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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What is Canadian?

“What are Canadians like typically,” asked my friend on the eve of my departure home.  “You are the only one I have ever met.”

Other than the fact that I am not the ideal person from whom to adopt a general view of ‘what is Canadian’, I found myself pondering what in fact is truly Canadian?  For instance, right or wrong we throw around stereo types such as the French are romantic, Russian women are beautiful, Swiss are organized, Germans are aggressive – but what the heck could be a generalization of Canadian?

I was stumped.  Until yesterday that is, when I found myself out running errands with thousands of other last minute shoppers.  Make that Canadian shoppers. 

Anyway, I did what I always do.  Strike up conversations and make jokes with complete strangers because the timing seemed right to do so.  But there was one moment yesterday that was particularly cool.  As I left the grocery store laden with bags of groceries I watched the man in front of me stop in front of an old woman who looked both exhausted and overwhelmed with the throngs of people milling about.  The man stopped and asked the woman how she was, and the woman replied so quietly I could not hear.  “Are you alone for Christmas?” he asked.  The old woman nodded and then the man left his buggy full of food and embraced the old woman in a big, long hug.  I saw her face light up and I couldn’t help but smile as I walked on by. 

As I drove home I thought of my day.  The sarcastic banter I had with the clerk at the drug store, the slow cooker tip exchange with woman at grocery till, or the career plans of the waiter I had at lunch.  Then I thought back to Europe and the comments people say to me.  I have heard my boss tell colleagues not to worry about me because I talk to everyone.  Or the fact that I have gotten myself into trouble talking to people and making my non-Canadian date jealous and uncomfortable. It was then that I decided on what is truly Canadian.  We are a sarcastic and talkative bunch.  We will talk to anyone, anywhere.  We like to make jokes with complete strangers and anyone alone is fair game for attention.  We simply like people.

Perhaps it is because we come from a country that is so vast and spread out that in the early days we were just so excited to stumble across another human being that we talked to them regardless of any commonality.   Or maybe it because the long cold winters kept us secluded for months and starved for stimulating conversation.  Who knows?  But what I do know is that the whole sarcasm and chatty thing is not unique to me.  It is in my roots and a fundamental part of who I am.  

But, even though the ease of conversation is natural to a Canadian, so is walking away.  Just because we talk to you – it doesn’t mean anything.  We won't ask your name, or where you are from, we do not really want to know.  The whole thing is about sharing a moment, or a smile or two and getting on with our day. 

Yesterday I watched a man say to a woman that she looked great, “not many women can wear red,” he said.  The man walked away and the woman carried on with a smile.  That’s kind of a normal Canadian thing - we talk, we laugh, and then walk away…

Our Canadian chart topper Carly is featured in this current hit - and the video to me captures a bit of what I am trying to say :)

And - here is a commercial that kind of captures some Canadian winter/police humour.  

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