Today is Canada's birthday. And it's been interesting to see the country from the outside for the past 9 months, and to hear how people view it over here. Some observations...
- Saying "I'm Canadian" still acts as an almost automatic goodwill passport - 8 times out of 10, people respond favourably and with a smile. The other times, the person is usually neutral or completely disinterested.
- The overwhelming reaction to the word 'Canada' is either one of "ah, nature" or "ah, cold". I do try to explain that we have modern, hip, bustling cities as well and that I've maybe seen 2 moose in my entire life. But this doesn't resonate with the listener.
- Note to Canada Tourism - you've done an excellent job showcasing mountains and lakes to the overseas population - these images are seared into people's impressions of us. It's time to update the brand - mix in some of the coolness of Montreal's summer nightlife, Vancouver's restaurant scene, Toronto's diversity, and please anything, anything but Calgary's cowboy image.
- We may not realize it inside our own borders, but we may want to tone down the chirpy smugness of being rated so highly as a place to live. It's nauseating to see a major clothing manufacturer say "The World Needs More Canada" (imagine any other country saying this - we'd think it was the height of arrogance), or idiotic Olympic poets saying things like "Canada is the 'what' in 'what's new'" to a global audience. Lame.
- While we're at it, let's stop sewing our flag on our backpacks when we go abroad - no one else does this, and for good reason. Pride is great, but it's even better when paired with humility.
- Seeing first-hand how so many countries struggle with integration of immigrants, it is all the more impressive to see how Canada has done it. Not perfectly, of course, but it seems (to my fairly uneducated eyes) head and shoulders above Europe and its tribal mentality.
- We need a 'thing'. Italians have their food, Belgians their beer, British their humour, Swiss their cheese. Bacon isn't sexy enough, and neither is hockey supremacy nor Celine Dion. Hmmm...I guess nature and politeness are perfectly fine, but still there must be something more. Maybe before next July 1 we can come up with something - till then, happy birthday homeland.