I’m Not Cute! I’m A Canadian!

So, I live in Canada, which to most readers means I’m your neighbor (or, as I would spell it, “neighbour”) to the North. As most of you are surely aware, the Royal Couple, Will and Kate (a.k.a. the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), were up in these parts last week for a royal tour of the country. While here, the newlyweds played hockey, donned cowboy hats, rowed dragon boats, took a cooking class, and posed for photos with an actress dressed up as Anne of Green Gables. Watching the numerous news montages (and believe me, if there’s anything that the Canadian media do well, it’s making self-aggrandizing video montages), I was struck with a mixture of pride and annoyance: we came off like such a civilized people, a calm people, and just really freakin’ twee. Did we really show our figurehead monarchs a slice of Canada or just an amusement park fantasy of what we think people think we should be?

During my various adventures on the Internets, I’ve come across many American opinions of what Canadians are all about. The general consensus seems to be that we’re cute. Adorable, even. While this might seem like a light-hearted compliment, the truth is it’s awfully patronizing. When you call us adorable, we feel like an administrative assistant who just got called “sweetheart” by her boss. I’m putting my foot down – we Canadians can be just as badass as the rest of the world. Here are a few of the myths I’ve seen about our country:

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper with George W. Bush
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper with George W. Bush in 2006. Photo from Wikicommons by Kimberlee Hewitt.

1. Canada is a haven for lefties. Every time there’s an American election that skews in favor of the Republicans, my Twitter feed lights up with “I’m moving to Canada!” Granted, we have universal healthcare, and same-sex marriage is legal in every corner of the country. But did you know that our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is a staunch conservative whose personal values mirror those of many of your most reviled Tea Party candidates? Sure, he hasn’t made any steps to outlaw abortion yet and keeps his religious views to himself, but he did campaign on a strict crime and punishment platform (more jails!) as well as a promise to dial back gun control (more guns!).

2. We’re quaint. Yeah, yeah, that Will and Kate coverage would have you thinking that we all spend our time riding in canoes on our way to lobster bakes while thumbing through the great works of Lucy Maude Montgomery. We have social problems just like you. There is poverty, racism, exploitation, and every other unsavory -ism you can think of on the streets of our fair towns and cities. As much as Michael Moore would like you to think that people don’t have to lock their doors at night in Toronto, there is crime here, even gun crime.

Prince William and Catherine in front of Canadian flags
Will and Kate on Canada Day, 2011. Photo from Wikicommons by Brian Gratwicke.

3. Our media is kind of funny. Okay, I’ll give you this one. MTV Canada is a half-baked and less glamorous version of MTV America. Degrassi is our most successful attempt at serious television drama. Our news obsesses over connecting world events to Canada. The United States elects President Obama? The headlines were not about how he is the first African-American president, but that he’s the first to have a Canadian brother-in-law. A Canadian connection!

4. We talk funny. I have never said “aboot,” or even “eh.” In my life. Like the U.S., Canada is a large country with many different accents. Some people from the East coast sound a little bit Irish. Me, I kind of sound a bit like I’m from the American midwest. Most Canadians I know sound like the Americans you see on TV.

So yes, we may label our whole milk as “homo” and prefer Smarties to M&Ms, but for the most part, we’re just like you, only much more self-conscious. So, please stop calling us adorable.

P.S. People in Calgary do not walk around in giant cowboy hats and Western shirts all the time. For the most part, those costumes are reserved for Stampede week, which is kind of the Calgary version of Mardi Gras. Go ahead and mock the disregard for animal rights and the drunken assholes that take over the streets. Do not mock the hats.

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Sissy Larue

30-something, mother-of-two, former rock 'n' roll reporter, currently into retro house-wifey things, bad TV and any movie that I can sneak out of the house to watch.

15 thoughts on “I’m Not Cute! I’m A Canadian!”

  1. I actually say “eh” all the time, but I was raised in the Maritimes, and that’s a pretty common vocal tick for a lot of people from the East.

    But on my God. You are right on the money about the media. Trying to find the Canadian connection in every situation, even when it’s super inappropriate. Drives me nuts.

