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MENAFN - Khaleej Times - 07/10/2012

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(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Many people ask me what Canadians, also known as Canucks, are like.

Are they like Americans? people ask. To tell you the truth, it's very hard to define the Canadian character because this country is relatively new. Unlike the USA, which is a melting pot of different ethnicities, Canada prides itself on preserving the cultural identity of its new citizens making the definition of being Canadian even more nebulous.On the surface Canadians look just like Americans and to the untrained ear, their manner of speech and accents sound like the American twang. In the beginning, twelve years ago, I could not distinguish between the two accents but now I can tell, some of the time anyway, that there is a difference depending on which part of the country people are from.

Canadians are more reserved in nature than Americans. Their sense of humour is somewhat dry, probably due to their British heritage.

Some friends have told me that the one thing they hate is being mistaken for Americans. For most of the world, there is very little distinction between the two and this is an affront to Canadian sensibility. Inter-marriage among the two nations is high and most families and businesses have some American link or the other. It's just that Canadians like to think that they are 'different' from people south of the border.

Canadians have a huge interest in the weather, for one thing. Some wag pointed out that this is probably the only country where you can experience all four seasons in one day! I have personally experienced the vagaries of the weather. Every time, in the midst of hot summer, when I plan to have an outdoor barbecue for friends, it starts to rain even though the weather report has forecast sunny skies. Meteorologists in this country probably tear their hair out in despair and have to go for psychological counselling. Canadians are divided into two categories - French speaking and English speaking and both these are wary of each other. Quite a few Canadians are bi-lingual but even then you are an anglophone who can also speak French or a francophone who can also speak English. Of course, there is the third category, struggling new immigrants who speak their native tongue better than English or French.

Canadians are inordinately proud of their national health care which is a model for many countries and is much envied by the people south of the border. In fact, Canucks are very touchy about any remarks that hint at the not-so-efficient nature of their public healthcare and critics are told not to meddle with the 'foundation of our democracy'. On the face of it, Canadians are proud of their egalitarian society where most people are doing all right financially but not getting rich. The wealthy are very low key unlike the Bill Gates and Warren Buffets of the US. Canadians are more peace keepers than soldiers, known more for reconstruction than war mongering and they play down the fact that they are extremely rich in oil and minerals and dairy and grain and major resources of water. They pride themselves on their tolerance towards different beliefs and creeds which leads to an equitable and relatively crime-free environment.

Many Canadians have gained fame and fortune, not only within Canada, but outside as well. However, not many people know that Hollywood greats like Mary Pickford, Donald Sutherland, Christopher Plummer and 'Titanic' director James Cameron are Canadian. So are singing sensations Justin Bieber and Celine Dion, Nobel Prize winner and co-discoverer of insulin, Frederick Banting, supermodel Linda Evangelista, host of Jeopardy Alex Trebek, newscaster Peter Jennings and Samuel Cunard, founder of the Cunard shipping line.

At the end of the day, Canadians are somewhat diffident and don't like to broadcast their achievements. That is why Canada is probably one of the world's best kept secrets.

Kumkum Ramchandani is a freelance journalist based in Toronto


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