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O Canada, Why Must You Wear That Flag?

2010 June 10

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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.

You know what EXACTLY I’m talking about. Courtesy of World Hum.

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.

255 Responses leave one →
  1. June 10, 2010

    It’s so that when people from Canada travel, they don’t get mistake for Americans…I’m not saying I agree with it, but that’s why!

    • June 10, 2010

      It also avoids the embarrassing moment asking them if they’re from the states with such a similar accent.

    • June 10, 2010


      In Italy, our luggage was over the allotted weight and the clerk behind the desk let us go because she said: “voi siete canadese.” (you’re canadians).
      If you read between the lines, she was really saying “you’re not Americans” like 90% of the other travellers (we flew via Detroit).

    • June 10, 2010

      I’m American and I wouldn’t want to get mistaken as a Canadian – so I understand where they’re coming from 🙂

    • June 10, 2010

      Actually, its true. It’s not necessarily to be seen as anti-American (as my guide from France explained), but to be seen -as- Canadian. Apparently much of Europe has a high opinion of people hailing from Canada (not sure if their opinions on the Canadian gov’t, but I digress) because we’re generally polite and culture-conscious people. Thats not to say we don’t have our share of assholes (oh trust me, we do), but apparently as a whole we’re less likely to demean someone from another country, especially in their own fraking country, as well as respecting their culture, whether modern or ancient.

      Even if we’re not all polite all the time, Canadians ARE known for being overly polite. And I think thats why Canadians are encouraged to wear a Canadian flag on their backpack, because people from overseas cultures (Europe, Asia, etc) appreciate that kindness. I’m not saying Americans can’t be polite, but American culture isn’t KNOWN for being polite. i.e. American fought a bloody political war to gain its freedom from Britain; Canada asked nicely.

      • Lisa Hibbs-Wright permalink
        November 27, 2010

        So, my daughter who is American-Canadian should be embarrassed? She is 10 and I am her American parent. Shame on all of you who look down on my country, USA. My daughter say this and is disgusted with Canada and any other country who thinks like that. Oh, and I am from TEXAS. SO TAKE THAT!

        • Joel permalink
          February 25, 2011

          Canadian here.
          I love America. It’s bomb shit. You might have a Democrat president (I’ll forgive you), but you guys MADE THE WORLD! Imagine if you hadn’t been the awesome super-duper power that you’ve been for the lasting oh, seventy years. We probably wouldn’t have iPad’s or Tomahawk cruise missiles, that we wouldn’t. The Russians would be the ones with all the new toys.

          Like seriously guys, unadultered Capitalism made the world. That’s what I love about America. My country sucks because we’re a nanny state that believes ‘if you’re born, you have the right to be alive’, which is nonsense.
          I’m moving to your country soon and after I get my citizenship I’m going to go buy one of those shirts. Fuck Canada.

          Also I miss the founding fathers, don’t you guys? They understood government had to be small and self limiting in nature.

          Canada has one redeeming quality – good weed. And you can grow that in a basement anywhere.

          • ScumbagSteve permalink
            March 30, 2013

            BS!!! You were born and raised an American trying to act Canadian. No Canadian would think like you. Invented the Tomahawk cruise missle. No Canadian would brag about that.

  2. June 10, 2010

    badkidsgoodgrammar’s right. As a Canadian, the last thing I want is to be mistaken as an American. Speaking wise, we sound “like” Americans. Since so many out there like to make assumptions, we sew our flag on to our bags to avoid confusion. It’s got nothing to do with patriotism. When you’re Canadian, there’s a large chance that you’re loving more than just Canada.

  3. Peter permalink
    June 10, 2010

    There’s a true funny joke in Canada. How can you spot a US traveler from an Canadian one? US one has the bigger Canadian flag. You’d be surprised how much better customer service is when people know you’re not American. I haven’t done any major trips post Bush so you might be right, time to throw away the flag, but everyone generally loves Canada and it’s very easy to confuse a Canadian with an American.

  4. June 10, 2010

    Saskatchewan is a Province… NOT A TOWN!

    Obama is no different from Bush, and you guys are just as arrogant abroad as ever. Don’t think the “we elected a slave” is fooling people.. Have you been to Europe or Africa or South America recently? The attitudes are the same… I’ve traveled before, during and after Bush.. obviously a few people will say “we love obama” but they arent the ones that you had to worry about under Bush… I hate Nationalism, but I’m sure the Canadian Flag has saved my life a few times..


    Half of the “Canadians” you see with flags, are actually Americans, who agree with everything I just said.

    • June 10, 2010

      As a Canadian, I sort of take it to offence if I were to be mistaken as an American. I would never want to be associated with such a horrible and corrupt government. I don’t want to be labeled as supporting tyranny.

      And, as it’s been said multiple times in the comments now, Americans wear Canadian flags themselves because they know that the entire world thinks the same way as I do about the US. How can you tell between the two? The American’s flag is bigger. Us Canadians will probably sew a 1″ x 2″ patch on our chest or arm, while the American has the big flag like in the picture in this blog.

      • June 10, 2010

        Do you assume that every American supports tyranny? Do you think that every American voted for what you describe as “a horrible and corrupt government”?

        Perhaps you shouldn’t generalize so much.

        • Bro permalink
          January 2, 2014

          Well you’re not doing anything to prevent your government from ruining the world, now, are you? Because that’s what it’s doing. Long live Israel, amirite? No you’re not.

        • Jay permalink
          September 11, 2015

          No but the majority did!

      • June 10, 2010

        I have to agree with pduan. Actually there are millions of Americans who don’t like the govwernment. There’s really no difference in who ever we vote for. Either way we get the same old bull crap. I think we were better off hundreds of years ago before the government swept in and took over. You really shouldn’t generalize so much. The irony my country has is we accuse all other countries that “THE GOVERNMENT” not “MY COUNTRY” doesn’t like of not having a real choice. The truth is we don’t. Corporate America and their money has a hand in everything. You’d be surprised how many of us would love to see the government representatives jailed. Only problem is there would be no order.
        Too many fn greedy people in control only making it good for the people at the top who rarely work, while the little guy at the bottom gets f’d over working more than 40 hours a week. It’s funny how people accuse us of making assumptions without really knowing what the hell they’re talking about.

      • manhattan85 permalink
        June 10, 2010

        Love it when Canadians get high and mighty, spewing anti-American venom from their self-important pedestal that stands tall nowhere but in their own hypocritical minds. I’m saying that and I’m 100% Canadian. Corrupt governments? Have you paid any attention to what Stephen Harper’s been up to? Or are you busy watching Jersey Shore? Then there’s the Canucks who admonish Americans for “not knowing anything about us” when they themselves would have trouble naming the capital of said province of Saskatchewan.

      • June 10, 2010

        Oh! Oh! I know this one. It’s “Boston,” right? I’m right, aren’t I?

