I was flipping through the Community Pool here earlier today, and came across a blog called Floridian Lifestyle, written by an English girl named Rosie. I was inspired to read her latest post, A Weekend in Los Angeles, because hey, I’m a northern girl, and that California dreamin’ The Mamas and the Papas and The Beach Boys sang about is really a thing up here. I was further intrigued when she said she had gone down to Compton to meet her fiancé’s family and to see where he had grown up. “The same Compton of which the streets Dr. Dre proudly proclaims to be from?”, I thought. If you were thinking the same thing as I, as you read just up to this point, then you can safely assume what I was prepared to see was what you probably also had in mind. What I saw reading through her post were many beautiful landscapes, references to getting to see where Rosie’s beloved walked to school each day, getting to meet his family, some pictures of a quaint residential area, and a couple of pics of an attractive, well dressed young couple – a proud and happy L.A. man, side by side with his charming English midwife.
“I’m not prejudiced!”, you say, but I will echo that same thought right back to you. You see, I’m not prejudiced or biased towards any group of people, but when it comes to places I’ve only just heard about and never experienced, I have to admit my perceptions are coloured through the bias of other’s experiences and encounters. So while I learned today that Compton is more than just a mythical place featured in gangster rap lyrics, and tomorrow when I read through more of Rosie’s work I will likely discover that England is more than just some country cottages, circled around Buckingham Palace, inhabited by people who sing and dance in perfectly coordinated step together a la Julie Andrews (whilst the queen overlooks from her balcony drinking the world’s largest cup of Earl Grey), today YOU are going to learn just a little bit more about us Canadians, and what’s really going on here in the strong and free true north.
The Northern Lights
Unless you have a real burning, intense need to see the dancing technicolour display you have seen only heretofore in the Imax or planetarium, there is no need to buy a thousand dollar plus set of arctic gear and put all of your life savings towards a once in a lifetime trip to the deep north to see the northern lights. You can see the slightly less vibrant version of those things just about anywhere the light pollution is kept to a minimum. But don’t ask me what time of year. I forget. That’s because it’s just common enough an occurrence even here, just an hour or two away from the US border, that we take that s*it for granted.
English is the primary of our two official languages. The second one is French. And none of us really know why. Some people’s European ancestors came here and did some bad things throughout history and imposed the English language upon the indigenous inhabitants of this country, so yes, we can understand where the English came from. But aside from Quebec and it’s border, and maybe a small faction of Manitoba, French really is not that common of a language here outside of those areas (though heavily populated, where 21% of the population speak it – which still leaves 79% of the population that has no knowledge of or no fluency in it). We are then given a very rudimentary introduction to it in schools all over the remainder of the country, ‘because it is our second national language’. I have never once needed to use it. Not even in Montreal, where everyone seemed to prefer to practice their English with me. Native languages were spoken here well before the European invasion, and many are still spoken today. Why are one of them not one of our two national languages? We don’t know either.
Yes, we have polar bears. And besides the inhabitants of the far, far north, you know how many Canadians have actually seen the Coca Cola mascot in real life? (And the zoo doesn’t count.) About 10. And yes, that is an exaggeration. A good beaver sighting (pause for the lame chuckles from those of you who think everything is innuendo) is only slightly more common than the polar bear. What we do have in abundance and what we are really better known for (at least amongst ourselves) is our antlered mammal (cervidae) population…. think deer, moose, elk…. And let us not get started on those pesky seagulls, geese and mosquitoes.
Ketchup chips ARE a thing. The best thing. They are second only to All Dressed. Think of them as BBQ’s sweeter, zesty, and infinitely more palatable little sister. And syrup is delicious; you know you like it. Stop making fun of us for enjoying it too. We also eat blue/rasp/straw/goose berries, lobster, fish, wild game, tex-mex, Italian and take out pizza and Chinese just like the rest of the developed world.
Bunny hugs. These are something you get from people dressed in fuzzy costumes at malls during Easter, not what Saskatchewonians think they are. And what is it they would be referring to? Hoodies. You know, hooded sweatshirts with the pocket in the front. We wear those. We also wear snowshoes, though only recreationally, and only during winter. We wear cold weather attire only outside, either performing an activity, or en route to the next indoor destination we are headed to, where we promptly remove it all and leave it in a generally big soggy cold pile at the door.
