Advice for Dealing with North Americans
"Americans are benevolently ignorant about Canada, while Canadians are malevolently well informed about the United States."
-J. Bartlett Brebner
People from North America (i.e., Canadians and Americans) have almost identical accents, stemming from their living next to each other and sharing large portions of their culture with each other. However, never, ever should you assume that the North American you are dealing with overseas is an American; you might end up mortally offending a Canadian (stop laughing, this is serious).
While most Americans are vaguely aware that there are other countries out there, and one of them happens to lie directly to the north of them (even if we can't remember their name), Canadians have spent most of their lifetime cultivating a level of distaste and disgust with America and Americans that is equal parts jealousy and disdain. Canada and America are like two brothers; Canada is convinced it is the all-around better brother, even if it is the younger one, and is therefore miffed that America seems to get all the presents and attention. Canada is convinced it learned from America's mistakes better than America did itself, and is simply a better nation. They are waiting for the rest of the world to discover this, as well.
Consequently, an American asked if he's a Canadian will simply condescendingly reply, "No, you silly foreigner, I'm an American, from the greatest country in the world," while a Canadian asked if he's American will immediately explode with a torrent of invective, channeling a lifetime's worth of rage at being neglected and overlooked.
So even though there are many more Americans in the world than Canadians, you're much safer if you just assume that any North American you encounter overseas is a Canadian first, until they prove otherwise.
Under no circumstances believe, or pretend to believe that Canada is part of the U.S.
But like all nationalities that have many similiarities and corresponding good-natured rivalries--Australians and Kiwis, Singaporeans and Malaysians, France and Germany (okay, maybe France and Germany have more of an understandable antagonism rather than a rivalry, if a half a dozen wars in two centuries are any indications)--any casual encounter between Canadians and Americans has an pretty set script, and it may take an observer a moment to figure out who's who.
The American is almost destined to do two things. 1) Display something remarkably akin to pride at his callous ignorance of all 'foreigners' culture, major leaders, cities, form of government, or place on the map (okay, so this applies when Americans meet each other, as well), and 2) brag about all the great things his country produces. After all, America does produce most of the global products (we are wont to confuse quantity with quality).
The Canadian, on the other hand, is more likely to be a bit more well-educated about global happenings (especially America and it's tendency of stepping on other countries' toes). The Canuck is also more likely to be modest about Canada's exports (after all, this is the country that gave us all Bryan Adams, though from my understanding they were just trying to get rid of him and didn't think he'd catch on anywhere else). When American begins to brag about Nike, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Ford, etc. (believing those to be something to be proud of, oddly), all Canadians need to do in reply is say, "Yes, impressive, but Canada grows the best pot in the world," and the argument is instantly over (especially if the Canadian in question happens to have some of that aforementioned pot on him/her).
Another surefire way to identify the Canadians traveling is simply to look at their backpacks. They seem to be issued Canadian flag patches for their backpacks upon their departure from Canada; it seems like every single Canuck overseas has a large red maple leaf positioned so it's visible from miles away. It's a cheery flag that just seems to chirp, "Hi, I'm Canadian!" It was only later that I realized what it's actually saying: "Don't shoot! I'm not American!"
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