        That or Moose Jaw.

      • June 11, 2010

        Just as any government in the Western world (the Belgian included) they’re built on the backs of other nations and people, in general also the lower classes in the respective Western societies at some point in their histories. That said, perhaps the Maple Leaf might be better depicted with drips of blood trickling down from the sides. Take a good look at your own history, the indigenous peoples of both federations (US & Canada) have paid the price for the so-called great democracies of the modern world. A flag often ‘covers’ more than what is visibly detectable …
        As a Belgian I am however thankful for the sacrifices that young men and women from both Kanata and the US made to free Europe from the tyranny of Nazism. Doesn’t mean that pardons injustice or corruption in any of those states (nor my own country).

        Just my five cents!

    • June 10, 2010

      SASKATCHEWAN is a Province not a Town!!!!! Love it!!
      I am a proud Canadian and I have a flag on my backpack!! And whenever I travel I am usually with Americans and everyone is telling the locals where they are from…..America……America…..America………..then it gets to me and I say Canada and the locals go……..CANADA!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • June 10, 2010

      I just studied a semester in Europe. As an American, I wanted to break the stereotypes that people have of Americans because obviously not all fit the stereotype. Even though breaking a embedded stereotype in a persons thinking is tough. I went through seven different European countries while I was there and Ireland was the friendliest but like you said the views are still the same. I traveled with a study abroad friend from America too and had a bad time traveling with her. I wanted to remain under the radar and not be THAT American. My appearance did not scream American until someone heard my accent. However, my traveling buddy did not get the idea that I wanted to just be an anonymous traveler, when she talked she was loud and definitely set in American ignorant ways. When I wanted to break those stereotypes about us, she just reinforced them. I tried. I really did.

      Had a great time backpacking though.

      For wearing a flag though, we were in Berlin taking a walking tour through the city. And a newly wed Canadian couple actually mentioned saying they did not want to wear a Canadian flag because they do not want be like those Americans. They said that Americans are the ones who wear their American flags. So, there was a different perspective.

  5. June 10, 2010

    First off, good blog– I say this so You don’t think I’m squashing you. They are right, we travel with it so when we go to Europe (the biggest stereotypers of the US) or Cuba, we don’t get ‘mistaken.
    Take what I say with a grain of salt because I too live in California and am marrying an American next week.
    PS. It’s ‘Eh’, not ‘Ey’. 😉

  6. russellsfeet permalink
    June 10, 2010

    All those comments are true – it’s just one of those things we do. Oddly, within Canada, we are so indifferent to our status. Our government always trying to protect us from the Cultural Imperialism that surrounds us. To be Canadian is often defined at ‘different than American’. No Team America songs of pride for our country. As for the Americans walking around in USA flag shirts – I see PLENTY visiting Canada sporting them. It makes me laugh.

  7. June 10, 2010

    Unlike Americans, Canadians are quiet about their patriotism. Americans don’t need to wear a flag because as soon as they open their mouths everyone knows they’re American. Usually they will announce quite loudly where they’re from in the first ten minutes of meeting them. The flag on the Canadian backpack is a subtle but visible way to tell the world how proud we are to be Canadian. Also, as a seasoned traveller, Canadians are treated very well overseas and that little flag goes a long way when we’re mistaken for being American. It’s thought that Canadians are more tolerant of the culture change they experience while travelling and find it easier to try new things. For example, we don’t go to Japan and expect to eat a hamburger at a sushi restaurant and then get all uptight when we can’t get one. I’ve seen this happen.

    Sorry, but the flag on the backpack stays.

    Oh, and it’s “eh” not “ey.”

    • June 10, 2010

      I’ve seen Americans visiting Canada who get upset that our bank machines don’t dispense American money.

    • June 10, 2010

      @Franco. I think you’re taking a few bad examples and extrapolating it over the entire population.

      I’ve been through Europe, Southeast Asia and South America and to be honest, the only place where I felt I was treated differently was Vietnam (gee I wonder why…).

      All of the Americans I met were not ordering hamburgers or screaming “I’m American!!!” either.

  8. jm rode permalink
    June 10, 2010

    Canadians sew the little flag on because, to other ears and eyes, we are often mistaken for Americans and Canadians don’t like that. We look and sound too much like you and that translates into poor service and negative stereotyping. Sadly, the impression abroad is that Americans are buffoons and loudmouthed bullies. Now you and I know that’s not always true, but that’s the greater worldwide opinion and what innocent Canuck would want to to wear that label? We’re not advertising our nationality; we’re telling the world, “I’m not American, it’s ok to talk to me.”

    Also, George Bush or Barak Obama don’t come into it. The world has been afraid of Americans since Teddy Roosevelt started your country down the regrettable path of invading other nations for fun and profit. I daresay the little flags will stay.

  9. Raul permalink
    June 10, 2010

    It’s simply a pride thing I am sure. You said that you would not want people to judge you by seeing the flag of your country on your backpack. However, that’s the thing about pride…no matter what, you are happy to be from America and you want people to know. They are happy to be Canadian, no matter what that means to other people. I think that’s great and more Americans should be that way. It’s great to have pride in the country you come from and to want people to know about it. It doesn’t matter what other people think, it’s what you think. Great post!!

  10. matxil permalink
    June 10, 2010

    It´s probably for the same reason as that after the second world war, Dutch tourists travelling through Europe often wore a Dutch flag to avoid being taken for Germans.

    • June 10, 2010

      I find this constant and cheap tendency to equate U.S with Nazism tiresome and offensive. It’s lazy, self-satisfied and exceptionally rude — which of course, we Canadians NEVER are.

      • richard permalink
        May 27, 2012

        Canadians are never lazy!? Ok..this is a new one. I have friends …a lot of them from canada who complain about how laziness is an epidemic in canada. But from my perspective it looks likes canadians are just as loud and proud as americans but they save it for posts like these so the rest of the world doesn’t physically hear them…id say humans in general are tyrants of the world who choose to express it in different ways based soley on geography……yep…all the same..americans just aren’t afraid to admit it I guess. Yeah..I’m an american …could you tell?

  11. June 10, 2010

    i live in tanzania, and have traveled all over the world. just for the record…

    american males have their equivalent of the canadian flag — it’s called the baseball cap.

    and european guys have a “flag” of their own — they’re called capri pants.

    asians carry cameras.

    • debbe permalink
      June 10, 2010

      Haha, as an asian and a Canadian, I find this hilarious.

      • June 10, 2010

        in our backpacking travels, my wife, friends, and i always play games trying to guess where people are from without hearing their language or accents. the above are generalizations and stereotypes — but there’s a reason they are…

  12. June 10, 2010

    Maybe the flags come with the backpacks…”eh”.

    My daughter is Canadian and married to an American in the US Air Force.
    He is stationed at Ft. Nellis so her reality has really changed.
    As a newly married couple they are daily exploring their differences, and similarities and working for a better understanding of each other.

