March 22, 2012

Stereotypes Suck Pants

I'm going to try really hard not to go into a rant here. And I hope I don't come across as snarky either. Today while I was on Twitter, one of the dudes that I follow retweeted this fun little snippet:

"I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends anyone. That’s why we have Canada." (Bill Maher in the article Please Stop Apologizing)

Hardy har. This is me (a Canadian) yucking it up. Right. Can we all agree that stereotypes suck? It's never okay to suggest that all Asians excel in Math or that all athletes are stupid. Stereotypes suggest a kind of laziness and ignorance in the people who peddle them. It says that we just can't be bothered to learn about a culture, a person, or whatever. Sure, we Canadians like to mock ourselves, but that's our prerogative as Canadians. But it's all in good fun. Um, not if the butt of the joke isn't laughing anymore. We've all stereotyped in one way or another whether we like to admit it or not. But maybe we should try to do it a little lot less.

I don't want you to think that I don't have a sense of humour or can't take a joke, but mocking my country even in good fun really bothers me (because sadly, many people believe the jokes). Canada is frequently the butt of jokes on TV, the worst offenders shows like South Park* and How I Met Your Mother. ** I figure if it bothers me this much, maybe I should try informing rather than scowling and moaning about it. So here goes...

Popular Misconceptions Aboot Aboat About Canada, Eh?:*** 

1.  Canadians are nice and never offend anyone.
Ha! If only this were true. The population of jerks per capita in Canada probably equals that of most other countries. I've lived in Germany, spent a whole summer in Scotland, and visited many places around the US and Europe and have met many nice and polite people in all of these locales. Canada does not have a monopoly on niceness. Capiche?
2.  We all talk in this wacked out accent rife with aboots and ehs.
Wrong. I will admit to saying 'eh' on occasion, but it's not a conversational crutch for me, nor is this the case with most people I know. The only place in this country that you might hear about pronounced aboot is Newfoundland and it's such a tiny percentage of our population. Sure you might know someone from Canada who speaks like this, but then I also know Americans who say y'all. Do all y'all say y'all? Do all English folk say "Jolly good, pip pip, cheerio, my good man"? No? Didn't think so.
3.  We hate Americans.
Again: wrong. Man, we hate you so much that we share tons of things with you like "the largest bilateral relationship of any two nations on Earth" (Source). We also watch all your TV and movies, buy products from all your companies, and frequently travel to visit your beautiful country on vacation. Not exactly something I'd call hate. More like friendship.
4.  It's always cold here (Canada = The Great White North or a polar icecap).
Sure we get more than our fair share of chilly days in the winter, but we also get very hot temperatures in the summer as well. Every summer for as long as I can remember we have hit 30°C (86°F) or higher. There are places in Canada that see far more rainfall than they do snow (like the Western coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island). We don't live in igloos, ski season does end, and most of us have never seen a polar bear (except at a zoo).
5.  Our national anthem (O, Canada) is to the tune of O, Christmas Tree.
Not even close, actually. There are plenty of versions (most of them cheesy) on YouTube. Here's one with pretty pictures of our very pretty country (P.S. It has a polar bear in it).
6.   We all know so and so from [fill in the blank] in Canada.
I promise you I don't know that person you know from Canada. Canada is BIG****. Our population is only four times that of New York City, but as far as sheer landmass, we are the second largest country in the world. We're just spread out a lot. However, 90% of our population lives within 160km (100 miles) of the USA/Canada border (see #4).
7.  Our national security and/or military stinks.
Untrue. Did you know that Canada was involved in WWII from the beginning? To this day, Holland sends tulip bulbs every year to Ottawa, our nation's capitol, to thank us for being so instrumental in their country's liberation. We also established a beachhead at Juno Beach during the invasion of Normandy. We've been involved in a number of other military endeavors since then, but more recently, our troops were involved in the war in Afghanistan. Our armed forces are frequently among the first to provide aid in times of emergency and natural disaster globally. CSIS, our Intelligence branch, works with both the CIA and MI5 in stopping threats to national security. They also work in conjunction with our federal police service, the RCMP. Side note: the Mounties aren't always dressed in the Red Serge. It's just their dress uniform. Normally, they dress like normal police officers, which we also have all across Canada as not all of our cops are Mounties. I worked for a local police force myself for a while (here's proof).
8.  We all speak English and French.
English and French may be Canada's national languages, but not every Canadian can speak both. Some places in Quebec (our French province) people speak only French, and many Canadians either don't speak it at all, or know very little. Canada is very diverse with groups of people from all over the world, and just as many different languages.
Watching my brother-in-law carry the torch.
9.  Canadians aren't patriotic.
Canadians are patriotic, we just aren't loud about it. Except for this one time where we unleashed the beast and let the world know just how proud we are to belong to this country (think Vancouver 2010). As a nation, we'll never be the same again, and that's a good thing.
10.  We're all hockey, beer, and maple syrup fans.
Okay, this one is mostly true. Go Edmonton Oilers!!