  2. This is less on-topic about Canada (sorry) and more on ‘Americans being patronising’ (which, I hasten to add, is certainly not something I think is a behavioural feature of every American citizen by any means). But there’s a tendency, in public talk and particularly political public talk in the U.S., to talk about the U.S. being a ‘leader’: ‘the leader of the free world’, ‘leader in democracy’ and so on. This could well be the cause of some Americans taking on board the idea that everywhere outside of the U.S. is not quite as advanced as America is. Whether or not they think that is a bad or a good thing depends on the individual who holds this view, but it’s always patronising. An American man I was sitting next to on a plane (U.S. domestic flight) tell me that he liked New Zealand because ‘It’s like the United States in the 1950s’. Um…what? No, no it isn’t.

    A lot of this article struck a chord with me, that being said: public expressions of twee Kiwiana (our prime minister, who doesn’t pronounce all the syllables in some words, being the King of dorky Kiwiana, AND talking funny, to boot), news media connecting world news to New Zealand if possible…perhaps less-militarily-powerful countries enact our non-leadership as much as the U.S. performs its leadership?

    1. Hear hear! As a Canadian living in Australia with a Kiwi partner, I’ve noticed that Canada and NZ tend to do the same linking thing in the media. Also, I read an article from the Toronto Star a few months ago that had the thesis that NZ was what Canada was like in the ’60’s. So, I guess the reporter thought you guys were at least a decade ahead of where the random plane guy thought?

  3. My mother’s side of the family is from Canada, and my grandparents moved to the U.S. when she was an infant. We used to go back every summer to visit relatives, and I loved it. Don’t yell at me, but the area I went to (about an hour outside of Toronto) really can only be described as quant, and I thought it was amazing. I could play outside all day without worrying about smog and not being able to breathe! There wasn’t any graffiti anywhere! The people were nice and said “please” and “thank you” and held doors open for me! I have nothing but the best memories of the time I spent there, and I have found myself defending the country quite a bit from people who say it’s boring and the people are too nice (really, how can you be too nice?!).

      1. Yeah, I remember being astounded by how polite everyone was. I mean, of course a majority of people say “please” and “thank you” and hold doors open here in California, but I felt like it was above and beyond in Canada. I usually have the same experience you had when I’m in NYC…people kind of look at you blankly when you hold the door open for them.

    1. One thing I have noticed when I’ve been in the States (and I’m kind of attacking my own thesis here), is that instead of saying “You’re welcome,” if you thank a store clerk or restaurant they answer with a curt “mm-hmm.” Not necessarily in a rude way, but more as a “well, of course I booked the reservation for you.” Here in Canada you always get a full “you’re welcome” or “my pleasure.”

  4. As someone from Texas I can actually relate a bit. Not everyone here drives a Caddy, or rides horses. I don’t own a cowboy hat or boots. I do not say “Howdy” although “y’all” does occasionally slip out.

    However, I will be moving to Canada if Michelle Bachman is elected to any office higher than the one she is currently in. We say this, not because we feel Canada is Leftist, but more so that things just seem to work better there. The Government seems to stay out of the personal lives of it’s people and have their best interest at heart. The fact that you do have universal healthcare and gentler laws about marijuana say to us Americans, if I may quote one of my favorite movies… “There are no cat’s in America…” or rather, the big brother government doesn’t really care what the average citizen does with their day as long as they abide by some basic common sense rules.

    You mentioned specifically that Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, “hasn’t made any steps to outlaw abortion yet and keeps his religious views to himself” when we can’t go five minutes without hearing about new abortion laws or the Christian Coalition and 700 Club’s new attacks on Obama (or whomever their target this week is).

    All we’re saying is that the grass appears greener on the other side, and well, we think your shade of green would be cute in our foyer.

    1. I don’t know if you can say that we have less government intervention here — our taxes are definitely high and we have more government regulation that the U.S., but we seem to actually like it that way (or many of us do). As for Harper and abortion, he hasn’t tried to restrict abortion for Canadian citizens, but his government has stopped funding international groups that provide abortion as part of maternal health initiatives abroad. As for his other religious views, the reason they haven’t overtly crept into his policies is purely political — he has the rest of the government to answer to and he would probably be ousted if he appeared to be too extreame.

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