I must have been 25 or 26 years old. I was in Australia visiting my Son Tristan and was doing a quick day trip by Train into Sydney to visit my favorite Comic Shop (if you're ever in the Sydney suburb of Parametta, drop into The Phantom Zone), after grabbing a stack of my favorite nerd rags I bolted back to the train Station. I wanted to be back in Wollongong in time to have Supper with TJ.
Paying for my ticket the Man noticed my accent and asked "What part of America are you from?" I collected my change and pleasantly replied "Oh no, I'm Canadian." he squinted at me and drawled "Same thing, isn't it Mate?"
My Shock must have been palpable.
Same thing? SAME thing?!? Now - please don't take my reaction as any kind of criticism of our Neighbours to the South. I know that Americans have a capacity for kindness, I've seen it first hand. Their fierce Independence has placed them on the right side of History when the Freedom of all has been threatened in disputes both small and large. Hell, I have Family living in the States - our similarities far outweigh our differences. That being said, mistaking an American for a Canadian OR a Canadian for an American is just as much a faux pas as confusing Australians with New Zealanders, or the Scottish with the English.
There are differences and they matter.
Both countries are multicultural and both are meritocracies; but America sees itself as a "melting pot" a place where all enjoy a kind of rebirth as an "American". I've always felt the Canadian Identity is one of celebrating diversity under a single banner. When you come here you become a part of our national tapestry and enrich it by adding your Cultural flavors to our shared experience.
Work ethic is another dividing line for our People. In Canada we encourage breaks during the working day, vacation time and maternity or paternity leave are enshrined in law. While Stateside, these are left to the employer and are usually far less generous. Americans work longer hours and have a reputation for being ‘addicted’ to their jobs.
While it's widely recognized that Americans enjoys a lower cost of living than we do in the Great White North, that is at least in part to our acceptance of a slightly more European or... ahem- NOT a dirty word - Socialist tradition. Free Healthcare anyone?
Maybe the most Canadian thing I can think of, an easy way to tell Northern-North Americans apart from our Southern Neighbours are these simple words... I'm Sorry.
Canadians say this ALL the time and it''s something Americans have noticed. One of my favourite artists, Dan Akroyd, once said this on the subject.
"Canadians apologize all the time because we live in a country
that has so much more going for it than almost any
other place on the planet, and it makes us feel a little guilty.”
So this Canada Day Celebrate our Diversity. Feel pride in our concern for others. Enjoy a poutine and a Beer with Friends and if you find yourself apologizing for something, well, it''s to be expected.
After all - You Are Canadian.