Time abroad and travel often help us see our home country in a different light but it also makes us aware how little the rest of the world knows about our vast and beautiful nation. Despite our humble nature, we Canadians are fiercely proud of our country and we'll gladly sing its praises.
PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE | PART SIX
Stranger/acquaintance: “No, no…where are you really from?”
Me: “Um, Toronto? British Columbia? Still Canada”
Stranger/acquaintance: *sigh and eye roll* “No, I want to know where you are really from!”
The above is an exchange that I’ve had time and time again. It’s one I’m sure countless other Canadians – those born and bred in our home and native land I might add – have endured; citizens, who, for one reason or another, seemingly do not look, speak or act the part of a “real” Canadian.
Whatever that means.
If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question, I’d be so rich that I wouldn’t be typing this entry right now. Someone else would be doing it, because I’d be busy sipping vintage Krug, eating bonbons and burning a paper trail all the way up 5th Avenue. Though I can understand where the stereotyping/ignorance/misunderstanding behind the question comes from, I still can’t help but get a bit miffed when it’s posed. It makes me bristle. It sometimes makes me cringe. It has – on occasion – lead me to despair.
Just a bit.
This YouTube video by Ken Tanaka (about stereotyping in the US) says it all.
I mean, I could understand the confusion if I divulged I was from an über homogenous country, a place like Norway, Japan or Lithuania that doesn’t have the same colonial history Canada does, and that doesn’t naturalize as many citizens as we do on a yearly basis. Canada is one of the most culturally/racially diverse countries on the planet. It was the first country in the world to politically adopt a multiculturalism platform (1971) that ultimately served to uphold the “value and dignity of all Canadian citizens regardless of their racial or ethnic origins, their language, or their religious affiliation.” It’s a country where six million Canadians have a language other than English or French as their mother tongue (with Chinese, Italian and German topping the list), and where the ethnic breakdown of Canada’s 35 million citizens include 10% Germans, 4% South Asians, 4% of Chinese origin and 2.5% Black/Africans. Just to name a few.
A love of Tim Hortons and Lululemon is a better barometer for how “real” Canadians should be distinguished perhaps?
In spite of these numbers though, there are people who are utterly fixated on trying to figure others out and put them into neatly defined boxes. I get it, I get it, what people ultimately want to know is one’s heritage and when people ask the feared “where are you from?” question 98% of the time it’s done out of genuine curiosity. The thing is, while it’s not offensive to ask where I’m from, it is kind of rude to keep pushing the envelope and make assumptions about my citizenship/person that are often wildly off base. I was born in Canada (I’m a steel town girl). I speak English rather well (and French too for that matter). My parents did not emigrate from Africa. Yes, I’m quite certain they didn’t emigrate from Africa.
This is where I’m REALLY from: small town Canada.
So the next time one of your wildly curious friends encounters a Canadian (or an American, Australian, Brit…or just anyone else for that matter) who may not look or sound the way they expect a Canadian (American, Australian or Brit) to sound, just tell them to roll with it. Accept it. If they’re extremely overburdened though by whatever niggling query burns at the back of their mind, tell them to satiate their curiosity by perhaps rephrasing the question so it reads: “Oh, what are your roots then? Are/were your parents/grandparents Canadian as well?”
Because it’s all about semantics, and that’s really the question they’re getting at anyways.
Canadian, expat, yogini, serial shopper and traveller…JoAnna is an Intolerant, but the really nice kind. Always on the lookout for delicious intolerant-friendly food (sometimes vegetarian, often without gluten and always dairy-free) JoAnna also enjoys engaging in unconventional things on her travels and uncovering places to while away an afternoon, indulge in glass of wine and/or score a killer vintage handbag. JoAnna rants about all the goodness she comes across on Twitter, Instagram and her blog For the Intolerants.