, not surprisingly, super friendly! They invited me out to the house they were renting for the month, and over the course of that time I probably spent four or five days out there. They bought me drinks, cooked me dinner, sang me rap songs on a ukelele, and mostly just made me feel welcome. That's still probably the best experience I've had since I've been in Western Australia, and I can't wait to visit them in Canadia, where I've already been assured I have a place to sleep. Also, did I mention two of them were strippers, road trip anyone?

3. Canadians are super chill

We all have that one friend who never seems to get phased by anything, it's almost like they're constanly high, because of how mellow they always seem to be. Now imagine an entire country of super friendly, super mellow people, that love to booze and have a good time, without all the dramas that can sometimes entail. Now I can't blanket statement and say every Canadian is chill, all the time, but the vast majority I've met are just that. Even the women seem to be slightly less crazy and melodramatic than their female counterparts around the world (key word... slightly).

I don't know if it has to do with being a relatively non-waring nation, but when was the last time you heard about Canada's military doing, well... anything. Whatever it is, this seems to carry over into their day-to-day lives and demeanor. This is not to say that Canadians are pussies or will back down when faced with confrontation, it's just they seem to avoid it, and for the most part they take a mostly pacifistic role. Think the opposite of how (and I hate to keep referencing Jersey Shore) Snooki or the "Situation" would act during any kind of slight confrontation or misunderstanding. Instead of throwing a drink in someones face, or taking off their shirt for no reason, your typical Canadian would most likely respond with something along the lines of "No biggie eh?"

I don't know about you, but this is extremely refreshing for someone like me. I spent most of my high school years in Nashville, and my family still resides there. As much Southern Hospitality as there is in the south, there are still plenty of douchebags out looking for any reason to cause trouble. However, as a pretty pacifistic guy myself I can't really imagine a misunderstanding in a Honkey-tonk, resembling anything that might happen in a similar Canadian establishment (Do Canadians line dance?). Most likely something that might get your front tooth knocked out in the states, like say spilling a drink, would only result in a good hearted "whoopsies eh?" in Canada, and you having to pay to buy someone a new Molson.

2. Canadians Love to Party

Along  with their ever-friendly demeanor and overall fun outlook on life, Canadians like to get weird, and they know how to party. Now, as we all know from the film Beerfest, Americans are the undisputed drinking champions of the world, but Canadians may be a close second. This is not to say that other nations don't get on the booze and get on it hard, but in my experience most other countries can't quite hang. Australians in particular love to "get on the piss" as they say out here, but the style and way they drink is quite a bit different. Australians for instance are a very aggresive drinking culture, the entire country seems to run on a perpetual state of proving ones' masculinity. You combine that with about a dozen or so pints, and its seems at least half the men in the country are constantly looking to "glass some cunts" (break a bottle over someones head). 

Now Americans are known for our brash and crass reputation, but I know plenty of people, and most of the Americans I've met while traveling, are simply looking for a good time. Drinking is a way to meet new people and be social, and Canadians seem to share this philosophy. You are much more likely to have a Canadian tell you they "Love you eh?!" while out on the town, than you are to see them get aggressive. Canadians also seem to embrace the American concept of "It's five-o-clock somewhere. This doesn't mean they booze recklessly or with disregard, but when free time is available, it usually is associated with a pint... or ten. Most importantly booze isn't needed to fuel a good time with Canadians, but it certainly helps to grease the wheels. So if your out drinking or partying and someone asks if your Canadian, that just means you look like your having a great time, with no drama involved. 

1. Canadians are just good people

They may look ridiculous standing there in their ear warmers and board shorts, and we may not understand their obsession with Gretsky, but at the end of the day the Canucks as a whole are a pretty awesome group of people. This means as American travelers, not only should you not be offended when you get confused for those dog sledding, Tim Horton's loving, mountain folk, you should feel quite complimented. Yes, there's a bit of a rivalry between America and Canada, but it's nothing real, it's more like a friendly family rivalry. But sometimes you realize your little brother is actually a better person that you, you're still cooler in the eyes of everyone else, but maybe he's not so bad afterall. 

Canada is filled with beautiful landscapes, and 30 million people who all claim to be somewhere from Europe, but obviously are not because their families have been there for five generations. So while they may not have the same sense of national pride us Americans have, what they do have is an unspoken comradery with one another. Canadians are one of the few groups as a whole that seem to really care about other people with no discrimination based on race or ethnicity. While they may for instance "hate" those 'damn leafs fans' when the game is over they will happily share a pint with their nemesis. You hear all the time about people getting into giant brawls after soccer games all over Europe, but I don't know if I've ever heard of a fight breaking out after Leafs and Canadiens game. Maybe it's the fact that they get all their anger out on the ice, or maybe that it's too damn cold there to stay angry for long. Whatever it is, the Canadians are doing something right.

I'm proud to be an American, but I now know that while it's great to be an American, it's even better in the eyes of the world to be an American who seems like a Canadian, but in reality has no idea what Tim Horton's is. So drink your Molson, keep making your delicious syrup, and keep yelling at "icing" calls (whatever that means) but whatever you do keep being you Canada! 

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