    She will always be what she is.
    As will he.
    But as for their kids…
    I can hope they will be the better for the experience of knowing about BOTH countries!

  13. June 10, 2010

    so i’m guessing that when i spend five weeks in canada later this summer, i shouldn’t wear my ‘these colors don’t run’ t-shirt in public?

    • June 10, 2010


    • June 10, 2010

      Taylor that is hilarious. I have to say.

    • harebell permalink
      June 10, 2010

      Are you suggesting that Canadians run?
      Because you seem to suggest that offence might be taken if you wore such a shirt.
      I hope that is not the case. The CF have a pretty proud history of operating successfully in conflicts where the enemy out number them. Including a wee jaunt to burn down the White-house a wee while back in the War of 1812, in response to American aggression.

      • jknitt permalink
        June 10, 2010

        “These colors don’t run” refers to the American flag being a constant symbol of the country. It has nothing to do with implying any kind of cowardice toward Canadians. The Forces have fought valiantly through many wars without a doubt. The “American aggression” isn’t entirely correct, though. The War of 1812 was fought because the Brittish were attempting to ignore the results of the American Revolution. Since Canada was a Brittish territory at the time that was the cause for the sacking of Toronto.

  14. June 10, 2010

    Firstly thanks to those who corrected you on the Saskatchewan and Eh. Though there are cool town names too.

    I am American and Canadian, and have spent part of my life living in both places and abroad. As someone else said, pre, during and post bush. The attitude was never any different. My cousin is a Canadian living in Greece at the moment, and she is there for only a few years, but she has a canadian bumper stikcer on herr car, and a canadian wrist band she always has with her should she run into trouble. Cars there with diplomatic plates easily get torched and rolled over and vandellised because people think they are Americans. A lot of people from the American embassy even have canadian bumperstickers to avoid it. After all the embassy there did get torched just a year or two ago… And as for the wrist band, whenever someone starts to act like a jerk calling her american she pulls it out. She told me of a time just a short while ago when she was walking her dog with a friend, speaking English. Two women passed them and assumed she was american. SHe’s lived here and visited me many times, but she hates being called something she is not. So she literally stopped the women and explained that more nations than jsut America speak english, that she spoke greek and could understand that they were scorning her and that they shouldn’t say someone is a foreigner just because their dog is groomed, well fed, well behaved and on a leash. I’m not promoting greek stereotypes, but a lot of people will buy a dog at christmas and by easter (when they realise how demanding and big a dog will get) the cities can become full of strays.

    But good email, maybe canadians should be a little more subtle about their identity…

  15. June 10, 2010

    Um, I don’t know how people do things in California, but here people put American flags all over EVERYTHING. I have no idea what you’re talking about. Sure, maybe they don’t go advertising it in other countries (Since a lot of us know we are not liked).

    My girlfriend is Canadian, which is what drew me to this. We’re getting married and I’m moving there. I hope I am not too hated there, but then again, I am not the average American anyway. For instance… I’m a socialist. And I rather dislike America and its values haha.

    • June 10, 2010

      If you look over the entire history of Canada you will find that the majority of the immigration has been from the states. That majority is becoming slimmer of course with immigration from other countries. Both of my grandparents came here from the states and we are as proud as proud can be to be Canadians and well into our fourth generation.
      It has been my experience that the best Canadians are usually Americans who have chosen to come here. One of this provinces favorite politician is Corky Evans, he was a draft dodger and he is a truly great Canadian.We don’t hate you. We love you and we welcome you, in the same way that like a church loves converts.

      andthenwe laugh

      • June 10, 2010

        Not sure where you’re getting your information from, but the majority of immigration to Canada has definitely NOT come from the US. Not by a long, long shot.

        1901 Census: 57% of immigrants were born in the British Isles, 19% in the U.S., 5% in Russia, 4% in Germany and 2.5% (17,043 people) in China.

        1911 Census: 49% of immigrants were born in the British Isles, 19% in the U.S., and 6% in Russia

        1921 Census: 52% of immigrants were born in the British Isles, 19% in the U.S. and 5% in Russia. 1,760 immigrants were born in South Africa;

        1931 Census: 49% of immigrants were born in the British Isles, 15% in the U.S., 14% in Central Europe and less than 3% in Asia.

        1941 Census: 44% of immigrants were born in the British Isles, 14% in the U.S., 7% in Poland and 5% in Russia. There were 29,095 immigrants from China (of whom only 1,426 were women), 9,462 from Japan and 5,886 other “Asians” (includes “Arabian, Armenian, Hindu, Syrian, Turkish…”).

        1951 Census: 44% of immigrants were born in the United Kingdom, 13.7% in the U.S., 9% in the USSR and 8% in Ireland. There were 37,145 immigrants from “Asiatic countries”, of whom 24,166 were from China. I

        1961 Census: 34% of immigrants were from the UK, 51% from other European countries (Italy by itself represented 9%), 10% from the U.S., 2% from “Asiatic countries”, 0.6% from “other countries” (which includes all of Africa apart from South Africa).

        1971 Census: 79% of immigrants were born in Europe (28% in the UK, 12% in Italy, 6% in Germany, 5% each in Poland and the USSR). “Asiatic countries” were the birthplace for under 4% of immigrants. All African countries are grouped under “other countries” (2% of immigrants).

        1981 Census: 67% of immigrants were born in Europe, 14% in Asia, 8.5% in North or Central America, 4.5% in the Caribbean, and 2.7% in Africa.

        1991 Census: 54% of immigrants were born in Europe, 25% in Asia, 6% in U.S., 5% in the Caribbean and 4% in Africa.

        Source: A Hundred Years of of Immigration to Canada, from The Canadian Council for Refugees.

      • June 10, 2010

        Yeah, my girlfriend comes from a family of immigrants from the Phillipines. After hearing about Toronto, I have a hard time thinking most immigrants to Canada are American even without census data.

      • June 10, 2010

        Toronto has now officially passed the half-way mark: as 0f 2006, more than half the people living here are from other countries — and most of them are from countries that don’t speak English. (I know, I know — Americans don’t speak “English” either, according to some people, but I’m not talking about that.)

  16. June 10, 2010

    I’m not Canadian, nor did I even know that Canadians stitch their flag to their bags until today, BUT, I dont see how its that big of a problem. We Americans do in fact show pride for our country, just as much as any other country does. I mean, come one, have you seen us on the Fourth of July? You see so much Red, White and Blue you start spinning. So, the Canadians have a way of showing pride (and seperating themselves from the Americans), so what? Let them be. Everyone has got their own little quirks. We’re too busy hating on other countries, and yet, we’re probably one of the most hated countries in the world, and we wonder why. Right now, we have other problems to worry about besides flags on backpacks.

