Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In honor of the Vancouver 2010: Common misconceptions regarding Canadians and Canada

The Olympics are here! As a lower mainlander/valley girl, we can feel the long and dirty arm of the Olympics reaching even way out here (at least an hour away, depending on traffic and whether or not someone has crashed on Hwy 1 and the Port Mann again, in which case you can unbuckle and have a party on the side of the road because you aren't going anywhere). It is an exciting time despite the beautiful weather that is wrecking havoc on the mountains (and for which I am secretly thankful because if we would have had a winter like last year and I would be locked up in this house with 4 kids, WELL. That would have been the end of me) and the overall atmosphere is one of festiveness (but not festivus, that's another post entirely).

Now, more than ever, it is my sincere hope that the widely viewed telecast of the opening ceremonies has helped to dispel a few of the, shall we say, inconsistencies in thought that people have with regards to Canada and Canadians in general. I mean, didn't you see the whales swimming across the floor of GM Place? That should dispel any further myth that we all live in igloos. You couldn't program that technology in an igloo! The controls on the thingamabob would freeze up.

So if you are traveling in Washington state and are scared to put your pinky toe over the border of Canada in fear that a.) a beaver will bite you, b.) someone will jump out of the woods and slap a lumberjacket on you, or c.) your speech will suddenly elongate so that everything comes out with an extra 'ooo' as in 'aboot' (huh? I videotaped myself talking before and I do not say abooot. ever.) or 'doooode' (dude). Crossing over into Canada might net you a better breath of fresh air and a distinctly bigger dent in your pocket book if you plan on buying milk products, but that's about it. Other fun myths that I must dispel here:

  • The 'Gracious' Factor: Much has been said in the media about how gracious Canada is, how we say please and thank you for everything, how open and welcoming we are. This is a common belief, and it may also be true. I for one, find that I say thank you and please for absolutely everything. I will say please and thank you to people who don't even say hi to me at the cash register (but then I will think they are a bunch of cows). I didn't realize this was a Canadian thing to do until I saw it on NBC (thank you NBC, for the edumacation). The problem with this belief? It does not allow for the other side of the coin, which is that I am just as likely to say, kick your ass if you bother me for any reason, than I am to turn the other cheek and be polite. I believe this to be true of all Canadians. MYTH: We are simply polite, gracious, and welcoming   FACT: We are polite as well as angry, a wonderfully patriotic combination
  • Our money is weird: A little known factor about me: I lived in Marietta, Georgia for almost 3 years. I lived with my aunt, who was also from Saskatchewan originally. I stayed with her, went home for a bit, came back, yadda yadda yadda 3 years went by. Occasionally I would go home and bring back 'loonies'. These are the Canadian version of a one dollar coin. Eventually we as a nation also delved into the murky waters of the 'Toonie'. I will admit it must be strange for those from other countries to get used to our money, but after years of using these dollar coins I still have a hard time spending US currency at Disneyland. I believe I have taken $20 bills, thought they were $1 bills, and tipped many people in many different places. (No wonder Americans think we are polite, we have no idea how much we are tipping). I will also admit to bringing loonies to Georgia when I lived there and selling them for $5 a piece as souvenirs to my aunts neighbors.  MYTH: Our money is weird FACT: The looney is weird, but Canadians are fiscally intelligent as evidenced by my $4 profit on a $1 coin, which at that point in time was probably worth .50 cents.
  • Eh : Who started this anyway, and how is this any different from Europeans saying "Ya?" after every sentence? I had a freelance client last year who would call me and say "So this is what I want ya?" He was British. Have I said 'eh' before at the end of a sentence. Guilty. Do I say it as much as, for example, someone in the south says y'all? Nope. Myth: Good day, eh? Fact: How about those Canucks eh? eh? Wink wink, nudge nudge. 
Now that we've dealt with a few perceptions that are inaccurate, here are a few things about British Columbia (but can apply to some other parts of Canada as well) that are true:

  • It's beautiful -  Hell yes, it's beautiful. I've grown immune to it in many respects, but when I drive up to Whistler for any reason with the kids, I am in bloody awe of the sea to sky highway. I mean, the ferries, the islands, the ocean. Oh. My. Gawd. It's enough to make you pull over, set up camp, and never leave (but keep yourself away from the guard rails and what appears to be cliffs. It is a cliff, and you will fall down it before you know what happened). Once, when my hubby took my night skiing at Mt.Seymour, I had to sit my butt down in the snow because I was absolutely stunned at the view (not because I am crappy skier, although I am sure that I am. I don't use poles because I believe them to be useless. I am known for coining the phrase "Poles are for dancing" in relation to skiing). I've lived here for 11 years, and it still gets me. 
  • Our beer is stronger - Molson Canadian 5.19 % vs Budweiser 4.82 %. Yet, US beer is cheaper, therefore easier to drink. Good example: Bud light lime. Ding.

If you are one of the lucky few who are visiting Vancouver in the next few weeks, tip back a few strong beers and get rowdy in the streets like the rest of the polite Canadians. Just remember to say please and thank you, and they'll never know the difference.

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