Like I said, I'm not trying to be all ranty or snarky, but the only way to clear up some of these misconceptions is to share a little about this wonderful country I'm proud to call home.

_________________________________________________
*The South Park movie had a song entitled "Blame Canada" that was nominated for an Oscar.
**Cobie Smulders (Robin) is Canadian, but does this give them license to crack jokes about us? 
***See, I have a sense of humour :-)
****Canada has a total area of 9.9 million square kilometres (3.8 million square miles) and touches three different oceans--the Atlantic, the Arctic, and the Pacific (Source).

37 comments:

  1. Interesting post :D (and I learned A LOT about Canada...Even though I love How I Met Your Mother, I also know they´re not portraying Canada the way it probably is :D)

    You cannot imagine how much I´ve heard about France while living abroad and I´ve noticed one thing about me: I´m much touchier about my home country when I´m living outside of it :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually like How I Met Your Mother too, but sometimes the Canadian jokes get to be a bit much (and not just on this show). I can well imagine what it's like to live outside your country and hear what people say about it. I ran into that a little bit when I lived in Germany (some people's opinions about Canada). Canada often gets lumped in with the US, and no disrespect intended, but we're different countries (despite many similarities). :D

      Delete
    2. I know exactly what Elodie means. I was never as much a British patriot until I started living in the States and became an American citizen, oddly enough! Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so they say. :)

      Delete
  2. I love your list. I literally laughed at my desk when I read number 10. I have a bunch of friends from Canada and I bust their butts about stuff all the time.. but they laugh right along with us and start a lot of it. I do understand where you are coming from though. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't mind the occasional Canada joke (we do it too), but sometimes it just feels overdone and offensive like the tone of the quote at the start of this post. He says it like being nice is a bad thing. He should watch a session of the Canadian House of Commons (our government)--it's like World War 3 every time they are in session! :D

      Delete
  3. Seeing as how I just spent a weekend in Vancouver, I feel HIGHLY qualified to comment on this post. :) I have to say, overall, the Canadians we met WERE really, really nice people. Uh, and it was cold. And I don't know about maple syrup, but we sure got the love vibe when it came to hockey and beer. There are worse things, right? :)

    Totally kidding, Jaime. I get your point and agree whole-heartedly. Stereotypes do suck. If they we're true, this Seattle girl would be a Birkenstock-wearing, coffee-guzzling, Nirvana-listening, super-Liberal. But... not so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We do love our hockey :D Glad you had a good time here and that people treated you nicely.

      Ha! I'm trying to picture you rocking out to Grunge and wearing socks in sandals. Bahaha! Can't see it :)

      Delete
  4. Yay Canada! I have been to Canada, and I have known Canadians (both at University in England, and over here in the States). I have to say, for the most part, I've found Canadians to be nice people. The only time I had a problem with a Canadian is when we briefly went to Quebec. I tried to get directions out of a guy who spoke to me in French. I tried some French with him, but I didn't get very far--and I don't think it was because my French is that bad. (I could at this point make some snarky comment about the French, and many English people would, but the fact is, I've known some very nice French people too (hi, Elodie!), so that stereotype doesn't have much legs either... anyway this guy was Canadian, not French... but I digress...).

    The biggest problem I have (and it's my problem, not yours) is seeing Canada as a separate country from the US. I know it is, but I think many of us in the UK kind of see North America as this one big landmass. The fact that to British ears the US and Canadian accents sound similar doesn't help. It's kind of like the way Americans (as a whole--I don't want to stereotype) have problems distinguishing between English, Australian, and New Zealand accents, or confuse the Scots and the Irish accents.

    Thanks for the education, Jaime. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess I just think that there are nice people everywhere, and not just in Canada. Heck, look at all of the people I've met through the blogs from all over.

      That's funny that the Canadian and American accents sound the same to most British folk. I think maybe I have an ear for accents. I can tell between a Glaswegian and Edinburgh accent (Glaswegian is hotter). I can distinguish easily between Scots and Irish accents. I can also hear the multitude of regional differences in English accents (just watch Coronation Street or Law & Order: UK for a lesson in diverse dialects haha). I sometimes have a tougher time distinguishing between Aussie and Kiwi accents, but if I listen closely enough I can pick it out. The one I think I'm the proudest of picking up on is a South African accent. Now that's a tricky one! I love different cultures and accents, though, so that's why :D

      P.S. Did you like my little "Jolly good, pip pip, cheerio, my good man" bit? :D

      Delete
    2. I'm constantly pointing out regional British accents to my family. I'm not as good as some at it, but I'm probably better than most Americans (for obvious reasons). I'm impressed at your skill, though. That's a cool talent. :)