  17. June 10, 2010

    This post made me wish I was Canadian! I’ve always thought the Canadian flag was beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Stars and Stripes, but nowadays (for whatever reason) it has started to become associated with rednecks, and if you wear it (as the model in that photo in the post is doing) “loudly” you are made fun of (not saying this happens all the time…but if you saw the man in the flag shirt in public, would you turn around and snicker at him? I would!). It must be nice to live in a country where you can wear your beautiful flag around and not be accused of redneckery.
    Granted, I am a college student living in a city full of college students who are fascinated by rednecks (they have redneck-themed parties that are FULL of flag shirts! Strange?). So perhaps my view is skewed just a little.

    • June 10, 2010

      haha, i would LOVE to see a redneck-themed party. i’ve been called that (or hillbilly) a few times, and would be fascinated to see just how one ‘dresses up’ to resemble my kind! 😀

  18. June 10, 2010

    I am a Canadian (and proud to be). Although I may not exhibit the amount of national pride that Americans do, when my husband and I travelled Europe, it became necessary to wear out flag. Why, as you asked. Well because on a few occasions, Europeans mistook us for Americans and threw rocks and bottles at us. No, we did not aggravate them or anything like that. It is because other nations are familiar with the rudeness that comes along with being an American. So I’m sorry that we wear our flag, it’s simply because we don’t want to be mistaken for you.

  19. June 10, 2010

    As a Canadian, I used to cringe a little seeing the flag on people’s backpacks while traveling, but I’ve come across too many Canadians, with flags, backpacking with Texan, Boston, and New York accents to make me feel anything … other than highly suspicious.
    It must be strange to put another country’s flag on your backpack. It must be strange to put your own country’s flag on a backpack as well, but it happens.

    You are very wrong about other countries not putting a flag on their backpacks. Norway is probably the biggest offender… if this has become offensive somehow.

    note: congrats on getting on “Freshly Pressed”.

  20. June 10, 2010

    When I first started travelling my dad sewed the Canadian flag to my backpack. And honest to goodness, at that time I had no idea other countries didn’t do the same. Then while travelling I quickly realize no one else wore a flag.

    But I left it on. Because why not? People who backpack are open minded, so as far as judgement is concerned it is never a problem. And being away from Canada, and seeing all these incredible cultures and countries, has strengthened my Canadian identity and now when I meet a fellow Canadian (because I live in England), it’s like visiting home again.

    We’re proud, and we can get away with it. Those are two reasons we wear the flag.

    (Incidentally my husband is Hungarian and we met backpacking. He didn’t have a flag, so I asked why, to which he replied: “what if you meet a country whose your enemy?” That was certainly an eye opener for this naive Canadian.)

  21. June 10, 2010

    It’s better than wearing frat letters. Ugh.

    Please stop with all the meanie stereotypes some of you commenters. Goodness gracious. I’m American but I’m not a rich, loud, & obnoxious businessman. Please be my friend, I like Ryan Reynolds.

    • June 10, 2010

      ditto. (to more than just the ryan reynolds shoutout, might i add.)

      • June 10, 2010

        I agree, being Canadian I always get the “why do you guys hate us so much?” (along with the “oh, is you’re igloo still frozen up there…EEEEHHHH”). We don’t hate you –well most of us–contrary to what some of these commenters are saying. But we do get ALOT of grief from Americans for whatever reasons (there’s a few) and so we just try to ‘avoid’ being called one. Especially because of the harsh stereotypes that come with it. Ours are much nicer.
        But like I said in my comment, I’ll be married to an American soon and he’s from Texas of all nationalistic places (I keep getting reminded that Texas used to be it’s own country once) and he is loud sometimes and very American, but I still love him1 😉

  22. June 10, 2010

    Well that stirred up a bit of a hornets nest didn’t it? Well done!

    • June 10, 2010

      Thanks 😉 It’s always interesting to hear both sides of a story.

      Certainly the greatest number of riled up Canadians I’ve ever seen.

  23. June 10, 2010

    Do people have preconceptions about Canadians? The only one I’ve ever heard is that they’re polite. I lived near the Canadian border for a lot of years and spent time up there and knew a lot of people from there … and they WERE polite! 🙂

    Well, one of them ended up relieving me of that notion. But the rest were pretty awesome.

  24. June 10, 2010

    Interesting blog and it was also very interesting reading the comments. Us Brits need a little flag when we go to USA as well because everyone there says we sound Australian! It happens all the time!!

  25. June 10, 2010

    Backpacking is not without hazards. Apart from being mistaken for a US citizen (it seems that those who should not represent their country manage to get abroad most often), there’s bears, lions, mushrooms, trucks, lunatics, and weather. The flag is so whoever stumbles on the corpse will know where to ship the body. I don’t know why more people don’t adopt this sensible precaution.

    • northpike permalink
      June 10, 2010

      That is the most awesome reason to wear a flag I’ve ever heard.

    • June 10, 2010

      Right. Because if there’s no other identification then they’ll just ship the body to Canada with a “Return to Sender” stamp on, and if there is identification — well, it’s just easier to look at the flag on the knapsack (which may not even represent the country the person is from) than to look at their bloody passport.

      No, really. I believe you.

      • thesundaygap permalink
        June 10, 2010

        Frank, your seeming lack of a sense of humor is funny.

        For argument’s sake, let’s dissect the joke.

        If the remains of a human were found without proper identification, the local police would go through procedure to attempt to identify the body. This of course would vary from country to country, but it is safe to assume that if there IS someone investigating the death of an as of yet unidentified person, before checking teeth and fingerprints against national databases (if these records exist in said country), these policemen and women would look around a bit for evidence as to who the deceased was and how they came to be deceased.

        No wallet (stolen, eaten or left behind in the hotel)? Skin coloring notably different from the majority of the local populace? Clothes on the body not of the local style? These investigators, upon finding any nationally identifying item WOULD likely check with that particular embassy (i.e. the country whose flag was stitched onto the backpack found nearby) in order to find a match in that embassy’s visa records.

        It might not help – circumstantial evidence is, well, circumstantial. But a phone call is a lot easier than an autopsy.

      • June 10, 2010

        Thanks, sundaygap. But couldn’t they simply identify the person as being Canadian by the halo and number of forest animals paying homage to a fallen saint?

      • June 11, 2010

        That is amazing. I love it.

      • June 11, 2010

        Thank you. I’m here all week.

  26. June 10, 2010

    I am proud to be the citizen of my country. But showing it off like saying “hey, take notice! I am from bla bla bla coming to your country. ” It’s just not the way I believe I should follow. Physically, I guess people can at least guess where I am from. I can see how dangerous it is to be chauvinistic.

  27. June 10, 2010

    I always though it was because they were a bit geeky, but now I see the reason behine it.

    There was a comment about people from the USA putting up flags and stuff – “Um, I don’t know how people do things in California, but here people put American flags all over EVERYTHING” – the point here is that these people don’t leave the USA though and it’s probably good that they don’t.

