Canadians live in cabins and drive dogsleds to work

I’m at 1842 this morning, listening in on a conversation between the clerks (servers? coffee-house people?) on some of the stupid things that stupid Americans think about Canada. Stuff like “Canadians live in cabins and drive dogsleds to work”. Likewise, they’re talking about some of the stupid fallacies that stupid Canadians think about America. Things like “all kids get automatic weapons as presents,” or “everyone drives an SUV and has a gun in their glove compartment”. One of the clerks is an American, the other Australian. That’s why it’s actually interesting to listen to this conversation: it’s a new perspective on things — I enjoy hearing this, because I don’t often get an American perspective on things. Usually, I get one of two distinct opinions of the U.S. — two different mindsets. On the one side, I get my impression of the U.S. from embedded Canadians living in various parts of the country — from San Francisco to Texas, from Chicaco to Fort Wayne. My parents live in Florida these days, so I like to think I get a nicely rounded impression from my Canadian friends. The other impression I usually get from the U.S. is the non-skeptical patriotic propagana-ridden one, poisoned by the America-centric media. This kind of mindset believes things like “you have to support the president, just because he is the president,” and “America is loved by the rest of the world, and has no imperialistic tendencies, whatsoever.” Don’t get me wrong… this mindset exists in Canada too; it’s quite widespread, given the status of our own government today.
But it’s interesting to hear two non-Canadians, embedded in Canada, talking about Canada. I like to hear that Canadians have a “holier-than-thou” attitude towards Americans, because we do. Most Canadians know we’re secretly “holier-than-thou” when it comes to the U.S., so we’re not afraid of dissecting it. We make fun of ourselves in our own sitcoms (one Corner Gas episode comes to mind — where an American comes to Canada and is asked “Who is the head of Canada?” and correctly answers “The Govenor-General”). I like hearing about what others think of Canadians, not only because it’s usually positive. Canadians like hearing criticism about themselves as a nation and as a culture. It tells us what we’re doing wrong, and what we’re doing right. We like to be informed of these things. We get our news from around the world, and while our own media isn’t saturated with crazy patriotic sword rattling Canadian-centric propaganda (unless you read “The Toronto Sun”), we’re still skeptical of it. We aren’t afraid of asking others what they think of us, and we aren’t afraid of being critical of our own government.

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