Maybe it is just because I’m taking Canadian politics here and because it has caught my interest, but I have the feeling that Canada – the government and Canadians themselves - is actively trying to create or influence Canadian national identity. Most of the emphasis is on the difference from America. Especially Canada’s peace, order and good government are highlighted, sharply contrasted by the US’ ‘live free or die’ philosophy. Canadians are indeed very proud of their gun-regulation policies and healthcare system.
But when a guest lecturer from the US came to give a talk here at the uni, he directly said that ‘this place looks a damn lot like the US’. Canada may indeed not be hugely different from Americans, but what matters is that they think they are, which creates a sense of nationality.
Maybe it is necessary to actively work on a national image, to hold such a varied and widespread population together. Restaurant chain Tim Horton’s, through successful marketing, has become Canada’s national pride. After ice-hockey, that is. And Canadians can be proud of their incredible kindness, the fact that everybody always holds the door for you, with a big smile (although it sometimes makes you feel awkward if somebody’s holding the door when you're still 50 metres away), the fact that they’re so genuine, complimentary, and that they always apologise (although apologising when I clearly walked into you actually makes me feels worse, for not saying ‘sorry’), and their ability to cope with snow and cold. Maybe the government could do something with that. The ‘Meanwhile in Canada’ Facebook-page, at least, already does.
I don’t know if the Netherlands does the same, but somehow, the Dutch national image is very strong here and Canadians with Dutch heritage are very proud of it. At least, when I met this girl, who had never been to the Netherlands, nor spoke a word of Dutch, she immediately believed we were soul mates when it turned out that I was Dutch. Because her grandfather was Dutch as well.
Name: Floortje Rawee (21)
Study: second-year UCM-student
Goes to: Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada
From: 3 January until the end of May