In honor of Canada’s 150th Anniversary, I thought it would be fun to write about the things I learned about Canada from my very Canadian husband. If you are Canadian, “A Very Happy Canada Day” from our family to yours.
11 Things I Learned about Canada from marrying a Canadian
Pardon the stereotypes, eh?
1. They love Ice Hockey
Canadians love their hockey. US-Americans love their hockey too but Canadians take it to a whole another level of fandom. Canadians’ loyalty for their teams is never up for debate. They are die-hards. They will love a team, no matter what. They do get disappointed when teams go on endless streaks of defeats after defeats but their love and loyalty for their teams always remain strong.
When Aaron and I met, the Chicago Blackhawks were having the season of their lives! Aaron’s ice hockey team of choice was and always will remain the Toronto Maple Leafs but having moved to Chicago, he quickly adopted the Blackhawks as his very own next team of choice.
On our second date, we went to a bar to watch a Blackhawks vs. Flyers game where Aaron spent most of the time trying to explain the game to me. So much for dating conversations! I was so obsessed with Cricket that I thought it was being disloyal to my sport of choice and my entire country to like another sport as much as this man I was dating did. That quandary remains unresolved. Regardless, I did gradually learn to understand the game and like and eventually love it! I don’t understand the more nuanced rules and such but I know when a goal is a goal and I definitely know what a puck is.
One of my favorite memories of us is enjoying a Chicago Blackhawks Vs. Toronto Maple Leafs game together at the United Center in Chicago. I wore Aaron’s Chicago team jersey and he, his Leafs one.
Gone are the crushes I felt for Rahul Dravid and Ajay Jadeja.
What I also like about hockey, is this man below:
Jonathan Toews!!! or as I like to call him, Babyface. Captain of the Chicago Blackhawks. Winner of multiple Olympic gold medals for Team Canada. Hockey player extraordinaire.
During the time that we started dating, got married, and gave birth to our son, the Blackhawks had won THREE Stanley Cups!! Three!! We thought we would bring the same luck to the San Jose Sharks. They made it to the finals last year but that’s about it.
2. They are proud of their celebrities
You may not recognize them from their names, skin colors, or accents but there are some pretty big name Hollywood celebrities hiding in plain sight and oh, who just happen to be Canadian. To name a few, Michael J. Fox, Pamela Anderson, Mike Myers, Eugene Levy, and William Shatner. Not to mention, both Ryans – Reynolds and Gosling, Justin Bieber, Jim Carey, Rachel McAdams, Sandra Oh, Ellen Page, Drake, Seth Rogan, and Martin Short (Cat in the Hat, anyone?), among others.
I never knew nor cared that there were so many Canadians in Hollywood so learning about this was quite a pleasant thing. I am sure there are an enviable number of actors from other English-speaking countries in Hollywood too. Because they are almost always required to speak with an American accent, it is just hard to identify them. At least Canadian actors do not necessarily have that problem given the similarities to the US-accent.
Talking of accents, another thing I learned is that Canadians do have accents in their English depending on where in Canada they are from. French-Canadians of course, have their own strong accent too. This, needless to say, is true for most people, depending on the part of their countries they come from.
3. They embrace winter
If you have to deal with winter, might as well deal with it head on. I love the energy Canadians give to winter sports and how happily they embrace winter and winter sports. They freeze natural bodies of water like a pond and play Pond Hockey. They go tobogganing which looks really fun and something I want to do they next time we visit winter. Skating, skiing, snowboarding, and of course, hockey. These do not even include the non-official, fun-in-the-snow kind of games that are invented on the fly.
4. They are serious about their Maple Syrup
If you are Canadian or related to one in any way, I am sure you have learned to appreciate good maple syrup. Once, I bought an organic brand of maple syrup from Whole Foods no less, and because I was in a rush, saw “Organic” and grabbed the bottle not reading what was written on the back. When Aaron looked at the bottle and discovered that it was neither Canadian nor literally made from the maple tree (don’t even remember now what the ingredients said) he made a big fuss and pout about how come I hadn’t learned about the need to have authentic Canadian or at least authentic maple syrup in our household! Lesson learned. From then on, we only buy Made in Canada authentic maple syrup or Made in USA but from a maple farm that we know actually has maple trees and tap their own syrup in the Northeast (like, from Vermont).
