How to be a Canadian (warning: requires a flag, a beaver or a mountie, eh?)

November 24, 2011 1 comment

Although Kelly, our regional Pocket Cultures contributor from Canada, loves to travel and see the world, she knows a good thing when she’s got it: home (Vancouver, Canada). Here, Kelly tells us all about why the “worst-dressed city” is really one of the best places in the world to live. Just reading Kelly’s comments about Canadian landscapes, people’s good sense of humor and friendly, laid back culture makes me want to go back for a visit!

Where do you live? Where are you from? If those are different, can you tell us a little about what inspired your move?

I grew up in small town British Columbia, here on the west coast of Canada. Almost immediately after finishing high school, I moved to the Vancouver: the big city. It’s nearly impossible, in my opinion that is, to not fall in love with the city. We have ocean beaches, snow-capped mountains, sky-scrappers, and personalized little neighborhoods. Not to mention the people, restaurants, and festivals from so many different cultures. Finally, in true west coast fashion, people here remain laid back. We were even recently voted as one of the top worst-dressed cities because people are always out in their very comfy yoga pants and hoodies.

If you would describe yourself as multi-cultural, tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why.

Everyone in Canada is a little multi-cultural at least. Most of us are immigrants somewhere down the line of generations. For myself, I identify the strongest with my British background. My maternal grandmother immigrated on the bride ships of WWII. But I did not even realize the similarities until I was an adult. I was simply raised on tea and a few “funny” words. Other than that, my last name is Ukranian, and I sure do love perogies.

Why did you decide to become a Pocket Cultures contributor?

I have a few passions, including travelling, writing, cooking, and teaching. On this site, I get to teach about my culture and my foods. I get to be a part of a traveling community, even when I’m “stuck” at home. I even get to write. It’s the whole package.

Can you describe a typical day for you?

Oh man. A typical day? Drag myself out of bed, shower, lately make a smoothie out of fresh fruit, then hurry out the door. I work with kids throughout the city. So, I drive, then I play and teach for 2-3 hours, then I drive, teach, drive, teach.  My day might be broken up by a stop at a coffee shop to work on paper work, write learning stories for my kids, and drink some tea. I either pop home to cook lunch, or eat something pre-packed in the car. About once a week I have a meeting where I get to see real-live adults. For dinner, I’ll either go home and cook myself something delicious or meet at a friend’s place. I always take some me-time to catch up on a favourite tv show, read, or email. Oh, and I usually spend some time day-dreaming about or researching for my next trip.

What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?

The best part about living in Canada would have to be our wide open spaces. Our nature is phenomenal. I am never more than half and hour away from a lake and some trees. We have such amazing park lands that if I have more time and dedication, I can always get up a mountain to sit beside a glacier-fed lake without another person in sight. There’s something for everyone. My mountains that make me feel cozy; the plains that make my artistic aunt feel free; the North which called to my adventurous mother.
The worst part? You want me to say the winter. Really, though, when you grow up with it, you still get excited every year at the first snow. No, the worst part currently about the country, is that we are forgetting what makes us great. Our children grow up hearing idealistic things about how peaceful and polite Canadians are, about how everyone, no matter their income, can have free education and healthcare. I find though, we are moving towards joining controversial wars and privatizing our services.

What books or films would you recommend someone who’d like to know more about your country?

There are so many books out there along the lines of “how to be a Canadian”. We really like our sense of humour. We really like to poke fun at ourselves. Have a read of one of these to understand that aspect of Canadian culture. They will have a flag, a beaver, and/or a mountie on the cover, eh?
I recently watched a film called “One Week”. It’s about a young man riding across the country on his motorcycle.  It’s a great way to see a bit of the scenery, and maybe a bit of the people.

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?

Well, we get a lot of Americans who are surprised to find they are not in America anymore! Sorry, not to tease, but especially up north in the Yukon (directly beside Alaska), we find tourists confused by the Alaska Highway, which does not change names once crossing the border.
Also, people are always surprised by how big Canada really is. I talked to a young man hoping to drive from Vancouver to Toronto, but was dismayed by the fact that it was at least 14 hours. I had to break it to him that it was closer to 2 1/2 days- if he never stopped to rest. And Toronto is not even the east coast yet.

About the author

Carrie McKeegan
Carrie is an American who just moved from Bali to Mendoza, Argentina. Carrie caught the wanderlust bug early on from her parents, who raised her in Mexico City. Carrie and her husband David have lived in New York, London, Barcelona, Costa Rica, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, and Bali before moving to Mendoza. They are actively working to pass on the travel bug to their young son Timmy, who has already been to twelve countries.
Other 35 posts by

1 Comment

  • Leasa

    This post was really interesting to me. I wanted to learn about Canadian culture because I’m Alaskan and can see many differences between our culture and American (Alaskan culture seems to be very close to Canadian).
    It was also nice seeing some Canadian stereotypes, according to Alaska stereotypes: we live in igloos, ride our moose everywhere, and you will see a few polar bears during your daily life. It’s nice seeing that more people like to laugh at the random things people say about them.
    Thanks for the article, it was helpful and nice to read.~