It's time for this month's So Your Character is From Another Country! This is a monthly or bimonthly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last month's So Your Character is From Australia ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!
I'm very excited about this edition considering I just went to Canada for the first time! It was an amazing experience. I talk more about that in my The Tag of Happiness & The Dragon's Loyalty Award and Monthly Summary: February 2016 posts. In Alberta, Canada, I visited my good friend Cassia and we did many a Canadian adventure. It was great research for Red Hood and Silver Hood and all around an amazing experience. Since I got to see her in person her answers to the questions will be in a ten minute video interview at the end. I'm so happy to have her and two other awesome Canadian bloggers here today!
Let's welcome Cassia, Tracey, and Adriana to the stage!
Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts are as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.
My name’s Cassia Schaar, I’m 19, and I’m from a rather unheard of suburb outside of Edmonton, Alberta known as Sherwood Park (shout out to anyone who lives in an unheard of town!). Currently, I’m attending university as a full-time student, holding a job at a bookstore and working hard to make it into the world of the novelists. So far, I'll be published in Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and have won an award for my Flash Fiction work. My hope is that I can inspire and guide other aspiring writers who have dreams bigger than the real world itself. Check out her guest post on short stories here on the blog!
My name is Tracey Dyck, and I live in Manitoba, Canada. I’m a 20-year-old homeschool graduate, the oldest of four children. Working in retail, I get to meet all sorts of quirky people (none of whom have any idea they’re being observed by a novelist!). I dream of writing full-time. Fantasy is my literary homeland, so it’s no surprise that my work-in-progress series falls into that category. Sporadic sketches and gardening and books fill the cracks of my life, and Jesus is the One who makes all the difference.
Hiya! My name is Adriana Gabrielle and I’m an 18 year old cashier, fangirl, bookworm, and aspiring author. I live in lovely Southern Alberta, Canada with my parents and seven younger siblings!
What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
Tracey: Canada is a vast and beautiful place. Its landscape is as varied as the people who live within it. Famous landmarks include Niagara Falls, Hudson Bay, the CN Tower, the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park, and Parliament Hill. Besides Canada Day on July 1st, most of our holidays are shared with the U.S.
It’s difficult to sum up Canadian culture or to describe what makes us unique, because it’s a subtle thing. We’re similar to Americans in some regards, and yet there are marked differences, which you’ll read about in further answers. Perhaps what makes us the most unique is the huge variety of ethnicities and cultures all living within the same country.
|(Image not mine|
Adriana: Well, landmark wise, Alberta has got some pretty gorgeous mountains and some STUNNING places to go hike up them or just bask in their glory. Those three places are Waterton, Banff and Jasper.
Some other GORGEOUS locations are the Hoodoos in the Milk River and Drumheller area and also the Coulees. Which I only just discovered are only found in southern alberta… But seriously guys, they are cool!
Well besides hockey (which is a big thing in Canada…) Alberta has some huge events that draw tourists in but I think the biggest one is the Calgary Stampede. I myself have never been to the Stampede…but it’s a pretty big deal every stinkin’ year. I should probably go one time just to say I’ve been, ya know?
|Banff, Alberta (Image not mine.)|
|Jasper, Alberta (Image not mine)|
|Waterton, Alberta (Image not mine)|
Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
Tracey: The beautiful Rocky Mountains in the west descend into the central prairies, which then turn into the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Lowlands, and finally to the rugged east coast. Tundra comprises the northernmost reaches, but most of our population lives within 150 kilometers (93 miles) of the U.S. border. Coastal areas experience mild seasons, while the interior of Canada can range from -40 °C (-40 °F) in winter to 30 °C (86 °F) or higher in summer. Up north it can get even colder. We have more lakes than any other nation, and are the second largest country in the world.
One of my favorite places is home—Manitoba. The flat prairie land is perfect for viewing the most gorgeous sunrises and sunsets and starry nights. Then there’s the wild beauty of B.C., the unique Hoodoos in Alberta, and so much more. I’d love to visit the east coast one day as well. I hear it’s amazing.
|The Hoodoos (Image not mine)|
|The Coulees (Image not mine)|
Adriana: Chinooks (Native to Alberta as far as Canada goes) are the best thing in existence, ok guys? Chinook is a native name meaning ‘Snow Eater’ and that name describes them pretty well, because usually the strong Chinook winds will blow in and melt all the snow and its pretty dang fabulous. All the technical details on how a Chinook works is stuff I don’t really pay attention to, because as long as it gets rid of the snow, I don’t care how it works :P
|The Coulees (Image not mine)|
|The Hoodoos (Image not mine)|
Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Tracey: It’s not that different from American food, really, though I suppose the stereotypical things like maple syrup and poutine are a bonus! Because we’re a mosaic of so many cultures, food differs from place to place and home to home. My area has a strong Mennonite influence, so I enjoy many of the cultural dishes: perogies, farmer sausage, borscht, etc. (If you’re hungry, ask for definitions/details in the comments! Mennonite food is chock full of calories.)
