Canada is absolutely awesome. Canadian television is wonderful (Degrassi, Kenny vs. Spenny), and Toronto might be the most genuinely diverse city on Earth. The Canadians look so much like us and talk so much like us…but they’re not US! And they will do their damnedest to make sure everyone knows it. Whenever any Canadian travels overseas, he will have a Canadian flag somewhere on his person to make it perfectly clear that he’s not an American.
The myth about Canadians is that they’re unfailingly polite. Canadians are always deferential, and being deferential is certainly one major component of having decent manners. Canada is a nation of people whose major line of clothing retailers is called Winners. That’s not a joke, though it sure is a punch line. It’s no coincidence that the best Canadian movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, stars Michael Cera. This mumbly beta male is Canada incarnate, unable to stand up for himself no matter what the circumstances.
It’s important for Americans to realize that Canadian deference is not one of choice but of necessity. That’s because every Canadian is very aware that their entire nation is America’s bitch (or whatever the non-sexist iteration of that term might happen to be). As such, they have no choice but to constantly act submissively. They’re the B-squad, and they know it. They bring nothing to the table but poutine (a term which Microsoft Word doesn’t even recognize!), and every famous Canadian only became so once they went to the US.
Underneath Canadians’ submissive veneer is a nation of people who have the snide arrogance of the British with none of the dry British wit. As a result, there are few things as easy and as hilarious as making a Canadian lose their shit. On one hand, their disdain for Americans demands that they combat any insult. On the other hand, they’re obsessed with being non-confrontational at all costs. The tension between these two antithetical courses of action leads Canadians to have maple-scented meltdowns that they have no ability to control. Here’s how to get any Canadian to put on a free show:
1. Insist that Canada isn’t really a country.
Even though Canada is the world’s second-largest country (nearly two million square kilometers larger than the continental United States), its total population is less than that of California. Further, over 75% of that population lives within 90 miles of the United States. That’s not a separate culture; that’s a suburb. No one blinks when Rockford, Illinois residents say that they’re from Chicago. But Canadians bristle at this suggestion, even though they have no cultural identity of their own other than “not American.” What I like to say is, “Canada isn’t a country. It’s like, you know, what Puerto Rico is.” Conflating Canada’s national status with Puerto Rico’s legal classification—while remaining ignorant of both—truly riles them up.
2. Ask how many states Canada has.
Canada has ten provinces and three territories, the distinction of which matters to no one. The same applies to the USA: Pennsylvania is technically a commonwealth. Some Canadian “states” are absolutely gigantic (just like Alaska), and one is literally just a few islands (like Rhode Island should be but isn’t). There are no practical differences between provinces, territories, and states—but to the Canadian there is, because United States. An insistence on using American terminology for Canadian geography drives them nuts.
3. Ask who the president is.
This causes them to flip out. Unlike states—which Canada does not have—Canada does have a president. However, their president is an honorary ceremonial position. Their government is actually led by their prime minister, who comes from their parliament. Asking about the Canadian president is technically correct but effectively wrong, a question with no right answer yet one that provokes hilarity as they explain themselves at length with great exasperation.
4. Refer to “Eskimos.”
I stumbled upon this one quite innocently. In the same way that American vernacular has evolved from “colored” to “Negro” to “Afro-American” to “African-American,” the term “Eskimo” (or “Esquimaux” if you want to be old-timey) is no longer in use. The preferred term is “Inuit.” Canadians are aware that few Americans are aware of this distinction, so they will gently correct you while looking around in PC terror. Try to use the word “Eskimo” several times as you fail to understand the difference. Their creeping panic will warm your heart.
5. Use endearing but utterly condescending nicknames for Canada.
Here are some suggestions:
America’s little brother
America’s kid sister
The school-play version of America
America: the dress rehearsal
Come up with your own! It’s creative and fun, two things Canadians are uncomfortable with.
6. Bring up Kim Campbell.
Nothing but nothing sets off Canadian smugness like George W. Bush. What greater proof of Canadian superiority do you need, right? Except the Canadians don’t have such a clean track record themselves. That’s because they have Avril “Kim” Campbell.
Kim Campbell became Canada’s first female prime minister after Brian Mulroney retired in 1993. Even though Mulroney’s approval ratings were execrable, Campbell had an opportunity to turn things around for her Progressive Conservative party (roughly the Canadian equivalent of the GOP). Her opponent in the fall election was Jean Chrétien, who suffered from Bell’s palsy. So what did the Right Honourable Ms. Campbell do? Why, she ran an ad that made fun of his disability, one that asked, “Is this a prime minister?” alongside shots of his messed-up face.
Her campaign was such a disaster that her party went from having a parliamentary majority with 156 seats to losing every election but for two, including Campbell’s own. She was such a calamity—and feminist cautionary tale—that it took her less than five months to destroy a party that had existed in some form since 1867. The party subsequently dissolved itself. Reminding a Canadian about Kim Campbell hits them where it hurts. The best part? There is no possible rebuttal, as the facts speak for themselves.
Since all Canadians are convinced that Americans are loudmouthed obnoxious morons, they can’t reasonably get angered when a given American is being a loudmouthed obnoxious moron. This forces them to feel guilty for losing their temper, causing their apoplexy to escalate to cartoonish levels. It’s great fun for all concerned—except for that oh-so-polite Canadian, baffled how and why he’s found himself yelling at a dimwitted and naive American.