      As for the "Jolly good, pip pip, cheerio, my good man"--well... *ahem*. :) There are people in this country (the US) that might be surprised to hear that the last time English people spoke that way was before they stopped referring to the British police constables as "bobbies." Yes, they don't call them "bobbies" any more. If you really want to embarrass yourself and show yourself to be a tourist in the UK, ask someone where you might find a "bobby." :)

      Oh, and the "British" accent? Technically there isn't one. There's an English accent, a Scottish accent, and a Welsh accent (whether one considers the Irish as British is a controversial issue). Have you ever tried speaking with all three accents at the same time? I know, it's handy to refer to the English as British, but let's be fair to the other nations in the British Isles. :)

      Delete
    3. It actually drives me bonkers too when people refer to British accents when they mean English. I just changed my post because I referred to British people (meaning English in this case) saying the whole "Jolly good" thing. It's like when people talk about speaking Chinese. There is no such language. It's either Mandarin or Cantonese.

      Generally, I can't tell you exactly where in England is from (though I can usually pinpoint a Manchester dialect from a mile away), but I can certainly hear the differences and sometimes guess the area they hail from.

      Delete
  5. Ah, those "jokes" grate at me; it's actually just lazy writing to depend on ages old cliches. Whenever my husband and I travel, or if we meet someone from another country who is new to the U.S. if this conversation comes up we ask what their general impression of the USA is. One German friend said "Mcdonalds, Burger King, cowboys." Wow, that's TWO fast food chains summing up our entire nation. We're fat, say ya'll and rope steer. OK, so we AREN'T all like that. Just like Germans aren't leiderhosen-wearing folks with beer steins permanently affixed to their hands.

    Thanks for the rant - more people should know not to go with the cheap lazy joke. At least make it about curling :) I kid!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! This totally made me laugh (especially the fast food bit). Really? When I think about the USA, I think about all of the history, the many states with their own unique beauty and regional differences. It's one great nation, but made up of so many interesting parts. When I was in Germany I had some guy give me the gears for being from Canada because we bombed up Germany during WWII. For reals? I won't even go into what I could give them the gears for!

      Too funny about curling :D I'm not a major fan, though I did play a bit in high school. Thanks, I'll stick to hockey!

      Delete
  6. Wow, I live fairly close to Canada, have visited Canada a few times, and still learned a ton in this one post!

    I'm in Washington, and we say, "Eh?". At least I do. We also (the longtime Washingtonians) have a very slight way of tweaking particular words.

    I lived in Germany for a few years and saw how badly Americans are viewed. Some Americans have no clue that the rest of the world doesn't think that they are as wonderful as they think they are. And I'm not being unpatriotic. I was over there in service to America. But it sure did open my eyes a ton! Among the many claims against us and stereotypes, they (and not just Germans. I had lots of friends from other European countries) say we are wasteful, unappreciative, prideful, boastful, ignorant and obnoxious.

    So yes, stereotypes stink. And I like joking about them sometimes, but not at the expense of another.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's funny how Americans speak of a Canadian accent and Canadians speak of an American accent, but really there's no such thing. How can you lump a Texas accent in the same category as a Bostonian or Minnesotan accent? Very, very different. Likewise, in Canada people in the West speak very differently than Canadians in the Maritimes (the very Eastern part of Canada).

      Wow, people certainly had harsh things to say about Americans to you! I guess I just think that people are people and lumping us altogether in chunks (like saying that all Americans are wasteful, etc.) is kind of unfair.

      Delete
  7. If it makes you feel any better, I'm from the land of eternal stereotypes and bad jokes-- New Jersey. *sigh* AND wrote a blog post around similar lines when I couldn't take any more! I feel for you.

    But you know from my blog that I'm a sucker for anything Canadian and absolutely love your country (And had the awesome luck of being there in 2010 during the Olympic fever. I have the mittens. And the "Go Canada!" t-shirt. And have memorized the national anthem in English AND with the French part in the middle-- though that was possibly not by choice! :) ) I do have to say that, during all of my visits, I've been lucky enough to meet a ton of incredibly nice people. Then again, I haven't been to Toronto yet... I've heard stories about there.

    (And there was this one older gentleman on PEI who shocked me with his prolific use of "eh"... though he was the exception, not the rule. ;))

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel so sorry for people from New Jersey in the wake of the whole Jersey Shore thing. Yowza. I've never been to New Jersey but I know that it must be a nice place :)

      I'm impressed that you know our anthem with the French part in it too! A lot of Canadians don't even know that part :D I do know all of the lyrics from the American anthem and have for years. I love that you love Canada so much. It makes me happy.