  28. June 10, 2010

    It isn’t just that they sew their flag on their backpacks, they plaster the maple leaf on EVERYTHING. I’ve traveled all over the world (China, Thailand, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Greece, France, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Costa Rica, Croatia and Canada) and no one else puts their flags on everything they way Canadians do. Great post. I thought I was the only one who thought the overuse of the Canadian flag was a little odd.

  29. kdstonebraker permalink
    June 10, 2010

    There is a prejudice expressed here that Americans are considered loud and obnoxious and Europeans find them unattractive. My experience backpacking the Camino de Santiago two summers ago confirmed just the opposite. We Americans were never treated with anything but kindness and graceful curiosity. Nearly everyone who found out we were Americans were friendly and eager to know more about us. So give the Europeans and us Americans the credit we deserve, please. We got along just fine, thank you.

    • June 10, 2010

      I agree, kdstonebraker. I spent six months in Edinburgh, working in a place where I met people from all over the world. No one treated me badly when they found out I am American (and this was during the Bush years). Although some times I was mistaken for a Canadian! 🙂

      Stereotyping anyone, be they American, Canadian, or whatever, reflects poorly on the people doing the stereotyping.

  30. June 10, 2010

    The Maple Leaf actually is a secret code: In many areas of the world where we have been peacekeepers or liberators (legit liberators), it’s a fast-track to being liked by the locals. In the Netherlands there are many stories of people who get free room and board at a B&B because they are Canadian. Furthermore, because we more or less look and sound like Americans (with the exception of regionalised dialects like Newfoundlander, Nova Scotian, Quebec English, and British Columbian English) it deflects the assumption that we are Americans, one we don’t appreciate.

    In short, it’s all your (Americans) fault.

    • Dean permalink
      August 30, 2010

      huh, I never realized we had a distinct accent here in BC.

      “it deflects the assumption that we are Americans, one we don’t appreciate.”

      That’s why I sewed a flag on my bag when I backpacked in Central America. Sure, it’s a bit pretentious. But I think the only people annoyed by it are other tourists, and not the locals. In places like Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras there are still hard feelings about ham-handed US foreign policy, so what can I say? I don’t want to be automatically identified as American.

      Also it’s a conversation starter with locals. A lot of the locals I met on my trip are curious about Canada. They have an impression of Canada being this exotic land of snow and igloos (which is funny for someone from Victoria, where it never snows)

  31. June 10, 2010

    Haha to Renee! People always say they can tell I’m Canadian casue I say sorry and thank you and your welcome and such way too much! Though Ill take that as a complimetn!

    As for Puerto Escondido, my art teacher is welsh, and for a long time her worked on various cruise ships as a photographer, traveling the world and bein artistic about it. He tells us the story that he was on a ship in Alaska with a bunch of Americans and they go to him and say “Hey, Mark, I love your accent, where ya from? no wait let me guesse… Austrailia?”

    “No, try the other side of the world.”
    “Ok, then New Zealand?”

    He doesn’t have anything against him though he dislikes how they CAN make assumptions and be pig headed and such (not saying they are but merely can. My parents were very strict about bringing us up so as not to believe stereotypes, especially after we moved to New York from Montreal (and its not even THAT far away) and adults were asking us if we enjoyed the warm weather… and then thought we were dillusional to tell them it was the same back home that time of year…) No but serioiusly people asked if we had pet polar bears and how we kept our igloos from melting in the sun. We’ve gotten over it, and though Im not saying every american is as naive as a 5 year old, cause I half consider myself american too, depending on how I feel, people abroad really have come to believe the stereotypes about americans because they have been proven true too many times.

    • June 10, 2010

      haa, yeah my fiance says that “you can tell any Canadian, accent or not, by the way– not necessarily the amount (though we do say it A LOT!)– we say “sorry” and “been”. ie.:
      CAD: “so-ree”
      USA: “saw-ree”

      CAD: “bee-n”
      USA: “bin”

      I say “bag” funny too, but I don’t know how to describe that one cuz I can’t hear the difference. I’m like The Pink Panther saying “ham-burger” I just don’t see a difference…

      • June 10, 2010

        I noticed the “sorry” thing with Michael J. Fox on Family Ties! It was always so jarring to my ears because here he was supposed to be this kid from Ohio (I’m from Ohio) and then he’d say, “sorry,” and it would just totally kill it for me.

  32. June 10, 2010

    True, canadians are seen as more peaceful. Also Having been to other embassies for other countries not just american and canadian aroudn the world I can say that nearly everyone has pins, stamps, stickers, patches and even pencils with their country emblazoned on it. My favourites are the double falg stamps, canadian (or american) with the domestic country as well. I collect them because I think they are so great and diplomatic. These nick nacks are on offer everywhere.

    I though, contrary to kdstonebraker have found that i am much more openmindingly recived when people know that I’m Canadian, though even I get mistaken for being british! I don’t understand how much people can get accents mixed up, but for the aspect of how everyone is saying “Canadians just don’t want to be mistaken for Americans…” totally acceptable, who wants to be something they are not! And its the same thing, do you think Japanese or korean or Tiwanese like being mistake for Chinese every time they travel by a touch of ignorance on a random person’s part?

    (just realised Ive posted three times and never congratulated you on Freshly Pressed. This is a…entertaining and… occupying article, it certainly takes some stimulation of the mind! looking at things from different points of views).

  33. June 10, 2010

    Even Canada’s Sears Roebuck has a little maple leaf on its signs, though I, for one, find it rather charming.

    The Codger

  34. June 10, 2010

    you know what? i’m Canadian and the whole flagpatch thing never made much sense to me either. when i was traveling, i loved being anonymous, and after a while the sight of the infamous maple leaf patch on nearly every other Canadian’s backpack filled me with annoyance.

    sadly, i actually think it comes from ignorance. the idea of advertising our nationality so that we won’t be mistaken for Americans. so that we’ll be treated better. it’s sickeningly passive-aggressive.

    but you know what else? we do it at home too. so it isn’t just an international backpacking thing. it isn’t as annoying on Canadian turf, and obviously the message at home is one of pride rather than a not-so-subtle declaration of superiority.

    i love my country, and i’m proud to be a Canadian. i wave the flag on Canada Day. and that’s enough for me 🙂

  35. June 10, 2010

    Personally, I wear a pin. Very discrete.
    And it’s because I am always accused of being from America.

    I get questions like: ” I know I am going to sound terribly thick, but is Canada actually attached to America?”.

    I love Americans. The ones I have met anyway.
    I scratch my head over American policies sometimes.

    I vacationed in Cuba this spring. (No need to wear the flag there BTW.)
    What a blown opportunity, if only the Americans of the 50’s were just a little less greedy and corrupt. Beautiful people and culture that dared to stand up to corruption and greed, the only way that was going to work.

