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Social Studies

The inner Canadian, sophisticated drinkers, American humour Add to ...

Put on your sunglasses

July 1st is Canada's birthday, a time for proud Canadians to feel grateful for the good fortune of living in this country, and to give themselves a hug. It's also time for a favourite Canadian pastime, asking ourselves: What does the rest of the world think of us? A recent Historica-Dominion Institute/Ipsos Reid survey interviewed more than 18,000 people in 24 countries and discovered that seven out of 10 people think we are "cool." Don't forget the sunscreen.

The inner Canadian

"The suggestion that Canadians are undemonstrative to the point of dullness is an unfair national stereotype, not unlike the old cliché about the English being bad in bed," The Independent's Terence Blacker wrote last year. "Any nation which could produce, to name a few of my musical and literary favourites, Leonard Cohen, Douglas Coupland, The Band, Robertson Davies, Joni Mitchell and Leon Redbone can hardly be accused of being dull. Yet, as with the erotic competence of the English, there may be a truth lurking behind the cliché. Imagine playing to an audience of Margaret Atwood and her friends, or indeed to any of my Canadian favourites. It is not a matter of shame. We all have our listening, thoughtful, inner Canadians."

Canadian fame

In February, Marina Hyde of The Guardian wrote: "[N]ws the Olympic flag would be borne into the stadium … by eight famous Canadians was the cue for the rest of the world to chortle: 'Wait, there are eight famous Canadians? Are they exhuming people?' "

Sophisticated drinkers

In 1994, hoteliers and merchants in Daytona Beach, Fla., made an effort to attract Canadian students to the spring break invasion. "The Canadian students are much more well-behaved," said Suzanne Heddy, head of the local chamber of commerce, in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. "I don't think they are as rowdy. Many people think they are more mature. In general, they are not as raucous." Kathleen Elliott, the marketing director of the convention and visitors bureau, said U.S. spring breakers "often come from the Midwest. They have lived very sheltered lives, maybe they have always been chaperoned and this may be their first introduction to alcohol. In Canada, with the French influence, drinking is no big deal. A lot of Canadians are more sophisticated."

We're rare and collectible?

Last year, trivia nerds around the world were telling each other: "There are more Barbie dolls in Italy than there are Canadians in Canada."

Source: Hawke's Bay Today (New Zealand)

American humour

- "Canada to me is like an apartment over a really loud party," Robin Williams has joked. "They're the nice people who rent the apartment over the meth house."

- "I'm very wary of being the guy who pitches the Canadian jokes," Tim Long, a writer for The Simpsons who was born in Brandon, Man., and grew up in Exeter, Ont., told The Canadian Press in April. "But what often happens is that we'll be talking about Canada and then the other guys will get all excited about it just because it seems so exotic and then they'll start pitching the jokes because they think it's so funny. Like the city of Winnipeg gets mentioned way more on our show than any other show but that's not because the Canadians are pitching it, it's just because everyone is amazed that there's a city called Winnipeg."

Performance bonus?

This weekend, Americans will celebrate their Independence Day, a pale imitation of Canada Day. The first U.S. president of the land of opportunity, George Washington, is notable for being better paid than any other commander-in-chief. In 1789, his salary accounted for 2 per cent of the U.S. state budget. The Atlantic magazine estimates that, with 300 slaves and a large plantation, Washington enjoyed a net worth of $525-million (U.S.) in inflation-adjusted terms.

Source: The Sunday Times of London

Weather-savvy Canadians

"Canadians are spared from the world's worst weather - in fact, Canada doesn't hold any world weather records," David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada, writes in his introduction to Canada's Weather, by Chris St. Clair. "I continue to be amazed and thankful that so few Canadians die from the ravages of severe weather. It's not that we have a gentle climate. We get our share of weather misery. No part of the nation escapes the whims of the weather gods. … We endure flash floods, weather bombs, hailers, humongous snowstorms, burning infernos and disastrous droughts. … but Canadians are also experienced in weather matters and educated about weather safety."

Thought du jour

"Mr. Chairman, I yield to no man the essential and significant ABC's of my Canadianism - by ancestry, birth and commitment."

- H. Allan Leal, QC, in 1977

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