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Stuff Canadians Like (Part 2)

The Ottawa River
The Ottawa River
After living in Canada for almost 6 years now, this is my best shot at a sociology study: “Stuffs Canadians Like“.

The Tragically Hip: Ever heard of the Tragically Hip? Chances are if you did, you hold a Canadian passport. If no, don’t worry — you’re just a foreigner. The band from Kingston Ontario has been around for around twenty years but it just doesn’t work outside Canada. Could that be because their songs mostly revolve around hockey, small Canadian towns and Canadian history? As a result, when touring in Canada, the Hip typically play to sold-out arenas whereas when touring in the USA, they play in clubs. And performances are usually attended by Canadian expats. The only time they were famous in the USA is when the song New Orleans Is Sinking (to non-Canadians: “My memory is muddy what’s this river I’m in; New Orleans is sinking and I don’t want to swim“) was banned from the US radios after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

Weird Sports: Ever played Lacrosse, Canadian football or curling? Once again, if you’re not Canadian, the typical answer would be no. Lacrosse is originally a Native American game while Canadian Football is a type of rugby football, like American football. Both are very popular, but curling beats them both. Imagine playing chess on ice. Or darts on ice. There you go, this is curling. Two teams take turn sliding heavy granite stones down the ice towards the target. Two sweepers with brooms accompany the rocks and try to direct them as close as they can to the target. It’s actually more complex than it seems, given all the yelling involved… A movie was even dedicated to curling: Men With Brooms (2002). And yes, the Tragically Hip make a cameo appearance — why did you even ask!

Don Cherry: The former NHL player and coach who now co-hosts Hockey Night In Canada‘s “Coach’s Corner” is worth watching once. Voted the 7th greatest Canadian on the CBC, controversial Don Cherry is mostly known for his bright and loud suits (polka-dots ties, huge French collars and cuffs, and original patterns led me to believe he was color-blind, or even blind altogether), his staunch patriotism and his politically incorrect views on both politics and hockey. His embrace of hockey violence, his dislike of French Canadians and Europeans, and his borderline xenophobic rants are sometimes way too much — yet, he is somewhat entertaining. Go figure.

Saying “eh: In Canadian English, “eh” is a keyword. Famous joke goes: “How do you spell ‘Canada‘?” “C, eh, N, eh, D, eh.” First, “eh” can be used to confirm the attention of the listener: “I’m writing this post, eh, so people will know more about Canada“. It can also be used to turn a declarative sentence into a question: “fucking cold, eh?” (meaning “today’s –40ºC feels rather chilly, don’t you agree?“). It can also means the speaker agrees with you: “I know it’s cold, eh!“. Note that “eh” alone could mean any of the above — this is why there’s a mandatory 3 years wait period before immigrants like me can apply for citizenship. More time to study English Canadian, eh.

The Canadian Flag: The first thing you learn when you come to Canada is to draw the Canadian flag. Not because it’s mandatory. Because the flag is just about everywhere. Governments of Canada’s buildings, airports, military bases, diplomatic offices — of course. But also houses, parks, bridges etc. Canadians just love their flag. An example? Flags that are flown on Parliament Hill (from the Peace Tower and the East and West blocks) are packaged and can be obtained free of charge. However, there is an 11–20 years waiting list for the flags! Oh, and don’t let me forget about the government’s program to promote the flag (which was only adopted in 1965): since 1996, February 15th has been commemorated as National Flag of Canada Day. Not a statutory holidays though…

Anyone to do a list of “things Americans like”, or “things that ____ like”? I’d be curious!

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