5. The are polite
They really are. Among one of my early memories of dating my husband was my asking him, more often than one person should, “Why do you always keep saying sorry?” even when whatever it was, wasn’t his fault or in fact, had nothing to do with him, didn’t make sense for a ‘sorry’ in that particular situation, or awkwardly, was a sentence that began with a “Sorry…” !!! What? Now, I am not usually rude, but like most people, can be and I don’t even have a defense, not when a city so close to where I grew up, gets ranked as one of the rudest cities in the world.
In addition to the many sorries, I got to hear “Pardon”, something I had learned in school as proper English but never really used beyond that. I prefer the crude, “What?” which can have many connotations depending on the way in which it is spoken or if I want to be polite, “Excuse me?” or even a “Sorry, what?” but I am Indian, we don’t naturally tend to be polite – blame it on being badly bruised after our politeness led to years of colonization, stiff competition among hundreds of thousands vying for the same jobs, the nearly unbreathable smoggy conditions under which we commute every day, the population density…and everything else in between.
If we stop to be polite, it will mean a missed opportunity or giving someone the space to walk in and take advantage of our niceness. If you don’t believe me, next time you are shopping in India, say “Thank you” to the storekeeper and witness the discomfort or humble don’t-kn0w-how-to-respond head bob. Not the person’s fault. He or she probably never had a customer thanking him or her.
We are polite when we need to be, though. Especially, to non-Indians. On the other hand, every interaction I have had with a Canadian so far has been a friendly, respectful, and polite one.
6. They really like their Tim Hortons
I am neutral. It is just another coffee place with the exception of Tim Bits. Now THOSE, I love those!! Perfect bite sized doughnut balls. Yumm…what’s not to like?
Canadians though, do really like their Tim Hortons coffee and eventually, it grew on me too although for me, it was more a matter of convenience and while in Canada, do as Canadians do kinda thing. This does not mean they do not line up for a Starbucks latte. They do that too. Something about Tim Horton’s and national pride makes sense to me. I have to admit though, if I saw a Starbucks and a Tim Horton’s next to each other, whether in the US or Canada, I would visit the latter because Starbucks is ho-hum…TH on the other hand…. well, okay, the doughnuts don’t hurt 🙂
7. They do like Poutine
A Canadian classic, poutine is basically soggy French fries where the sogginess comes from cheese curds and gravy. It does taste somewhat delicious because after all, the individual items going into it are pretty yummy on their own, so in combination, there will be some degree of the yumm factor. Still, why? I don’t get this dish and I don’t need to. I’ll eat it, regardless, even though relishing soggy fries does not make sense to me.
8. They love their Canada apparel and luggage tags
To be quite honest, I love these too. I still cherish the Team Canada Olympic themed mittens my mother-in-law gifted me when Aaron and I were dating. This was before she had even met me and knew I would love them. Canadians wear a lot of clothes that declare their love for the nation of maple leaves. Our nephews love their Canada gear and because TJ still wears their hand-me-downs, we have quite an enviable collection ourselves and I love dressing him in a Canada shirt. I have never seen Americans wear so much US-themeed apparel unless it’s the 4th f July or you see that random guy, all grown up, wearing a Captain America t-shirt. Not judging, just observing.
Indians have never been into wearing India-themed clothing because it never existed. Back in the day, during cricket matches that I would watch on television, I’d see, for example, female Australian cricket fans dressed in flag-colored/themed bikinis or flip-flops and I just thought that was disrespectful toward the flag and the nation. My opinion entirely. I still believe that. Then and even now, the only India themed apparel available is Cricket – Sahara India t-shirts for men only. I do think though, that with the Indian Premier League, some of this has changed in terms of more t-shirts for women. Why can’t something just say India on it?
Canadians are ol’ pros at promoting their country through apparel and they don’t just do sports teams’ official shirts, they do all kinds of hats, shirts, jackets and such mostly in red and white just to show their national pride. I appreciate it and have a few Canada-themed jackets myself that I wear with pride. I often get asked if I am Canadian when I wear those jackets and I almost always feel like saying yes without qualifiers but end up saying, “Yes, through marriage”.
Canadians also love differentiating themselves from US-Americans. There’s that national pride again. You will notice that a lot of Canadian travelers will have little flag pins or badges on their backpacks or luggage that declare them Canadians. Gotta love that too.