Adriana: Well, in Canada we eat a lot of food that Americans do. We don’t really have our own specific dishes and such that are different from any American food or anything… BUT Poutine is (apparently) a Canadian food that originated in Quebec and then there is the whole, yummy, sticky Canadian Maple Syrup. (Ontario) Also, Beef is kinda an Alberta thing…
|Maple Syrup (Image not mine)|
Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
Tracey: This sort of thing I find endlessly fascinating! Here’s some of our slang:
- Keener—an enthusiastic brown-noser
- Give’r/give’n’r—give it all you’ve got (usually in terms of work or sports)
- Double-double—a Tim Hortons coffee order; two creams and two sugars
- Kerfuffle—a commotion or fuss, often caused by disagreement
- Pop—soft drinks
- Loonie/toonie—our one-dollar and two-dollar coins (fun fact: we don’t make pennies anymore)
- Washroom—used interchangeably with bathroom and restroom
- Serviette—used interchangeably with napkin
- Hydro—electricity, particularly one’s energy bill
- Zed—the way we pronounce the letter Z (not zee, though some of us use both)
- Pencil crayon—colored penc
- Mountie—short for a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- Toque—a knit cap worn in winter
- Hoodie—hooded sweatshirt
- Runners—athletic shoes or sneakers (At a U.S. camp with my family, my siblings and I avoided the tennis court all week because the sign said “Tennis Shoes Only.” Later we discovered that just meant regular athletic shoes, like what we call runners.)
- Spinny—an adjective describing a female with a certain talkative, dizzy, not-all-there kind of personality
- Highway—our term for freeway
- Cutlery—silverware/eating utensils
- Eavestrough—rain gutters on a house
- University and college are not synonymous to us. University is a four-year or longer program, while college takes a year or two and focuses more on actual trades. Freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior are almost never used. We refer to students by their grade. “He’s in grade ten,” for example—not “He’s in tenth grade.”
Some words utilize British spelling, like neighbour or centre, though I personally tend to use the American spellings. (Except grey with an E looks way better than gray with an A, in my opinion.)
Adriana: Okay, so honestly I’m not sure. I mean there are some other provinces in Canada that speak very differently from others (example: Newfoundland and in Quebec they speak primarily French) but for me, personally, I don’t know many. I do know a couple things though. First off the whole ‘Eh’ thing is true. Many people will try to deny it, but Canadians do say ‘Eh’ …a lot. Some more than others but it’s a legit thing.
|Canadian Mountie (Image not mine)|
Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
Tracey: This is another hard question to answer because, like I mentioned, there are so many ethnicities in Canada. Daily activities will depend on background, occupation, age, location, etc. It’s not as if we have a universal activity like the British afternoon tea.
For me specifically, my schedule holds normal things like work, writing, volunteering, playing, and hanging out with friends. I help my family tend our garden in summertime. During winter, I might go sledding or ice skating, or just curl up indoors with a hot drink.
Adriana: The average day in the life of most Canadians is VERY similar to what you would find in most homes in the United States. Urban families have office jobs, kids attend schools and sports and other such things and where kids and families living in the more rural areas often live and work on farms.
|Ice Skating in Vancouver (Image not mine)|
How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
Tracey: We are colder than the southern states, I’ll give you that. But where most of us live, it’s virtually the same as your northern states.
Our political system is different. We have a Prime minister and a Parliament. Our three main parties are the Conservatives, Liberals, and the New Democratic Party. Our taxes are different. We have publically funded healthcare. Our voting is different. We have postal codes, not zip codes. The list goes on.
Canadians are generally well-liked by other countries. As peacekeepers, we’re known for being friendly and laid-back in comparison to our spirited southern neighbors. In fact, I’ve heard of some Americans putting Canadian labels on their luggage when traveling—they get treated better.
A few little things of interest . . .
• We take off our shoes when we come inside. I hear many Americans wear their footwear all over the house.
• We use the metric system.
• We do say sorry a lot.
• We’re not very nationalistic.
• As silly as it may seem, one defining aspect of our culture is our effort to be not American. (No offense. I know and like many Americans!)
• Despite the plethora of cultures present, we still hold some stereotypes towards each other, like English vs. French or Caucasion vs. Aboriginal.
Adriana: Canada is quite similar to the United States (as we are neighbors after all) in most ways. But yet Canada is extremely diverse. Not just diverse in the way of the people but also the fact of diversity in cultures.
|Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Image not mine)|
What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you?
