To most Americans, Canada is something to laugh at. It’s a non-threatening country to the North of us, with a people who punctuate clauses with “eh” and pronounce “ou” like they’re tooting a horn. For the record, real Canadians don’t say aboot. Canadians have a lovely lilt in their speech — a rhythmic change of intonation that sounds a bit like the Irish and a bit like the French. If you listen to a proper Canadian pronounce “a-b-o-u-t” you’ll notice a deepening of their voice — the “ou” is more internal, lower in pitch, and is the same sound you make when you stub your toe. When most Americans think of Canada they think of bacon, the RCMP (most Americans call these fellas Mounties), lumberjacks and John Candy (or Mike Meyers if you’re under 25). But Canada has a lot more going for it that pork products, plaid and SNL (though, let’s not lie — those are pretty awesome things to lay claim to). Here are a few things I love about Canada:
1. The Big Wild
Canada has an amazing park system. Ontario alone boasts 1000 lakes and provincial parks larger than the state of New York. Banff, Jasper and the other National parks in Alberta boast some of the most ruggedly spectacular scenery in the world. Rock-climbing, hiking, kayaking — whatever, you can do it to excess in Canada. Nearly one quarter of the planet’s wild forests are inside Canada’s borders; 20% of the world’s fresh water and 24% of the planet’s wetlands are Canadian, too. Canada is so self-consciously defined by it’s nature that the citizens chose a maple leaf as its flag and a beaver as it’s national animal.
2. The Flag
You may think that maple leaf is a lil hokey, but man, can you do a lot with it. Check out the design Musqueam artist Debra Sparrow created for the Canadian 2010 Olympic Hockey Team — it includes First Nations design elements within the borders of the leaf.
Okay, ladies, I’m going to let you in a secret — Canadian men are real men. Let’s remember Ryan Reynolds, here. Sure, they try to start camping fires with gasoline (not sooo safe), but at least they go camping, regularly. So far in my interactions with Men to the North, I found them to be well-balanced, interested in a variety of things, outdoorsy and funny….
which leads me to…
4. Sense of Humours
Canadians are funny — they have to be to live up there. Almost the entire population is concentrated along the border. The winter is longer. They have a lot of mosquitoes. Their national animal has bucked-teeth. They have to be able to laugh at themselves. Only 1 in 10 Canadians are too serious (this is not an official statistic, but I think it’s reasonably close to accurate)
Artisan Cheese from PEI
5. Cuisine & Beverages
Canada does have some uniquely Canadian food. Buttertarts and date-squares for one. Buttertarts can be compared to a pecan pie, with raisins instead of pecans, but less offensively sweet. They’re ridiculously delicious. The Maritime provinces also have tremendous seafood — Prince Edward Island mussels are world famous (and their potatoes are pretty damn good too) and there are some fantastic chefs working out there. Vancouver is one of the hottest cities in the world for food right now, thanks to a diverse immigrant community and increasing prosperity. Canadians also take their caffeine very seriously — they have their own coffee chains and cities boast lots of tea shops. Oh, and their beer has more alcohol.
Canadians pay attention to the small things. Lawns are well-maintained and landscaped with flowers — regardless of the size of the home. Air Canada stocks its on-flight bathrooms with sanitary napkins and mouthwash. They consider the small things and take personal pride in meeting an exceeding standards.
7. Universal Health Care
This one needs no defense or explanation. No citizen is left without coverage. If they can do it, we can do it.
8. No global dimming
The sky is different in Canada. Clouds are fluffier and better defined. Orion and the Big Dipper are not the only stars in the sky. Why? Because Canada doesn’t suffer from global dimming in the same way the US does. Less heavy industry, fewer cities and a more dispersed population are the primary reasons why the Canadian sky is brighter and cleaner. It certainly makes for a prettier horizon.
There is a lot of stunning farm land in Canada. Ontario produces such a wide variety of goods, that it can effectively stock the entire produce section of supermarkets. Everything from carrots to peaches can be grown within the province. The farms are also beautiful and well maintained. And somehow, the Prairie provinces lack the monotony of American corn fields.
For me, going to Canada is like going home. Part of it is in my blood, I know. But I’ll always remember the weekend I drove to Montreal in September of 2001. It was 2 weeks after the World Trade Center attacks. My car, with its New York license plate was parked outside the hotel on Rue Sherbrooke and as I was unloading the luggage, strangers stopped me as they passed — “Are you from the city?… We’re glad you’re here, have a wonderful vacation.” One after another after another stopped to wish me well. They weren’t looking for details or an insider’s view. They just wanted me to know I was safe here and that they cared. That’s the thing I love most about Canada, they just seem to care.