Monday 24 May 2004


I really like Mil Millington. His "Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About" is just about the funniest thing I've ever read. Even his newsletter usually makes me giggle - until today. His latest one is about his newfound love for America, and near the end, he says:

"I am, Mailing Lister dudes, American in every way except for some pifflingly minor details of physical geography: now, my friends, *now* I truly know how it feels to be a Canadian."

I do realise that this is meant to be humorous, but it still makes me cringe. The fact is, many English people I've met think that Canadians are Americans who live in that big snowy bit at the top. I do concede that we're not radically different - we pretty much speak the same language, with variations in slang and accent, for example - but we are not American. Don't take me the wrong way, there's nothing wrong with Americans. I like them. Paul is related to a few of them. They have interesting things in their grocery stores and gave birth to The Simpsons. I like our neighbours to the south (it's more southwest these days, though) and I can take their questions about snow in July and comments about our "funny money" in stride. But we're not American.

I can't really explain how we're different; it's just a feeling I get whenever we travel to the States. It's like being in a parallel universe: everything is familiar and yet something's just not right. I am familiar with things like gas stations, but I can't get American pumps to work because sometimes you need to prepay. I know about dollars, but I can't tell how much American bills are worth without holding them up and searching for the number on the corner. In many ways, I am just as much a foreigner in the US as my English partner.

We have two languages on our product packaging. We're metric (although ask me my weight in kilos and my height in centimeters, and you've got me stumped). We have the queen on our currency and passports. I can vote in the UK because I'm from a Commonwealth country and I can drive here simply by trading in my Canadian license. We say "tap", "zed", and use the letter u all over the place. We pay a lot of income tax, and the price of our gas and booze is exorbitant. We have a prime minister. We have our own version of Sesame Street. We have Smarties.

I will never be offended when people mistake me for being American, but I can't let people continue to insist that we're not different. Mil Millington is damn funny, though. He just needs to meet a Canadian one day.

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