Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Identity Crisis of a Young Canadian Traveler

You’re a young Canadian – maybe 21, 22. Perhaps even 24 or 25. You’re probably an upper-year undergrad. You may have recently graduated. Who knows? Higher education? You’ve got got that. Work experience, volunteer hours, active on campus? Check. You might think you’re better than the average person of your age. Hell, you’re probably right. I mean, you’ve worked hard to get to where you’re at. Relatively speaking, anyways.

You’d never admit it to anyone other than yourself, but when you look in that mirror you see success in the making. Staring right back at you. You’re the shit. But you’re also humble, polite, deferential. Focused. You know where you’re going, and you sure as fuck know how to get there.

Part of the journey to success is ticking off that box on your personal growth checklist. You know the one: savvy world traveler. So you take the plunge. You book yourself a trans-Atlantic flight, departing a week or two after you hand in that last paper. That grueling, well researched, immaculately written, bulletproof research essay. School’s out, but you’ve got better things to do than work some shit job or hang around your parents’ in-ground pool all day long. You’ve gotta broaden those horizons with some hands-on cultural education. You’re going to Europe. Real world shit.

Your friends feign jealousy. You derisively reassure them that their decision to stay home and work for the summer will pay off in the long run. Both of you are engaging in the well-worn exercises of condescension and half-truth. And you both know it. But c’mon now, everyone’s jealous of your spirit of adventure.

Preparation. Gotta have some little tins of maple syrup to give away to all those life-long friends you’re gonna make. And the Canada t-shirt. Essential. As the final act, the patriotic salvo that screams “fuck you world, I’m not American!” you pin a Canada flag to your pack. Just small enough that you’re not being boastful (because let’s face it, people are envious of Canadians), just big enough to ensure everyone sees it. “I’m Canadian, and I suffer from terrible existential angst!” is what it really conveys.

You don’t need to know that though. Because when it comes to 20-something travelers, you’re upper-middle class. Fuck people who think you’re wrong, because you’re right, god damnit! Someone doesn’t believe you? Check the GPA, bitch. 11.4. You’re right 87.3 percent of the time. And Canada is the shit. Plus we’re just confident enough to politely let you know. Remember peace keeping? Vimy? Diplomacy? Penicillin? The Canadamotherfuckin’arm? Yeah. There’s a reason the Dutch shower us with tulips every year.

Respect us, we’re not American. Please.

What’s that, people who keep up with the news might be put off by the tar sands? By hypocritical positions on trade? Asbestos? What’s that? Whatever. That’s not your generation. You didn’t vote for those guys. In fact, you didn’t even vote. You slept in.

You’re Canadian, remember. Check the iPod for Metric and Feist. You hardly eat at McDonald’s. That White Sox hat on your head? Just to keep the sun off your face. Serious. Your favourite sport is hockey. All that stuff. Canadian to the bone.

Americans are loud and brash. Canadians are reserved and don’t stereotype. We’re more European, too. Maybe you don’t speak French, but you’re pretty sure half of the country does.

Want more proof that you’re more European, that you’re a better traveler than those fuckin’ Americans? You’re first generation Canadian. Yeah, mom was an immigrant. Strong Italian roots. None of this Yankee shit. That old t-shirt in your bag is more of a handkerchief than anything, anyways.

Maybe you don’t speak Italian, but at least you know how to over-enunciate the name of a city you’ve never been to before with an accent you have no idea you’re brutalizing. It’s not “Barr-ee”, it’s “Bah-dee”, ignorant motherfucker. And no, you aren’t allowed to say “Italia” or “Roma” unless you’ve been there at least twice or you have Italian ancestors. It’s “Italy” and “Rome” to you, bitch.

It’ll never fully make sense, though. Why you, the young Canuck who’s done so much to ensure people know where you’re from, continues to hear that pesky, annoying question. Over and over. Like a fucking twice-a-day alarm clock.

“So, what state are you from?”

No, you’re not a god-forsaken American. And yes, you’re too damn polite to air your feelings out loud.

Whatever, a true Canadian would just shrug it off and head for the nearest back-street restaurant where he can order authentic local cuisine without having to deal with a menu that’s been translated into English for the benefit of all those ignorant American tourists.

That’s right. Stand up and be counted, esteemed young Canadian! You’re something special. You’re not American.

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