Being Canadian

Last weekend was Canada Day and the country’s 150th birthday. On the same day last year, we had just received the keys to our new house and I was still getting my head around a new job so the festivities – or their absence – went unnoticed.

This year, however, we had plans for grand celebrations! We were to host a barbecue for friends, colleagues and probably a few neighbours; many Canadian classics were on the menu and my dad had even sent me a box full of Canadian trinkets (flags, bunting, etc.) for the occasion.

Unfortunately, we had to cancel… Edward’s mom has been admitted to the A&E early Thursday morning and spent most of two days in and out of the hospital. The stress and worry left us both shattered and in no state of mind to entertain. Thankfully my mother-in-law is now well and finally received the right medication for her condition. I was slightly disappointed to cancel but it was for the best… There will always be a next weekend!

Not celebrating Canada Day as I had intended doesn’t mean ‘home’ wasn’t on my mind. Thanks to social media, I was able to follow most of the celebrations taking place in Ottawa and London. After posting a ‘Happy Canada Day’ message in a Canadian Expats group on Facebook and explaining the whole ‘cancelled barbecue’ thing, I received dozens of kind comments, encouraging words, poutine recipes and several invitations. Invitations from absolute strangers to go out for a drink, to meet-up for a meal or to join in at another Canada Day barbecue. Someone even offered me a train ticket to London to take part in the festivities at Trafalgar Square!

So much kindness from strangers and fellow expats prompted me to reflect on what it means to be Canadian.

Before moving to the UK, I would have never described myself as Canadian or even French-Canadian; je suis québécoise. For many, Canada is a huge, cold country full of people drinking double-doubles, watching ice hockey, eating poutine and maple everything, apologising lots and ending all their sentences with ‘eh’ – and that’s all they know. The truth is, Canada is extremely diversified. From year-round rainy Vancouver to the frigid winters of Quebec, passing through the majestic Canadian Rockies and the dry plains of Saskatchewan, there is a variety of landscapes, people, cultures, traditions and languages. Having lived in Quebec all my life, I was particularly aware of the difference. Quebec is often isolated from the other provinces, not only because of the language barrier but because the culture is also largely distinct. I never described myself as Canadian because I didn’t ‘feel’ Canadian.

I have been in England for a little more than 16 months now and I proudly announce to anyone willing to hear me that I come from Canada. Although I still make the distinction and often say that I am French-Canadian (partly because it explains my strong accent), I can now relate to other Canadians. Mike Myers once said that there’s nobody as Canadian as a Canadian who no longer lives in Canada and I’m starting to believe he was right!

This past year, I got to connect with some amazing fellow expats and realised we have a lot in common: we are annoyed by the same British quirks (why aren’t window screens a thing here?!), we miss the same Canadian food (dill pickles, anyone?) and, more importantly, we share similar values. It will sound like a big cliché but Canadians are kind, polite and welcoming; we honour respect, freedom, education, inclusion and equality and we are not afraid to speak up for what we believe in – though we will probably promptly apologise in case anyone was offended!

I’m obviously generalising here – there are impolite, uneducated, disrespectful racist pricks everywhere, even Canada – but from my experience, Canadians live up to their international reputation and it’s something to be proud of. I know I am.

All of this doesn’t mean that I prefer Canada to Britain; I am a proud Canadian by birth but my heart is in England. I chose to build a life here, not only because it’s Edward’s homeland (the option of him moving to Quebec was open and we discussed it extensively) but because I fell in love with the UK and its people. And even though I’d happily exchange Theresa May for Justin Trudeau any time, I don’t plan on moving back. Instead, I’ll carry on living according to my Canadian values while integrating many of the British customs and ways of life. Being an expat is all about adapting while remaining true and authentic…

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16 thoughts on “Being Canadian

    1. Aww, there will be many more opportunity for BBQs! And yes, she’s fine now and on the right medication so hopefully no more scares! Glad you enjoyed it… 😊 I’m finally coming to some kind of understanding/acceptance and it feels good!

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  1. This was a beautiful post, friend. I’m so sorry your BBQ didn’t work out, but how amazing was the support you received from your fellow countrymen?! I would be proud to be Canadian, too. Ya’ll seem to always be doing the right things, while your neighbor down south just likes to embarrass itself 🙄). I’ve always been really interested in the culture of French-Canada, and even more so since that’s my boyfriend’s heritage. I hope you will be able to have a belated celebration!

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    1. The support and generosity were amazing… It was so cliché Canadian as well! 😂 Well… I think electing Justin Trudeau help us revive our pride; it was really not the same under Harper. I guess many feel the same after downgrading from Obama to Trump! 😕 The French-Canadian culture is very rich, especially when you think how young it is… If you or your boyfriend ever have any questions, I’d be happy to answer as best as I can… 😊 We shall have a belated celebration when the weather is a little less British… You’re always welcome if you want to pop over… 😉✈

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      1. You are so lucky to have Trudeau! So, so lucky! We want to eventually make our way to Quebec, so I’m sure I’ll have many questions! Next summer, my mom and I are heading over to England! We are planning on attending the Bloggers Bash and we want to go all over the country!

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      2. Ooooh, do let me know when you’re over here! We could meet up or something, I can show you around a few places… :) Quebec is such a beautiful place, it is fully worth a visit too.

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  2. I fully believe that we are supposed to celebrate our 150 all year round, so you can totally still have your BBQ! I hope that everyone is feeling okay now!!

    When I lived in Ireland, I missed my Polskie Ogorki pickles something fierce, and honey dill sauce, and Timbits. But I also discovered so many new things that I love now! Plus, I still apologise more than I should 🤣 Happy Canada 150!

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    1. The BBQ is only postponed and hopefully the weather will be less British when it does happen, haha! Everyone is fine now… My MIL finally received the right care and medication after months of waiting so hopefully no more scares like this. I think all Canadians miss their pickles… I’m on a Canadian expats group on FB and it seems to be mostly what we talk about! 😂 I would miss a few things from the UK if I were to move back… Toasted teacakes? Mmmm! Happy Canada 150 to you too! 🇨🇦

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  3. As a fellow expat (From AUS) living in the U.K. I totally relate to your post in that you love your home and proud but equally love your new home. Sorry the BBQ didn’t go to plan but I agree with the others you should celebrate all year round x

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  4. A beautiful text that’s explains very well how I feel as a Québécoise. I often felt it was near impossible to explain to any non-Quebecois the depth of the heartache of loosing that Quebecois identity to a Canadian one. It felt like treason for years to say “I’m french-canadian” or simply “I’m Canadian” rather than I am from Quebec (which mind boggingly means nothing to most people outside of Canada). I think my parents still feel bemused that I now define myself as a Canadian. I am proud to be Canadian, and it’s not that I wasn’t before but I always defined as a Québécoise first. It took moving thousands of miles away to reassess that identity. And it turns out us Québécois are not as different to Canadians as we may think. Polite, helpful, happy and thankful. From a vast country of undeniable beauty.

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    1. This, exactly! It’s mostly what I was trying to convey in my post… My identity haven’t changed but has been redifined now that I live a few thousand miles away from my former ‘home’. I am a proud Canadian but also remain a proud Québécoise. I speak French at every occasion and reminds everyone that I am from the best part of Canada, haha! ;) As you say, we share similar values… More than I thought before moving here. But I am also proud of the British quirks I have adopted… Because all of this makes me who am I now. Thank you for your kind words! x

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