O Canada, Why Must You Wear That Flag?
I like Canada. It’s a beautiful country and they’ve always been our friendly neighbors. It’s got the best ski holidays in North America (Whistler), has the better side of Niagra Falls (Maid of the Mist anyone?) and has way cooler-sounding (*not* town as corrected by my readers) province names (Saskatchewan). Canadians people are also very nice and easy to get along with. Hell, I even work for a Canadian company.
But there’s one thing about Canadian backpackers that annoys the hell out of me. You might be thinking that it’s the infamous “eh” (not “ey” as corrected by my readers) but it’s not. It’s the Canadian backpackers who have that little Canadian flag stitched to their backpack. I just don’t get it. I swear, 90% of them must have that little flag. Sure it’s harmless and doesn’t really affect me directly, but it’s one of those little pet-peeves that just gnaws at you.
I’m all for national pride and it’s always a riot to get drunk and sing your national anthem louder than the group at the table next to you. But do you really need to wear that little flag around, all the time, for everyone to see? Granted it’s subtle, but still you’re announcing “I’m Canadian!” for the whole world to hear. You don’t see Americans, Brits, Aussies or Europeans waving their country flags and I’m certainly not going around telling strangers that I’m from California.
So what is the compelling reason for doing it? Is it the code to some secret bond amongst Canadian brethren that the rest of the world will never be able to experience? Could it be that Canadians have some kind of existentialist crisis that can only be solved by stitching the Maple Leaf to one’s bag? Or maybe it’s a retort to the over-the-top, nation-loving stereotype of Americans?
I could see it making some sense between 2000 and 2008. Bush was screwing up the world and everyone hated Americans. Even some Americans sewed on the Maple Leaf to deflect public animosity. But guess what, Obama is our president now and he’s a rockstar. If you only saw the faces of people when I told them I had voted for Obama. Everyone loves America now (well maybe that’s a bit too far but at least not everyone dislikes America) so that reason is pretty much null.
Putting that little flag there also kills one of the best aspects of traveling. When backpacking, you start with a clean slate. No one knows who you are, where you’re from or what you do. People are able to make an objective opinion of you without prior biases or influences and vice versa. Of course, there will always be stereotypes and you can’t change your skin color or what you look like. But why label yourself with a flag which instantly associates yourself with stereotypes of that country’s backpackers, even before a single word is spoken?
If that were the case, I’d assume every Australian was a party animal, every Irish a drunkard and every American loud, obnoxious and ignorant. While there is some truth to every stereotype, we’ve all met amazing people who don’t fit that mold.
The point is, by putting on that flag, you’ll bring on a lot of judgment and preconceptions that otherwise wouldn’t happen. If that’s your modus operandi, then so be it but I’m willing to bet that most people don’t like to be judged before someone gets to know them.
So Canadian backpackers, take off those flags. Join the rest of the world in no-flag patch fashion. After all, we’re all backpackers here; not Canadian backpackers, not American backpackers, not Australian backpackers or European backpackers. Just backpackers.
from → Travel Advice