O Canada, never stop being weird and charming
The first day of July is Canada Day and this year it was a big one, because the country has turned 150. I recently became a permanent resident of Canada, and received an armful of pamphlets intended to acclimatise me to life in America’s hat. The Welcome to Canada handbook details the nation’s geography, climate, system of government, rights and freedoms, laws, and more. Yet it left me strangely bereft of information on the Canadian character.
There’s a preconception that Canada is boring. Even Canadians share this preconception, because they have no idea how weird they are. I reckon, therefore, that other travellers and immigrants to Canada might benefit from the insights I’ve gleaned from my four years among these odd yet charming people.
In the 80s and 90s, Canada televised many terrifying public service announcements that offer insights into the current national psyche. In one representative example, Astar the Robot falls through whirring blades that chop off his arm. He then informs the watching children: “I am Astar, a robot. I can put my arm back on, you can’t. So play safe”, teaching them nothing except to avoid falling through a pit of chainsaws.
There is a correct side of the pavement. Sorry, of the sidewalk. If you are walking down a street and thinking: “Woah – Canadians are so friendly, except when they’re walking places”, this is because you are on the left side of the pavement. You might think there isn’t a correct side; you might think that people could simply walk around each other. Do not suggest this. Stick to your side.
Canadians have no idea how brilliant Canada is. “I can’t believe how long I’ve been on hold,” says the Canadian who’s been on hold for the length of time it takes a kettle to boil.
“I can’t believe this train is so late,” says the Canadian who has waited three minutes for a train that will arrive in another three minutes.
“Why aren’t these streets clearly signposted?” complains a Canadian, aware that in a block or two there will be a street sign informing them, with geospatial precision, exactly where they are. Shut up Canadians!
You don’t understand late trains! You live in a land of inhuman efficiency. Your country is brilliant, OK?