9. They celebrate Thanksgiving too. In October.
We may call it Canadian Thanksgiving but they just call it Thanksgiving. The menu, exactly the same as a US- Thanksgiving meal. We have celebrated this every year since 2011. Our first couple of Thanksgiving celebrations were with just the two of us since I was still very new to making a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Since 2013, though, we’ve always had a home full of our close friends join us this day. I usually do all the cooking but leave the turkey to Aaron and he does a might good job of it.
10. They are still ruled by a monarchy. Sort of.
Queen Elizabeth is the Queen of Canada and still considered the “personification of the State of Canada” and “all ministers, legislators, members of the armed forces, public servants, and police officers swear allegiance to the Queen“. Most of Canada gets the day off on Victoria Day, named after the namesake Queen who ruled until her death in 1901 and the current Queen reigns supreme on Canada’s $20 bill. I find this somewhat strange and difficult to understand.
Most of the rest of the world fought bloody wars, martyring hundreds of thousands, if not millions, who fought for their freedom. Neighboring countries became bitter enemies because of how the British left their state of affairs in these countries or divided lands, water bodies, mountains, and people without regard for native sentiments or respect for cultural concerns. Arbitrary lines were drawn dividing single nations into multiple smaller ones, leaving behind a legacy of animosity, controversy, and wars and bloodshed that continue to this day.
Yet, here is a country that seems alarmingly okay with having such a monarchy. I may need to dig deeper into Canadian history to truly understand why this is the case.
Consequently, Canadians write British English, as in, like the Indians write English. However, Canadians are very strongly culturally influenced by the US and so they may write like the Brits but they sure do speak like US-Americans.
Oh another thing, they do their weather in Celsius which would have been great because Indians use Celsius too, except, I never worried about temperatures or weather fluctuations when I lived in India. I only started understanding temperatures and what degree meant what level of hot or cold after moving to the US and so, I ONLY understand Fahrenheit. Every time Aaron asks Siri for the weather and she replies in Celsius, I have to roll my eyes disapprovingly and ask for an interpretation or a repeat of the weather in Fahrenheit.
Finally, drumroll please……..
11. They have THIS guy as their leader
You don’t need to be married to a Canadian or even live in North America to know about Canada’s charismatic new Prime Minister. No matter where in the world you are, if news media reaches you, you’ve probably read or seen pictures of Justin Trudeau and his bromances with Barack Obama and now, his fellow millennial leader, the French President, Emmanuel Macron.
As every leader does, Trudeau has his fair share of critics. What I like about him is that he is a feminist without trying too hard to be one. He just is. Matter-of-factly. Because, you know, it’s 2017!
I appreciate his openness to diversity, embracing of it, and proactive calls welcoming refugees to his country. Regarding his policies and such, I leave that to political analysts. All I know is that at least as far as how world leaders should be, he definitely leads by example. If you haven’t seen his recent pictures from the pride parade, Google them now. Don’t miss his wishing people “Pride Mubarak” and definitely don’t miss his rainbow socks with the words “Eid Mubarak” on them. Not sure how people feel about it, especially since the words are on socks but still, pretty cool, eh? (Another thing, they don’t all say “eh”. Aaron doesn’t.)
Here is a direct quote from the man: “As someone who was raised Roman Catholic, and who attended a Jesuit school, I understand that it is difficult for people of deep faith to set their beliefs aside in order to serve Canadians who may not share those beliefs. But for me, this is what liberalism is all about. It is the idea that private belief, while it ought to be valued and respected, is fundamentally different from public duty,” he wrote.
Touche, Mr. Prime Minister.
BTW, if you read this far, you’ll be tickled to know that Aaron just walked into the room and smiled seeing a picture of Trudeau and Obama on my computer screen and looked at me with the curious expression,”what are you doing?”….
“I need to post this today…in time for tomorrow. Canada Day.”
“Oh ya….Forgot about that”.
“Shame on you. I am more Canadian than you are.”
“Remind me to wear my Canadian clothes tomorrow. (HAHA…he does love his Canada apparel) You too. You don’t have to…when we go to the India Day Parade, I’ll wear my India Cricket shirt or should I wear my “Anna” (अण्णा)* shirt? Would it be appropriate to wear my Cricket shirt or my Anna shirt?”
He leaves that thought incomplete.
*Referring to his Anna Hazare shirt. Anna Hazare went on a 12-day hunger strike demanding that the Indian Government adopt an “anti-corruption agency empowered to scrutinize public officials and bureaucrats in India”. Read more here.