Thursday, June 19, 2014

No, I'm not American. Yes, I'm from Toronto: A travelling Canadian's most frequent responses.

After five weeks abroad I got used to repeating myself.

My voice betrayed me around the world. It's hard to sound Canadian when there's no real Canadian accent. Our land is too diverse for that distinction. As soon as I spoke people would ask: Are you American?

I don't blame them for their misinterpretation of the way my English sounds. Of course they'd assume that I'm from the States - it's big, it's well-known, and it makes a point of being present in every situation (wanted or not.)

When my response would clarify that I'm from the North of North America their first question would always be: Are you from Toronto?

There are two things I learned about my own country while visiting other peoples':

1) Canada is associated with winter -- nothing else.
2) They think everyone is from Toronto.

My interactions became predictable to the point of hilarious. People would first comment on the cold and then ask me about Toronto. The amount of times I heard "Canada? You get a lot of snow there, don't you." was remarkable.

I was expecting to discuss hockey, correct typical Canuck stereotypes, and maybe hear a couple jokes about maple syrup, but I got nothing but winter related queries. Why? Because the only people who know stuff about Canada and make fun of Canada are Canadians.

At first I was shocked (how could everyone know nothing about my vast land?!), then I was sad (I know tons of stuff about other countries. Why is my own so ignored?), and finally I was pleased. Being not well known has its advantages and it's kind of romantic to be mysterious. If I were American they'd know everything about my culture and predict my stereotypical behaviour, but as a Canadian, they didn't know what to expect, so I could be whomever I wanted.

I toyed with the idea of telling people about my dog-sled team. How they're world champions and trained with the best coaches in the Yukon. Born and bred under the northern lights, they eat nothing but the best seal meat. They're really great at getting me to and from the maple sugar bush where I work, and the local Tim Horton's. It's hard work tapping trees all day, so I often need a double-double and an apple fritter to get me through. They also don't mind the long run up to the Mountie dispatch office where my boyfriend works. He may be a full-time Mountie, but being a lumberjack is his real passion. Look out, balsam firs! The only thing that grinds my gears is trying to find good dog sled parking in downtown Toronto during a Leafs game. It's madness, I tell you.

Although that would have been fun, I ended up being polite, clean, and conversational, because I'm Canadian. And yes, I'm from Toronto.

A license plate souvenir I found in Paris. Cause, you know, 
nothing says Canada like snowflakes, bears, and moose.

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