When you’re abroad, bag the flag
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
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.