I know you may be thinking that I’m being a little radical with today’s post by asking the question in the title – Why are Americans clueless about Canada? But it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while now. I visit the United States anywhere from 8-10 times a year for business and pleasure. In my lifetime I’ve visited 30 out of the 50 states. Yes, I know that United States has 50 states and that flag has 50 stars that represent each state. I’m willing to bet that the majority of American citizens can’t name how many provinces and territories are in Canada. For the curious ones, there are ten provinces and three territories Canada – therefore making Canada the second largest country in the world by area.
But, that mini geography lesson is neither here nor there, and instead I’m curious why Americans clueless about Canada? As Canadians we deal with United States on daily basis, and to some degree I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that Americans rely on Canadians to a high degree – like we rely on United States. Here are a few quick examples:
- Canada is America’s largest trading partner.
- No other country in the world supplies the U.S. with more oil.
- 1994 was the year that the NAFTA was signed – making trading between United States and Canada the largest amongst two countries in the world.
- The two nations cooperated closely in World War II and many other wars since.
Despite all of this, very few Americans know as much about Canada as Canadians know about United States. Canadians know that Barack Obama is president of the United States. Surely I’d think that Americans would know the name of the most important elected official of one of only two countries that borders their country. This same country that’s a mere 10 minute drive from Buffalo, New York.
Stephen Harper has been the prime minister of Canada for six years. Yet, most Americans don’t know the answers to basic questions about the friendly neighbor they share a 3,145-mile border with.
Reasons For The Limited Knowledge
Lack of Media Coverage
The main reason American’s don’t know enough about Canada is because the U.S. media hardly covers Canada. All of the TV programs, radio shows and newspapers are largely devoted to lame local news of a cat getting stuck in a tree or how Las Vegas is down in business since 2008. However, I’ll give credit where it’s due though – there’s the odd curiosity mention of Canadian hockey, beer and cold weather. Furthermore, there imply isn’t enough time in a 24 hour period to feature anything Canadian, because the media produces content about Lindsay Lohan, Snooki, Charlie Sheen and lots of other lame celebrities.
Maybe Canadian’s Aren’t Cool Enough
While Lohan, Snooki, and Sheen are cool peeps, Americans sometimes forget that many celebrities in their media are actually Canadian. Here are a few: Justin Bieber, William Shatner, Pamela Anderson, Jim Carrey, Michael J. Fox, Liann Rimes, Alex Trebek, Kim Cattrall, Shania Twain, Ryan Gosling, Seth Rogan and many others.
Oddly enough, Las Vegas loves Canadians. For years the largest running show in Las Vegas was Celine Dion, which ended last year – and she’s Canadian. Today, the biggest show on the Las Vegas strip is Shania Twain – she’s also Canadian.
Lack of Travel Experience
Another problem is that the vast majority of America’s media content just dwarfs basic information about the world – Canada included. While Canadians heavily advertise American travel destinations, our friends south of the border rarely return the favor. Hence, why most Americans choose to go to the Disney World for the 10th time rather than taking a short drive or flight to explore Canada. So, it doesn’t surprise me that many can’t identify any major Canadian landmarks or say much about Canadian culture as a whole.
This embarrassment could easily be fixed by driving or flying to Montreal or Toronto — two of Canada’s more popular cities. Or the American friends can visit some of the lakeside retreats in Canada where recreational activities like fishing are very much alive. Canada is only a few hours away — much closer than Disney World, where most have been several times.
Diversity Makes The Society Grow
Diversity strengthens a society because the influence from different cultures with their various beliefs and ideas will make a society open-minded and dynamic. Diversity is what creates tolerance and contributes to reduce racism. It also makes the society interesting to live and work in. To get to know people from all over the world, eat their food, learn about their cultures, all make living in a diverse society very educating and interesting.
According to a 2012 survey conducted by the nonprofit education company World Savvy, along with the International Baccalaureate Organization demonstrated:
- 45 percent of the Americans surveyed thought the most common language in the world was English
- 77 percent of respondents couldn’t identify Canada as America’s largest trade partner
- 72 percent had no idea what region Afghanistan was in, but knew America was at war with Afghanistan
Here are some funny examples of different comments that were left on Finance Fox from 2012 in various posts that illustrate the point in this post a little more.
- “I had a different experience in Toronto. Found the people to be harsh and unfriendly. Canada is not for me so I’m doing all I can to avoid this place from tanking.”
- “Thanks for mentioning me here! I have to be honest, we Americans are clueless about Canadian stuff (or maybe it’s just me). Ask me who your prime minister is :) LOL. Anyway… who wouldn’t want free shipping with their purchases!”
- “Thanks for the mention, from one Ed to another. :) Pretty cool that Canada has a Financial Literacy Month.”
- “There are some really smart finance bloggers in Canada, eh? Noting to do with finance, but it’s really funny that I’ve heard lots of really conservative people in our area say they were moving to Canada because Obama got re-elected and they hate Obabacare, he’s trying to socialize us, etc. When you ask if they know that Canada has universal healthcare, they just kind of change the subject. I’ll let you know if they decided to come, and you can hide.”
- “I love Canada! I’ve only been to Buffalo, Ontario once, but I’d love to go again in the future.”
- “Where does Canada fit it? I’d be curious to see if you have a higher percentage of English speakers than the US, even though there are two official languages.”
- “What are you guys trying to do, hijacking our country’s birthday weekend?”
- “We’re turning into Canada here in the US with Obamacare, so we too shall celebrate Canada Day! :)
While you may be thinking that I was trying to stir the pot with this post and paint everyone with the same brush – well that’s not the case at all actually. Everything I’ve said is strictly based on personal encounters. Do I love Americans? Totally. Am I jealous of their selection of products in stores such as Walmart? Absolutely. I spend enough time in the United States throughout every year, and it baffles me how many Americans I run into who know very little about Canada and Canadians as a whole.
There’s more to Canada than universal healthcare….eh!
Readers, do you think Americans are clueless about Canada? Why is that?