American Stereotypes about Canadians

The Canadian flag placed to the right of the American flag.
A man apologizing emphatically.
Igloo under a clear blue sky.

People in the United States, generally, think of their northern neighbors as a polite people. Some Americans even suggest that Canucks are so polite that they would apologize if another person stepped on their toes. The latter claim, obviously, is a tongue-in-cheek way to oversimplify a national characteristic, but nevertheless not completely without base. So many Canadians, in fact, say “sorry” for things they didn’t do that the Canadian parliament passed the Apology Act in 2009. This law states that an apology must not be interpreted as an admission of guilt in court, saving Canadians from accidentally going to prison for being polite in a court room.

Canadian English

On the topic of American stereotypes about Canadians, furthermore, it would be remiss to leave out the about-issue. On this issue, many Americans expressing an opinion seem to believe that Canadians pronounce the word “about” like Americans would say “a-boot”. Canadians, on their part, vehemently refute the Americans’ assertion, and the two North American peoples seem unable to agree on the matter. To reconcile this issue, therefore, it may be helpful to try to assume an unbiased outsider’s perspective. A reasonable position, then, is to say that the Canadian pronunciation of “about” lands somewhere between the American English pronunciations of “about” and “a-boot”.

Another Canadian linguistic peculiarity is to say “eh” in the same way as Americans say “right” or “huh” to invite a confirmation. Exemplified by phrases like “The weather is nice, eh?” and “You really like candy, eh?”, this speech feature is popular among some Canadians, but not omnipresent in all Canadians’ speech, as Americans may believe.

Riding polar bears

Continuing with American misconceptions, or willful mischaracterizations, some of the most outrageous questions Americans ask Canucks are if they ride polar bears and if they live in igloos. Admittedly though, only a subset of Yankees ask these questions, and extremely few people ask the questions in seriousness. As most Americans well know, no Canadian would even consider riding a polar bear, and everybody, including the Inuit, live in houses.

Summing up Americans’ misconceptions about their neighbors to the north, we see that Americans stereotype Canadians a great deal — but North American stereotyping is not one-sided. Canadians, for example, often categorize Americans as ill-informed, and may even call them gun-obsessed and workaholics. Even so, by and large, neither people’s stereotyping is meant to be insulting. Instead, it usually serves as friendly banter between inhabitants of two countries who have a lot in common.