Tracey: The idea that Canada = winter. (Tell that to me when I’m melting on a humid July afternoon!) People seem to think that Canada is a freezer, in which we all play hockey and live in igloos and ride our dogsleds to work.
The ‘eh’ stereotype. Okay, so it’s partially true, but it really depends on the area. I’m told it’s a lot more common in Ontario.
The misconception that being Canadian means you’re French. In reality, being from Quebec usually means you’re French. Where I live, people are more likely to know German.
When traveling in the States, my family and I have heard some ridiculous questions like, “Is it always cold there?” and “Do you have big buildings in Canada?” As if we’re a little colony of shacks or something. A couple times we’ve been asked if we know someone’s “cousin Bob from Toronto.” Umm, no. Toronto is 2,000 kilometers away from my area, and it’s home to 2.6 million people. I have never met your cousin Bob, and probably never will.
Adriana: We do NOT all live in igloos and ride polar bears to school… I’m just saying.
So this one doesn’t necessarily bother all Canadians or anything but, in my mind stereotyping the Aboriginal people (or anyone really) really ticks me off. This paragraph quoted from an article I found kinda describes it. I mean stereotyping any group of people is the worst but yeah.
“Portrayals of Aboriginal people as being primitive, violent and devious, or passive and submissive, have become widespread in movies and TV programs and in literature ranging from books to comic strips. Such depictions have become a comfortable frame of reference for most of us each time there is a question about Aboriginal people, even though very few non-Natives have had the opportunity to meet a Native person in real life. Even if old Westerns rarely took place in Canada, the stereotypes they conveyed crossed borders.”
|Canadian First Nations People (Image not mine)|
What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Tracey: In the Brother Bear movies, the moose brothers Rutt and Tuke are admittedly quite funny, but their Canadian speech is way overblown. “Well gee, eh, you’re one big beaver!”
Anything that takes place in Canada and feels the need to make it wintertime. We do actually have four distinct seasons.
In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Vern, the Canadian character Ned Land is a French harpoonist, which seems . . . I don’t know. It seems to imply that, again, we are all French. And that whale hunting is pretty much the only thing we can do up here in the frigid north (which is far from the truth).
|Rutt & Tuke from Brother Bear|
What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Tracey: I’m having a hard time coming up with any. Maybe it’s because Canada’s not often featured in movies or books. Do my own, unpublished books count? The main characters live in a fictional Albertan town. *grins*
Anyway, I’d say Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery did an excellent job portraying Prince Edward Island, though it’s been some time since I read it.
Robert Liparulo’s thriller Deadfall takes place deep in the Northwest Territories, a perfectly isolated setting for the events of the book. Some of my favorite characters, like little Dylan and his mom, happened to be Canadians.
Adriana: The TV show HEARTLAND!!!!! (Alberta) It’s filmed a couple hours from where I live and so not only is it at the actual location and in my area BUT its just accurate in every sense….cause its set here :P Its also just a great show ok?
|Anne of Green Gables (Image not mine)|
Who are your top three favorite characters native to your country in books, movies, or shows?
Tracey: Anne Shirley (of Anne of Green Gables): Her spunk and imagination delighted me as a little girl, and I loved her adventures on PEI.
Wolverine: I actually haven’t watched any of the X-Men movies yet, but I hear that Wolverine comes from the Canadian Rockies. A friend of mine says there’s really nothing to differentiate him from an American, though. So . . . whatever the case, he’s got cool-looking claws. That’s got to count for something.
Winnie the Pooh: Though he technically lives in the Hundred Acre Wood, he was inspired by a Canadian black bear. On the way to England during World War I, Lieutenant Harry Colebourn purchased the bear from a hunter. Lt. Colebourn named the bear Winnie after his hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba. Later, A.A. Milne’s son named his stuffed bear after Winnie . . . and that toy, in turn, inspired the beloved Winnie the Pooh stories.
Adriana: OHHHHH! Canadian characters! Yay! Here we goooo!
Frank from Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series.
Wolverine! (X-Men Comics/movies)
Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables
|Wolverine in Canada (Image not mine)|
Cassia's Ten Minute Video Interview:
Bonus A Canadian-Approved Ridiculously Funny Video About Canada:
Me: Thanks so much Cassia, Tracey, and Adriana for doing this interview! It's so enlightening. Red Hood has gotten some Canadian influence because of this. ^ ^ Come back next month for So Your Character is From New Zealand ... !
Are you interested in participating in this project? Slots for Australia, Canada, and England have been filled, but if you are from any other country, shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Do you have any Canadian characters? Did this inspire you to write a Canadian character or set a book in Canada? Are from this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Cassia, Tracey, or Adriana? Be sure to thank these ladies!
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