What is it with Canadians and their maple leaf fetish? Everywhere I went in Europe, I could spot Canadians by the little maple leaf tags sewn on their back packs. I know the reason for the identifiers, but who really cares if I’m mistaken for an American? It’s not like Americans are everywhere (well they are, but more in a military/industrial sense than as tourists in Europe). Most the tourists I encountered were European and were not necessarily a more pretty lot than the Americans. Perhaps, the scourge of the ugly American tourist has passed or everyone else has come up to speed making all tourists equally vulgar. What gets me about the Canadians is, who are they trying to impress their Canadian-ness on anyway? The doorman at their hotel? Their waiter? Who cares what a doorman or a waiter think?
Behind the Opéra Garnier, I went to a multi-media show on the history of Paris and found myself sitting next to a couple resplendent in T-shirts, wristbands (wristbands??!!), and baseball caps all with maple leaf motives. I’m sure they were a very nice couple, but there was enough foliage on these tourists to qualify as camoflage gear! Also, they are sadly misinformed about how pre-occupied Parisians might be about the nationality of these two (I’d say, not a bit). I was really tempted to lean over to them and say, “So, what part of Michigan are you from anyway?”. Naturally, the first thing I did when I returned to my hotel room was rip all the maple leaf tags off my luggage.
Now I’m back in Canada and having a reverse laugh at Canadians and their quaintly self-conscious ways. In the bank today, I overheard an American tourist trying to get some money from an overly helpful teller. The American tourist told the teller that he was from Los Angeles and she chirped, “Welcome to Canada. I hope you have a wonderful stay”. That impressed me because I couldn’t imagine a European bank teller being that friendly. Polite yes, but not so singsongy about it. I was also struck by the farm-folksy way she asked the American if he would like his cash in “loonies and twoonies“. I couldn’t believe that she, a bank teller, would not know that “loonies and twoonies” don’t really constitute Canadian currency and that our little pet names for our money are not known universally. Not surprisingly, the American just sputtered, “I have no idea what you’re saying”. Vive le culture shock, eh?