We also wear stilletos, dresses, pants, shorts, whatever we saw in the latest issue of GQ or Vogue, or whatever was the right price in the clearance section of the local department store. But back to bunny hugs; Even the rest of us Canadians outside of Saskatchewan can’t figure this one out. But we really aren’t putting too much thought into it – we’re still too busy wondering how they came up with the word Saskatchewonian, when Saskatchewanian would make so much more sense, or Saskatchewanese would be that much more kick ass to say. Which leads me to the next heading of…
We say ‘eh all the time. All the freaking time. We don’t even realize it. We make fun of each other for it and laugh at American parodies of it, but it’s oh, so true. However, our neighbours to the south say huh and y’all, so we’re at least in good company. And seeing as how we all think we are the only ones calling things by the right name, if there is something I am calling a name completely contrary to what you would call it, unless you pointed it out to me, I wouldn’t know. And vice versa. So we’re all right.
‘Ruff’ is the sound a dog makes. ‘Roof’ is what we call that thing over our heads. Americans make fun of us for calling it a ‘ruff’, and we make fun of Americans for calling it a ‘ruff’. None of us are right. The truth is, the only person I’ve ever heard pronounce it that way is Tim Allen in Christmas with the Kranks. On a side note, we Canadians are rumoured to speak the ‘most perfect’ English of any English speaking nation on earth, second only to the ‘Queen’s English’. So you may want to quit laughing at our accents right.about….. now.
Our homes may get buried under so much snow here that they can resemble igloos, but again, after extensive travelling back and forth across the country I call home, I have yet to ever see one in real life, I do not know anyone who lives in one or who has lived in one, and if we all did live in them, then considering our summers easily hit 40 degrees Celsius with the humidex, we would all be homeless the other 9 months of the year. We live in houses, condos, high rises, split levels, and apartments with neighbours who party like teenagers in the kitchen on the other side of our bedroom walls just like everyone else in the developed world. With thermostats, plumbing and electricity and all!
A little FYI for ya: since the longhouse was thought to represent the earliest form of permanent structure in many cultures, our indigenous people actually invented our current wooden housing structure (amongst a few others from around the globe).
We are not the most polite people on the planet. You need go no further than to observe the traffic down the TransCanada Highway or through Winnipeg to realize that we are not. My travels through Mexico lead me to believe the inhabitants there have us beat. We just place a high emphasis on manners, having learned long ago that we can use them to get what we want. Anything we want.
Not beer, but the all mighty Caesar is our National beverage.
It is a clamato juice and vodka based drink that goes down real, real nice on a hot summer’s day, but has enough zip to warm up the guts on a cool fall evening. Argue with me all you want that it’s beer (thanks a lot Joe), but in 2010 the Caesar was pronounced our national beverage by Parliament, and it has it’s very own day of celebration – mark your calendars for May 18th people! However, not everyone enjoys the Caesar, and many of us do not enjoy beer – coffee, tea, wine and whiskey all also rank quite highly in our collective hearts and homes. We are also known to enjoy a nice refreshing glass of all of that cool, crisp freshwater we have pools of just lying around here, there and everywhere (otherwise known as lakes). Over 891 thousand square kilometres of it.
We have four of them. They all come at the appropriate times. Spring, summer, fall and winter. And they are glorious. Except maybe winter. It gets cold here. So, so cold.
That’s just a brief overview, hopefully adding a bit of clarity to some of our better known Canadian stereotypes. And since I know you’re all still wondering, we really do obsess over Tim Hortons just as much as you may have heard. And hockey really is a thing here; a big, big thing. Even though we actually invented lacrosse and basketball. Oh yes, and we really do exist outside of Toronto (which is 630.2km sq. in size), Montreal (431.5km), Vancouver (115km), and even Ottawa (2.778 thousand km). We exist all over Canada’s 9.985 million square kilometres. That’s a lot of land. For relativity’s sake, you can compare that to the US’s 9.834 million sq. km, or Japan’s 377,962 sq. km.
Feel free to leave any questions or anything else you feel like you might want to say in the comments. If you really want to know about that weird tradition, or if that thing you heard about that one time that you swear is too ludicrous to be true really is, or want to know about some landmark or directions to the nearest gas station I will happily inform you as best I can with my fully biased and tainted view of my country, based solely on my own experiences, encounters and what I can find through google. Perhaps I’ll even ask a friend or two. But not Mark from Toronto. I regret to inform you that I do not know him. And that I have never been to Toronto. The same goes for Andrea from Vancouver. But what did you say their last names were again? And did their parents ever visit Calgary that one time back in 2001? Hmm… well, maybe I just might after all…..