What some of you may not know is that after Russia, Canada is the second largest country in the world. Canada’s ‘neutral’ and ‘passive’ reputation undermines its status within the international community, and thus is often seen as an extension of the United States of America. I myself thought that my year abroad at Calgary University in Canada, was going to be filled with frat parties, baseball and … eating. I was mistaken.
When my friends and I first arrived in Canada, we were taken to an American football game in the University stadium. As I’d seen in the movies, I expected tens of thousands of students to arrive, waving their respective university flags and cheering on the athletes, who would be celebrities in their own right. The reality was a different story. Although half of the stadium was filled, directly opposite there were hundreds of empty seats. It wasn’t until I went to a Calgary Flames ice hockey game that I discovered the clear disregard for American football, and instead a passion for the puck. The game was fast paced, skillful yet excitingly violent, and with the crowd’s cheers deafening the packed stadium, I was soon swept up in the tense atmosphere.
It is not just the sports that differ immensely in Canada. Although their accents have obvious American similarities (their elongated ‘r’s and slight drawl immediately point you to the South), their demeanor is distinctive. Mistake any Canadian for an American, and they will shout obscenities back at you, profusely maintaining that they have more resemblance to a Frenchman than a Yank.
Interestingly, whilst I was there, I found the Canadians to be more like the British than their neighbours. Their humour was slightly sour, a sarcasm that I was not expecting, having seen the very literal American comedy in series such as the American version of the Office. Moreover, although their uninhibited friendliness echoes those in the US, they have a side that is quieter, more shy and chilled out, an aspect that was thoroughly endearing and very relatable to this side of the Atlantic.
The final stereotype that is often attributed to Canada is the cold. While yes, I somehow found myself in a city where residents have to plug in their cars to keep them warm (what?!), in a province that was named the coldest place on earth in 2010, and experienced a wind chill of -50c, Canada is not a barren, snow covered ice block all year.
In fact, Calgary during the winter was a pleasurable change to the brown, slushy mess that is Lenton after a snowfall. Snow-ploughs rid the footpaths of excess snow early in the mornings, and the snow remains untouched on the grass. At an altitude of 1000m above sea level, Calgary has the unique reputation for being both very dry and extremely sunny due to its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, perfect for some of the best ski conditions in North America!
Head west however, and the weather changes immensely, some even saying that British Columbia is rainier than the UK! But with mountain landscapes rivaling the Alps, beaches rivaling Australia, and rolling hills rivaling the British countryside, this province truly has every environment anyone could wish for. True to Canada’s form, Vancouver is a truly cosmopolitan city, but with a laid back atmosphere that beats many of the cities I have been to in the USA.
I could drone on and on about the differences between the US and Canada, and truly, I am not ‘dissing’ America. Having lived there for four years myself, I think the USA is great. I simply want to emphasize the vast and very important differences between the two countries; differences that I believe are often overshadowed by the looming presence of Uncle Sam.