Being Canadian in an American school


What does it mean to be Canadian? It means knowing God Save the Queen and the Canadian National Anthem by heart. Keeping up with what’s going on in Parliament. Knowing what RCMP and OPP stand for. Knowing French as a second – or, in my case, third – language. Knowing who the Prime Minister is and if he’s Conservative or Liberal.

However, these things are virtually unknown in an American high school. Technically, I am American. But typically when people use the phrase “American”, they mean someone from the United States. Canadians prefer to make sure the world knows we’re not “Americans”; that is, we’re not to be confused with our neighbours to the south.

Only about seven or eight Canadian families are here in Alliance Academy International, and that count includes teachers and my family. Being called “American” can quite possibly be – in my opinion – the worst insult. Therefore, I often go out of my way to show others that I am not American.

There are so many American flags around this school that when I see a Canadian flag in their midst, sometimes it looks out of place. Since I am going back to Canada after I graduate, I want to know more about Canadian culture and politics. Hence the reason I read Maclean’s Magazine online.

People often say that I’m a little early when I wish them a Happy Thanksgiving in October. It’s unfortunate school isn’t in on July 1, because then I could wish you a Happy Canada Day too. And if some teachers appear at school wearing a poppy, it’s for Remembrance Day.

It can be hard to be patriotic to one’s country when one seems to be in the minority. Often wearing a bandana with a Canadian flag on it is all the recognition I get that I’m Canadian. But then again, saying “eh” and spelling words differently doesn’t hurt, either.

I spell colour, flavour, favourite and many other words with a “U” – the proper way. Theatre and Centre are the correct spellings, and the word “travelling” needs to have two “L”s. Sulphur is not spelled with an “F”…no matter what Microsoft Word says. Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.

Many who know me know that I can take a Canadian joke or two. Most of the time I’m actually the one that starts the jokes. For example, how many Canadians does it take to change a lightbulb?

Fifteen. Fourteen to break the ice and one to screw it in.

All in all, I’m proud to be Canadian in an American school…eh?


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