April 8, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 100  

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When you’re abroad, bag the flag

Ryan Dixon

Gazette Staff

When I was packing last spring for my post-university Asian/Australian adventure, I intended to sew a Canadian flag on my backpack as it seemed the custom for most Canuck travellers. My patriotism was firmly in place and I felt something between pride and downright arrogance when letting people know where I was from.

However, somewhere in the shuffle of packing sandals and shorts, I forgot to sew that flag on my bag. After nearly a year on the road, I can honestly say I’m glad I didn’t.

It seems to me there’s been a flag waving revolution in Canada over the last 15 years. Whether it’s been spurred on by Don Cherry’s preaching, beer commercials or the increasing need we feel to distinguish ourselves from Americans, we have become a nation that puts our flag in your face.

I know for the purpose of travelling, many Canadians feel that if they don’t firmly implant the maple leaf on their gear they may — gasp — be mistaken for an American. Unless you’re traveling to Iraq, this isn’t really the tragedy we make it out to be. Does it really put you out that much to explain to a fellow traveller, “actually, I’m from Canada?”

Most people see displaying the Canadian flag as a positive, patriotic thing, which it no doubt can be. The obvious irony is that in their attempt to differentiate from flag-waving, patriotic Americans, many Canadians have become shameless flag-wavers themselves. As far as wanting to distinguish yourself as a Canadian, don’t be so naive as to think you need a flag to do that. Here are three dead giveaways:

1. You are less fit and more bland than anyone around you.

2. You have an “intoxicating” personality at night, but in the light of day you need to be sneezing or hiccuping for someone to take notice of you.

3. Your topics of conversations range from “I’m not f***ing American!” “This is water compared to our beer!” and just generally telling other people that everybody loves your country.

On a large scale, Canadians are the nice guys of the world. That’s certainly not all bad; nobody dislikes a nice guy, but nobody really feels compelled to get to know them either because they don’t do anything interesting. In my experience, all too often they’re Canadians — we’re just sort of there.

Being proud to be Canadian is great. All I’m suggesting is that we need to drum up a few less obvious ways of showing it. And if you do insist on showing your colours, at least limit it to one article of luggage or clothing. I swear every Canadian I met had a Pandora’s box of all things maple leaf.

I’ll conclude with one more generalization; travelling abroad makes you feel lucky to have grown up in Canada. As individuals, however, I’d love to see us develop some more intriguing traits to define ourselves, and save the flag waving for the Olympics this summer.



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