  36. June 10, 2010

    I have backpacked quite extensively and I can guarantee you that seeing Australians and Americans and other backpackers with flags on their backpacks was primarily the reason why I returned home and put a Canadian flag on mine for future travels. You’re wrong to assume the whole world hates the U.S. In some regions, such as Central America, and parts of Latin America, Canadians are actually the most hated people of all. Dear Canadians, you can thank the practices of the mining industries for that.

  37. June 10, 2010

    Canadians have the flag for pretty much the same reason everyone has said: So people know we’re not American. And it’s not from the Bush years. My dad went to England in the 70’s and it wasn’t until the English found out he was from Canada that they would treat him well. He told me one story about a guy who was about to knock him out because he thought he was American. My dad corrected him and the guy took him to a pub and bought him some pints by way of apology.

    Another quick story: A coworker (British) was living in France. A French guy came up to him and asked if he was American. The Brit said, “No” and was promptly punched in the face. The French guy thought he was lying.

    From personal experience, I HATE being mistaken for American. Always have, always will.

  38. June 10, 2010

    Sorry to break it to you…. but

    1) it’s Eh, not Ey

    and 2):

    Us Canadians wear a flag when we travel so we aren’t mistaken for dumbass Americans. Everyone loves a Canadian. We don’t fight, we’re a peace keeping country. We are respectful to our people, our cultures, our environment… Americans are greedy war hungry ignorant people. And the world knows that. As a tourist/traveler with a Canadian Flag, we get paid a lot more respect and kindness than when we don’t have one. People are fascinated with Canada because we are the peace keeping gentle country, plus the world is ignorant and think it’s really “cool” that we all live in igloos and travel by dogsled.


    (And btw, yes, I know not EVERY American sucks, just like I know that not EVERY Canadian is a hero, but if you compare actual statistics, studies, and polls, what I’ve stated above is true, sorry dudes.)

  39. Marco permalink
    June 10, 2010

    I have wonder the same about americans with USA flags outside of their houses, and they are still in the USA. But I guess that is the same, it’s easy to identify americans because they are the only ones with huge camping bags, shorts, sandals in the middle of the city’s downtown (not a rural town) or trying to get into a nice restaurant and asking why they are not allowed to enter.

    Every time I think of a Canadian, I always remember: Nice people, helpful, fun, easy going, and educated.

  40. June 10, 2010

    Here’s a bit of irony: A lot of people here are talking about how Americans are hated around the world based solely on the actions of a few and patting themselves on the back and feeling superior for feeling that way.

    I’m American. I have seen people from other countries come here and act like boobs. I don’t assume everyone in their country is also a boob.

    I also know a lot of people from other countries who came here TO LIVE and love this country and the people in it. That includes several Canadians who emigrated to the US.

    I don’t think I’m a superior human being because I’m American, but I am incredibly greatful to live here and enjoy the freedoms we still have. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    • Borninthebush permalink
      June 10, 2010

      As a Canadian, I have never worn a flag when travelling in other countries. However, I must say that I have occasionally encountered animosity when people thought I was from the USA. Asked if I was from America, I answered, “yes, from Canada,” only to find that they often do not know the difference. I have on occasion sketched a map to indicate where Canada lies in relation to the USA and Mexico. An example: Entering a pub in Dublin I was greeted by silence and icy stares before they realized I am Canadian. After that it was a merry and delightful evening. And yes, at times there were threats of violence in some situations where I was believed to be from the USA. I find this unfortunate because when in the USA I have found people tremendously hospitable and generous, polite and respectful. However, that said, there seems to be a transformation beyond their borders, when many Americans – not all by any means – become loud, rude and disrespectful, as though superior to the “natives.” I’ve seen this attitude in Canadians as well. It’s truly a puzzle. It seems that many people of all countries hold stereotypes of those from other countries or cultures, though Americans, due I believe, to their government’s policies, are more often targets. For some reason that eludes me, I have also seen anti- Swedish attitudes when travelling. Go figure, eh.

  41. June 10, 2010

    When I was in England a few years ago with my sister, we stopped at this coffee shop in the train station before boarding a train to Central London. The attendant at the coffee shop was talking on the phone. My sister and I politely waited to be served. He must have heard us speaking to one another because he put down the phone for a second and asked us, “Are you American?” We said no, we were from Canada. After confirming we weren’t American, he hung up the phone and served us. Afterward he asked us about Canada. That’s why we wear flags. Most people are at best ambivalent towards Americans and at worst flat out dislike them. Conversely, most people like Canadians. It’s unfair, but that’s the way it is. Blame Ann Coulter and Bush.

  42. June 10, 2010

    They do it not just to avoid be confused for Americans, but for their own safety. Americans don’t exactly have a great reputation in the world, so it helps protect them against haters and terrorists.

    I love it. I love seeing the Canadian flag on backpacks. Makes me know I’m traveling with nice folks. 🙂

  43. Kaffejenta permalink
    June 10, 2010

    Just a side note: some Europeans stitch flags on to their backpacks when they’re backpacking. Especially Scandinavians. 🙂

  44. June 10, 2010

    Since we’re sharing stories, word of note first off: I don’t think ALL Americans are like this BTW…
    My dad had to make a business call to the US to order some parts. Speaking with the secretary, it came time for the shipping details, and the conversation is as follows:
    DAD: “OK, so the address is ________ Calgary.”
    SEC:”Where is that?”
    DAD:”in Alberta”
    SEC: “OK, where is that?”
    DAD: “…, in Canada!?”
    SEC: “And where is that sir?”
    DAD: “….. um….. it’s the country above you…”

    Come on really? I didn’t believe it myself, but it’s true.
    I’ve also heard a story about a lady in the US who thought that Alaska was an island (so it’s impossible to be cold). When questioned, she took out a map and showed them that alaska was indeed right beside Hawaii…in a cropped box.

    • Borninthebush permalink
      June 10, 2010

      Re: the posting by Kristi. It can be quite hillarious at times. In Hawaii a couple on a bus asked me where I lived. Not thinking, I replied “British Columbia.” There was a thoughtful pause after which the gentleman said ” Oh, South America!”
      To be fair though, I must add that I spent two months in New Jersey and found that the average person I talked to knew as much and in some cases more than the average Joe in Canada. I was truly surprised at that. They’d learned it in their schools they told me.

      • June 10, 2010

        The lady collecting billing infromation at an Amercian hospital my girlfriend unfortunately had to go to thought that Canadians had social security numbers, ans her argument was like, “My sister is from Alaska and she has a social security number.”


        Americans often are very unaware of existence outside of their little part of America.

  45. June 10, 2010

    Probably everything I say will have already been said.

    The truth of the matter is that Americans are not well respected abroad. Canadians wear their flag so they aren’t mistaken for Americans. We don’t get as ripped off as our neighbours do, and we get to hear what people really think of Americans. Unfortunately or fortunately, the distinction between us works in our favour.

