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You're from Canada! Do you say "eh"?

You're from Canada! Do you say "eh"?

By Chi Lo
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I received my new issue of National Geographic Traveler in the mail today. On the cover: "Canada's Last Near Frontier: Escape to the Land of Polar Bears & Earth's Freshest Water." Imagine my excitement as I flipped to page 74.

It was an interesting article about northern Québec, but something about it left me dissatisfied. I thought about this as I made dinner tonight, and my conclusion is that the word "Canada" triggered images of home, diverse cities, soaring trees, snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes...

This one magazine article cannot even begin to cover travel and tourism offerings in Canada, and I was silly to even expect that. At the same time, I am constantly surprised at Americans' perceptions of Canada and Canadians. When I meet people and they ask where I am from, I tell them I grew up in Canada -- you should hear the reactions I get.


"Do you say "eh" a lot?"

"America's hat!"

"I should have known."


What I mean to say is that for being friendly neighbours, Canada to me, seems to be swept under the rug at times. Like Sarah Palin on Africa, my experience is that Americans know surprisingly little about Canadians -- enough to make a joke. Yet, we have a beautiful embassy here, one of its largest, if not the largest of Canadian embassies around the world. Our trade relations are the strongest in the world, our borders are safe, our cultures and ways of living are undeniably similar.

Why the need to differentiate? As a Canuck living in the US for the better part of the last eight years, being Canadian is strangely exotic, a topic of conversation, a reason to rejoice, a bureaucratic nightmare.  This last point especially has shown me that I've had to learn lessons on being Canadian in the US the hard way, but the most important take away is that both nations would fare better if we cooperated a little more. And as much as some staunch Canadian patriots may big to differ, the only real differences I see between my American friends and me is that I say pencil crayons, and they say colored pencils. I say runners, they say sneakers; I say garborator, they say garbage disposal; I say zed, they say zee; I say Prime Minister, they say President. Tom-ay-toe, tom-ah-toe, can't we just be friends?

I don't necessarily have a point here, just a suggestion to start looking at Canadians as more than just a neighbour. When I started writing this entry, I found an interesting website United North America, which is a non-profit organization calling for the unification of the US and Canada. It is an interesting idea, and one that perhaps worth exploring?!


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