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Posted by Admin
Monday, April 25, 2005
Prejudice or the Price of Living in a New Land? by Expat
The Halifax Herald is reporting that Julia Ebell, a Washington D.C. native who is studying in Halifax at the University of King's College, is facing plenty of "anti-American prejudice" from fellow students. This prejudice includes her peers saying "ohhhhh" when she tells them where she is from, followed by "What are you doing here?" and "Why are you here?". She has also been called that "American girl" and told that she should meet the other "American girl" on campus.
If that is considered to be anti-American prejudice, then this Canuck has been facing her own obstacles on this side of the border. I could not count the number of times that someone has asked me where I am from or what brought me to this area. For awhile, I was even nicknamed "that immigrant girl" at my workplace and I frequently hear all of the stereotypical Canadian jokes. Does it bother me? No. When I moved here, I realized that there were cultural differences that would give away my heritage and that people would notice that, and perhaps even question me about it. Does it mean that the people that I interact with are "anti-Canadian" because they notice that I spell things differently, speak differently, or hold different views? Absolutely not. It simply means that I am Canadian and my heritage sets me apart from Americans.
Of course, it has not all been a positive experience. There have been plenty of times where curiousity or good natured humour have not been the motivation behind the questions and jokes. I have encountered everything from long monologues against immigration (some filled with hate), anger towards Canadians for their government's stance on the war in Iraq, and just general ignorance when it comes to Canada. Although such attitudes can be hurtful, it is necessary to disregard those statements and not let them affect who I am. Once I came to terms with that, life in a new country became much easier. I suggest that Julia Ebell do likewise.
It is often said that the USA is a melting pot whereas Canada is a multicultural quilt. There's an interesting dichotomy between your experience, Expat, and that of Julia Ebell. You have chosen to retain your Canadian identity instead of simply being assimilated. It seems that some Americans perceive this as a threatening, anti-American gesture.
Julia Ebell struggles with the mere fact that she's different and doesn't melt right into the mix. Instead of becoming another welcome patch in the quilt, she believes that she's being ostracised from the primary fabric of Canada. Of course, this couldn't be any further from the truth, it's just another example of something we do differently up here.
In my experience living and working in the US is that the Americans are, in general, far less anti-Canadian than Canadians are anti-American. Now, that may have changed somewhat since 9/11 and all the attendant nonsence that's come out of Canada since then.
Canadians like to pretend they're better than everybody else, and especially better than the Americans, but the truth is, we're pretty much like them. Some good, some bad, some riding middle of the road.
It's really a form of an inferiority complex. When a Canadian is told that *some* Americans can't understand how *I* live where I do, facing the sometimes ridiculous winters that last far longer than those particular Americans have ever seen, the response in Canada is, "Well, I don't know how they live with Bush." Except it doesn't enter into a Canadian's mind that Bush is transient, when all is said and done, but our weather, and our idiotic government that no one seems able to get rid of, is forever.
A few years ago, an American children's hockey team was booed by Canadians when they came to Canada to play. It's insane, but that's Canada for you. Hateful, underachieving, and full of blame.
We work for American companies, and still send out countless emails about how stupid and/or evil Americans are. Sometimes we say it to our upper manager, most of which is American. They shrug it off, but the moment somebody mentions that an American might have a difficult time in Canada, we get all defensive.
Why it is that when an American takes pride in his country and is very overt in displaying it, we considered that to be "patriotism"; but when a Canadian does the same, it is labeled as an "inferiority complex"?
Expat I think that's because the patriotism of many Canadians manifests itself as "not American" rather that "proudly Canadian for reasons xyz."
We'll always feel pressure to distinguish ourselves from our powerful southern neighbour, but coming up with a truly Canadian identity is something that takes work. I do believe this is changing, however, as the cultural gulf between the two countries continues to widen.
As for the patriotism question, that's because, in my opinion, American patriotism tends along the lines of "Look at us, we're Americans", while Canadian patriotism tends along the lines of "Look at us, we're not Americans".