    Perhaps Americans should learn more about their foreign policies and proxy wars. Their arrogance in trying to tell people how to live, and what to believe. Perhaps, the infiltration of media and pop culture is really not as desirable as Americans think it is. Some people see your multinational corporations as a disease and trap to enslave. Some people are quite content with their own traditions and values. Freedom is a word tossed around so lightly in American vocabulary. Some people out there know it is just an illusion and are quite content with their own ideals, without Americans telling them there is a better way, or forcing upon them a way which is not compatible with their own vision of what happiness is.

    And while I’m here, what is it with Americans who travel to foreign countries and cannot stomach ‘foreign food’? I’ve witnessed Americans embarrass themselves, with an absolute lack of respect towards beautiful tasty foreign cuisine. If you really want McDonalds in India, China or Thailand, then seriously, just go home.

    I am not a Canadian who wears a flag, but, the reasons mentioned above are only some of them. Sorry to be so brutally honest but it’s the truth. Americans are making life increasingly difficult for the rest of the world, including Canadians who tend to be dragged into your crimes and having your views also imposed upon us.

  46. June 10, 2010

    The over-the-top use of the Canadian flag inside Canada has to be understood in context of Trudeau’s “just-watch-me” forceful keeping the rest of Canada prisoner in the union with Quebec when the majority of English speakers wanted to be rid of such resentful, and Roman Catholic, non-Anglo-Saxon aliens.

    I am British (English with a large portion of Scottish roots) with siblings who emmigrated to Canada, and nephews and nieces who were born Canadian, plus their kids now.

    I supported Quebec indpendence. I remember the bitter anti-Trudeau resentment of the English-speaking population when bilingual labels and signs bloomed over everything.

    Finally, we must not forget that the old Canadian flag had the British Union Flag in the top left corner. When the new, maple leaf, flag won the competition, it was necessary to fly it and flourish it everywhere to impress it firmly into the minds of both young and old.

  47. June 10, 2010

    I really thought Americans knew why we wore a flag on our luggage overseas? Sorry but I’ve seen first hand at several places in Europe in many establishments peoples faces change when they hear a North American accent and then they find out I’m from Canada. It’s like some sort of relief on their faces. I was a Travel Agent for many years and travelled a lot and I think one thing other countries appreciate about Canadians is that we know and take the time to know about the rest of the world, it’s taught in our schools.I travelled with American travel agents quite a few times and they admit they weren’t taught about the rest of world, it was something they had to pursue by themselves. So there’s another reason beside politics that Americans are looked at with some trepeditation by the rest of the world. A little knowledge about your host countries goes a long way.

  48. June 10, 2010

    I remember it starting back in the late ’60s, early ’70s, and the reason given then was to avoid being mistaken for Americans, who were universally disliked because of the Vietnam War. Since then the specifics have changed, but the underlying reason has stayed the same.

    Speaking as a Canadian, I found it somewhat offensive then, and even more so now. I’m especially tired of the “Oh, we Canadians aren’t as loudly patriotic as Americans” schtick. Truth is, our patriotism is smug, annoying, and based almost entirely on NOT being American.

    I like Canada. I do. I’m happy to live here, and I think I may prefer it over the States in some ways. (And it is true that in some ways we’re not as patriotic — at least in terms of having the flag in front of our houses, hanging from out windows — as Americans.) But our anti-Americanism pisses the hell out of me.

    The reason Canadians wear flags when backpacking is because we don’t like the States, and know that most of the rest of the world shares our predjudice. Wearing the Canadian flag in other countries is a way of pandering to them. “See?” we’re saying, “we’re like you — we don’t like America either. Don’t hit us.”

    When you’re a huge, successful country donating billions of dollars in foreign aid and relief to less fortunate (or more poorly-run) countries, there are two reactions possible from the rest of the world: admiration or hatred.

    Admiration calls for a bit of humility, so hatred is pretty much the default position.

    • June 10, 2010

      Thanks, Frank. I really appreciated reading this, especially in light of all the negative comments.

      I, too, hate that we’re so demonized for our mistakes (which are many, no one denies that) but no one ever acknowledges all the good we’ve done. As you say, that requires humility. It’s acceptable to hate Americans, but it’s not really acceptable to openly ridicule any other nationality: that gets you labeled a racist, or intolerant, or bigoted. Soon enough the forces of time will change the world landscape and America’s time of power will come to an end, and people will re-direct their anger to the new big player.

      I’ve never received overtly poor service or even an unwelcome look because of my nationality from people who were serving me. The only people who received me with animosity were drunk people who would corner me in the toilet and demand to know why “all” Americans were terrible human beings. I’d then have a calm, civilized conversation with them, and they’d come away from it saying something like, “You know, I like you. You’re not like most Americans.” I’d ask how many Americans they know and more often than not they’d stammer, “Er, um, well none, actually.” *sigh*

      But I never, ever received poor service from anyone serving me in any capacity, and I really have to wonder how people manage to make their flag patch (which is presumably usually on their backs and which numerous Canadians have noted is usually quite small) noticeable to their waitress or airline attendant or hotel concierge. That must take some awfully impressive contortions and not so subtle maneuvers. I can’t help but think that the “better service” claim is imagined and invalid in almost every instance, and that it has more to do with, as you say, smug pandering than it does with any actual difference in the service received.

      Finally, to everyone who claims “American schools” (as if, like everything else in America, our school system is one big homogeneous system with no differences across the entire country) don’t teach Canadian or world history and geography, I spent half a year on Canadian history alone and was required to memorize “O Canada.” It’s like there are, you know, differences between education levels and personality and political leanings between Americans, just like in every other country in the world, and that we’re not all exactly the same. Craziness!

      • June 10, 2010

        I teach college English in Toronto. The students in my classes are pretty well evenly divided between foreign born and Canadian born. Hardly any of my Canadian students know a damned thing about the States. Not saying they should, just stating a fact.

        Hell, for years I thought Boston was sort of around the Great Lakes.

        Turns out I was wrong.

        I don’t know how the rumour got started that Canadians know way more about the States than they do about us, but it’s a half truth at best.

        And even if true — well duh! The States has ten times our population and a hell of a lot more interesting history than we do. Not putting our history down, but it’s been nowhere near as dramatic. You guys had a war of independence, a civil war, civil rights riots, and Abraham Lincoln.

        We had courier du bois and John A. MacDonald.

        Really, which would you rather read about?

    • June 10, 2010

      Well said, both of you. I think a lot of the commentators are missing the point I’m trying to get across: stop judging based on nationality.

      America is so easy to hate on and you can see it here throughout many of the comments. A lot of people are also taking the actions of *America* and blaming it on *Americans*, an unfair assumption.

      Canadians, it seems, stereotype quite a bit.

      • GOODLAD permalink
        June 10, 2010

        “Canadians, it seems, stereotype quite a bit.”