      Delete
    2. It's pretty here, especially our shore. That show makes me want to beat my head against a wall (and most of the people on the show are from New York, not NJ.)

      :P The French part of the anthem is thanks to two Canada Games worth of anthems... since they always played the dual language version, it was impossible not to learn! I like it a lot because it's actually singable. And not about a flag in a war that the US kind-of didn't really win...

      (And I have to love Canada. Y'all gave us hockey. And zippers. My life would be incomplete without either of those!)

      Delete
    3. If it's any consolation, whenever I think of New Jersey I just think of all the rock bands I love that come from there -- Sinatra, Bon Jovi, The Misfits, My Chemical Romance, Thursday etc.
      I've never seen Jersey Shore, and I never ever want to.

      Delete
    4. I think I love you :P (and yup, stay away from that Jersey Shore)

      Delete
  8. Great post! I have several close friends from Canada, so I knew most of the stereotypes were bogus (except hockey, like you said. Ya'll are as nuts about is as we southerners are about sweet tea. Truly.) I didn't know that 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the Canadian/US border. Very interesting. I wonder why that is?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably because further north it gets a little too chilly :D And yes, we are pretty nuts about hockey up here!

      Delete
  9. As a Scot, pretty much the only stereotype we have about Canada is that the people are nice and they usually treat Scottish people kindly (Scottish views of countries seem to rely mainly on 'were the people there nice to us'. It's more sensible than ranking countries on weather or politics, I guess). I'm sure there are some Canadians who don't like Scottish people, but as far as stereotypes go I'm happy to go with that one.

    South Park, Family Guy et all are terrible. Most Scottish stereotypes don't affect me because they focus on the males, but some of their generic British stereotypes irriate me. :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The only Scottish stereotypes that I've really heard are that they're very nice, and I actually experienced this first hand. My experience in Scotland was incredible and the people I came into contact with were SO friendly. I guess we'll be nice together, right :D

      Delete
  10. This is a very informative post. My maid of honor was (still is, just not my MOH anymore as I'm married) Canadian. I love me some Canadians and hate me some stereotypes.

    Also, I love watching Kids in the Hall on Netflix.

    People are people

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that you watch Kids in the Hall. I'm sure there are even Canadians who don't know about Kids in the Hall (though, they'll probably have their Canadian card revoked for that transgression :D). I agree with you: people are people and stereotypes stink.

      Delete
  11. I'm from Minnesota. How I Met Your Mother picks on us also. But I still like it, too :) Of course, my husband is a huge Vikings fan so those mentions are his favorite parts of the show. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually really do like that show (but then I'd probably like pretty well any show that Neil Patrick Harris is on lol). They were just one example of frequent jokes made at Canada's expense. I do notice that Minnesota gets mocked from time to time, which I don't understand. I've been to Minnesota many times and thought it was beautiful! :D

      Delete
    2. Lol, I love Neil Patrick Harris, too! (Speaking of going against stereotypes. . .)
      I actually used to go to Regina for a couple weeks every summer for a horse show. It was always one of my favorite shows, I love Cananda. :)

      Delete
  12. Those with the most to be proud about always get razzed the most.

    (By the way...I think we all DO say yall...everyone I know. And it doesn't need the apostrophe. It's its own perfectly gud word.)

    (BTW-2: yall is singular. all yall is the plural form)

    See yall
    Mac (Texan, and damn proud of it)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love a good Texas drawl :D And I love when people say yall.

      Delete
  13. This cracked me up more than it should. Have a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad I could make you smile :D Enjoy your weekend too!

      Delete
  14. Just read the "How I Met Your Mother" comment... I LOVE that show... and I think the Canadian aspect is waaay fun ;)

    Jaime, I'm seriously laughing here. WHAT A FUN POST! I've met some amazzzing Canadians. I've also met some HORRID Canadians. (You being numbered under the amazing category) Thanks for the clarification and laugh. And you're so gorgeous. Phew! Love that pic of you ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like that show too. Barney just cracks me up (I love me some NPH :D). And hey, I've met some pretty horrid Canadians too lol! Thanks for thinking I'm the opposite :D Glad I made you smile.

      Delete
  15. Sorry you had to deal with this Jaime.no fun. I feel your pain. I lived in the Netherlands when George bush was president and I felt like I spent most of my time defending Americans and America. I do say y'all because I'm southern, but you're right-- most of us don't. :0)

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is a brilliant post. I, too, am from Minnesota and have always had a bit of love affair with your country (it started with Anne of Green Gables and -- not gonna lie -- Bob and Doug McKenzie. I'm more of a Calgary Flames fan, though, mainly because of this guy: Joel Otto

    BTW, I've nominated you for the Award of your choice here.

    ReplyDelete

I ♥ comments. They make me smile.☺