Posts Tagged ‘Canada Day’

To Canada, With Love from Paris

July 1, 2012
“L’Express Special Edition – Moving to Canada: All the Keys to Success”


Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians, at home and abroad!

It’s a funny thing being an expat—I have never felt more Canadian now that I live outside of my country than I ever did while I was living in it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been really proud of my Canadian heritage.  Like most other Canucks, I get all excited and puff up with some bizarre sort of delighted pride when our neighbours to the south poke fun at us in films and sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock and Family Guy (probably because, I suspect, someone on their writing staff is Canadian).  I occasionally crave poutine when I’ve been drinking it’s cold out, I know all the lyrics to If I Had A Million Dollars—including the banter about gourmet ketchup—and when somebody says, “If I wanted water…”, I know exactly how to finish the sentence.  I followed the events of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics with zealous fervour, and I was part of the ecstatic, flag-waving crowd celebrating with national pride in Toronto’s Dundas Square when we beat out the Americans in a nail-biting overtime game to take home the Olympic gold in hockey.

But all that aside, for the most part, being Canadian was something that had always been kind of a given.  You’d trot it out when you were rooting for your favourite team, during national elections, when you were good-naturedly mocking your American friends for forgetting their “u”s… and then you mostly forgot about it.  When everybody around you is also Canadian, it’s not something really something that you tend to think about on a daily basis.

When you live abroad however, the first thing that people ask you once they realize you’re not local is, “Where do you come from?” Over here, I probably tell somebody that I’m Canadian at least once a week, if not more.  And there’s always that instant, spontaneous reaction—positive or negative—upon hearing your response. Just naming your country conjures up all sorts of preconceived notions and connotations about your background that influence how other people interact with you. I’m proud to report that most of the time, saying I’m Canadian elicits a big smile, followed by a comment along the lines of, “Ah, le Canada ! Il est beau, ce pays !” (“Oh, Canada! It’s a really beautiful country!”) or “J’y suis allé une fois et les gens étaient vraiment sympas !” (“I went there one time and the people were so friendly!”)

Living abroad, you also somehow become THE representative for All Canadians, Everywhere. When Canadian politics or culture come up in a discussion, my French friends will turn to me quizzically and ask me to explain why something is a certain way in Canada, or why Canadians have such-and-such an opinion. Ummm….  (As somebody who has never really been into politics, I’ve been somewhat shamed into following them from abroad, just so that I can answer their questions.)  When Canadian murderer Luke Magnotta fled our borders to hang out in Paris cafés, everybody suddenly wanted to talk to me about it. And when I do or say something out of the (French) ordinary that aggravates or pleases a friend of mine, that behavior isn’t just seen as my own, it’s also “typically Canadian”. I remember one time being reluctant to complain about a dessert that didn’t come exactly as described in the menu, and being scolded by my friend Jean-François: “Non, mais Darlene, arrête de faire la Canadienne ! Tu ne vas pas payer six euros pour un moelleux au chocolat qui n’est pas moelleux !” (“No Darlene, stop being so Canadian! You’re not going to pay six euro for a chocolate lava cake that doesn’t come with any lava!”) Continue reading »

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