Canadians and Americans Abroad

A paper I wrote for my English class – American friends please don’t take offence, as I know you are well traveled! I thought it went well with the theme of my page – all be it a tad more formal than the rest of my writing.

“Welcome to Vancouver, Canada, ladies and gentlemen, it’s currently 2:55 Pacific time. The outside temperature is fifteen degrees Celsius and we have a slight drizzle. We hope you enjoy your stay in Vancouver, or enjoyed your time away.” Many of us Vancouverites have heard this announcement many times in our lives. At this point you stand up, grab all of your carry-on items, and wait in the jammed airplane aisle before walking off the plane, and taking a deep breath of our amazing, unmistakable Vancouver air. You’re home, and though you may have been traveling for two days by this point, had a crying baby driving you crazy on the plane, left a loved one in tears on the other side of the world or are just getting home after an amazing and life changing time away, you can’t help but smile at this point. We love to travel in Canada, we love to travel to the south, and we love to travel overseas. This is not the same as our North American counterparts, to the south. Canadians travel abroad more than Americans, are generally viewed in a better light, while also having more open minds in the new places they are visiting. We may live right next to each other, but we journey in very different ways.

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Do you remember your first trip outside of Canada? There’s a good chance it was across our only land border, to America. Canadians’ number one travel destination is the USA, while American’s number one pick is across their southern border to Mexico. A much larger percentage of Canadians have been across their southern border than Americans. Only twenty-nine percent of Americans have passports, according to the State Department Report put out in 2011. On the other hand, there are Canadians, of whom sixty-four percent have valid passports, according to Passport Canada’s 2010/2011 Report. Obviously, there are many more Americans than Canadians, so there’s still many more of them traveling, but percentagewise much more of our total population journeys out abroad. Canadians and Americans both travel most on home soil; road trips, camping, cottages and cabins are high on our lists of favourite choices. Both nations like to explore new places, but Canadians like to explore many more places than the Americans to our south. Why don’t Americans have the same desire to see the world as the Canucks to the North of them?

It might have a great deal to do with the fact that Canadians and Americans are viewed very differently by the world. While Americans might be seen as warmongers, Canadians are often thought to be peacekeepers. We live in our igloos and play lots of hockey. They rule the world and live in the ‘Land of the Free’. We proudly sew a maple leaf flag to our backpack before heading overseas, while many Americans don’t like to share that they are indeed American while away. While some of these might be stereotypes – they are the stereotypes that are believed by the world outside of North America. Clearly, Canada and America are admired and disliked for different things, but since America is constantly in the spotlight there are many more reasons for the world to criticize their ways. Would you want to cross the world, only to be looked down on? Americans do things, and the world takes notice, which may be why many Americans are quite happy just staying home, where they don’t have to explain or defend themselves. Canadians, on the other hand, are loved nearly everywhere they go in the world and want to see it all. We don’t stir the pot; some would offer up the idea that we don’t stand up for anything enough, but we Canadians are quite proud to be our neutral selves, and the world seems to appreciate it. To the world, Americans appear to be strong and powerful, while Canadians are viewed as quiet observers. Obviously, this is not the case where all Canadians, or all Americans are concerned, but it does seem to be the perspective from the outside.

North America is a multi-cultural haven. There are people from all parts of the world represented in both small and large ways. Canadians have always been open to having minorities represented – just look at Quebec. This piece of our history has created an open-minded nation. Canadians enjoy learning about different cultures, many of which are represented in Canada. We aren’t scared to do things in different ways when we venture away. Canadians are open to change and embrace differences. We want to learn and know about those who are or could be our neighbours. Americans like to do things their way, no matter where they are. They have had issues with many countries, throughout their history, who view the world different than them. This history is reflected when they travel; they enjoy the comforts of home, and have a harder time adapting. I’ll be honest; I, a Canadian, have had a hard time adapting while traveling – bed bugs in India, a hole in the ground for a toilet in Laos, and over fifty degree heat (while by Canadian standards dressed for fall) in the Emirates, but I jumped into life in those places, with both feet, and went with it. I got out of the bed bug infested house, carried tissues in my bag at all times, and sweat like a Canadian in the Middle East! Not all Canadians would have reacted the way I did, nor would all Americans have reacted differently, but when such a large percentage of your total population isn’t seeing anything different than their everyday, you’d have to guess it wouldn’t have been pretty! When really, all the differences are what make the world such an amazing place to explore!

We’re right next to each other, we have many things in common, think about many things in the same ways and have similar work and social lifestyles, yet when it comes to traveling abroad – it’s not parallel. A large percentage of Canadians venture overseas, while only a small percentage of Americans do the same. Canadians are appreciated overseas, and appreciate all overseas has to offer, while Americans have a harder time being admired in many places, and don’t adapt to new environments as easily as Canadians. Though we originally came from the same places to get to where we are, we don’t journey out in the same way anymore.

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