        – Isn’t this also a steroetype??(unless you were trying to be ironic)

  49. June 10, 2010

    It’s so we don’t get mistaken for Americans–we’ll be treated much better that way.

    And you’re not doing the ignorant American stereotype any favours by calling Saskatchewan a “town.” It’s a province, which is comparable to one of your states.

  50. June 10, 2010

    Personally, I put the flag on my bag for one very simple reason. I was given the bag as a gift. It had an ugly logo on the top that I didn’t like, but was otherwise a very good piece of luggage. So I slapped a Canadian flag over the offending logo and travelled on my merry way.

  51. Car permalink
    June 10, 2010

    I’m proud to be a Canadian and proud to wear my flag on my backpack for all the reasons aforementioned. I was in Germany two weeks ago and before I left I debated as to whether I would attach our flag to my luggage. I chose not to and once again (as it always does) the topic of me being a Canadian who sounds like an American came up. Those of us Canadians in the group were (once again) admant about the fact that we were not Americans even though we kind of sounded like “ya’ll.”

    I will say though, that I do love and appreciate you Americans but I am definitely and wholeheartedly Canadian…

  52. June 10, 2010

    “America” is NOT a country, is a whole continent you guys…. United States of America is the name of the country you constantly refer as America.

    Even Canadians are American, Mexican too, Paraguayans, Chileans….all of us american, I hate it when people say it wrong

    • June 10, 2010

      Actually you are wrong. North America is a continent, which includes the USA, Canada and Mexico. South America is a separate continent. They are collectively known as The Americas. However, all USA citizens refer to themselves as Americans, because it is the United states of America.

      • June 10, 2010

        not separate continet, one continent, divided by 3: north, central and south…just for the location, but not as 3 different continents.

        In Canada I had a teacher, Mr. Lemieux, who told me Mexico was South America…. and he was a teacher!!! Of course, we are not called americans, but it bugs me when people refer as Americans on US. citizens, that’s all.

      • June 10, 2010

        Do you live in Europe or Latin America, Red Anana? If so, what you’re saying is true. But in most English-speaking countries and China, they’re taught that there are seven continents, with North and South America counting as two, with Central America being part of North America.

        In Japan, Russia, and the former USSR, they also teach six continents, but while they have North and South America as separate, they combine Europe and Asia into Eurasia.

        “Continent” is largely a matter of convention, rather than reality.

    • June 11, 2010

      I have to say that while what you say is accurate it ignores the appropriation of the term by those who live in the United States of America and those overseas who define … things … from North America as American, regardless of whether or not a thing is Canadian or Mexican or even “American”.

      Frankly unless it is a mountie, an inuit / eskimo a moose or a seal clubber, it won’t register as anything but American or from America.

      • June 11, 2010

        I don’t think it’s fair to call it “appropriation.” If you belong to a country called “The United States of America,” you’re going to naturally shorten it to “America.” I’m sure the early United States of Americans weren’t trying to appropriate anything. They were just saving time.

  53. jackolina permalink
    June 10, 2010

    When I’m travelling, I like to make my bag as easy to find as possible on a baggage carousel. A Canadian flag patch and a bright scarf wound tightly around the handle works for me. When a Canadian visits other parts of the world, the last thing we want is to be mistaken for American. I was once in a restaurant in France and when they heard me speak (in French) they picked up on an accent and asked if I was American. When I corrected them, we were moved to a better location in the restaurant. Fair? No. But internationally Canadians do have a better reputation than our Southern neighbours. We’re polite, considered unassuming and our political policies are by and large respected by other nations.

    I know it’s been noted already but Saskatchewan is a Province, not a town. A Province is similar to a State. And those kind of gaffes that point to an American education system that is not big on teaching world geography is why we proudly show our flag. It also makes us chuckle at our neighbours in our good natured way.

  54. June 10, 2010

    I must say that it took me a few weeks into traveling to meet another American traveler, I met Canadians first, so maybe you see more bc there are FAR less American travelers.

    I’ve seen some patch collectors as well as some Europeans wear their flags.

    I think it’s more than Bush that gave us Americans a bad name, it has to do with the way that Americans travel. All you can do is become someone that puts Americans a better light. Although people that have never met a German may have a predisposition about them, they were some of the nicest people that I have traveled alongside and people I am still in contact with.

    Red Anna… the same way people say you’re in America, speak English… English is the language of England. People from Mexico are proud to say they’re Mexican and people from Colombia, Colombians… I don’t think that they would prefer to be called Americans. A South American would say they’re South American and a North American North (with the exception of Central American at times).

    I say rock whatever you like on your pack as long as you are proud of it and it doesn’t offend the places/people you are visiting.

  55. kevin permalink
    June 10, 2010

    You highlight the reason we wear the Canadian flag beautifully in your blog post- your ignorance is astounding. The exact reason I wear a Canadian flag on my backpack is because nothing is more offensive to me than being called American. Its not pride, it is the simple fact that I want people to knwo that although I sound similar I am not American. Not to say we don’t have our fair share of biggots, morons, fast food and over consumption but I would say we share a fundamental difference in the way we look at the world. You mention the look on peoples face when you say you voted for Obama as if you saved the world yourself. *heavy sarcasm* Round of applause please, this guy voted! The fact of the matter is that in the rest of the world, they are not constantly focused on the United States. Listen to what you said, you are telling these people your voting preference to prove to them that you are an American that shouldn’t be hated. As far as your whole blank slate theory of traveling, a blank slate sounds great if you are someone completely ashamed of where you come from and who you are. I for one am glad to share my culture with people and am not afraid of what they will think of me because I am Canadian. Blog posts like this are why I will continue to try my best to never be associated with your country.

    • June 10, 2010

      I’m not sure how you developed your vitriol towards America but you shouldn’t confuse America with Americans. While every country does things that are regretful, you shouldn’t blame it on an individual nor judge them for what their country did.

      Do you also hate Germans because of what they did in WWII? What about the Japanese and Italians?

      And the Obama point wasn’t there to prove that I “save the world”; it was to illustrate that foreigners like Obama.

  56. June 10, 2010

    Come to Canada and wear whatever flag you want wherever you want to wear it!

    • June 10, 2010

      Actually, don’t. If you wear an American flag (sorry, a U.S.A. flag) you’ll face a lot of antagonism. If you don’t believe me, re-read most of these posts.

  57. June 10, 2010

    Wearing the Canadian flag is just a good move, as mentioned by many already. People are only too happy when learning we’re from Canada. What’s wrong with wanting to be treated better during your travels? And in regards to Obama – despite his ‘rockstar’ charisma, attitudes towards the United States haven’t changed that much, believe me.

  58. June 10, 2010

    The reason Canadians wear the flag is because the moment you open your mouth to speak while backpacking people make assumptions about where you’re from. Just the accent gives away that you’re from some part of North America and usually that’s all it takes for someone to assume that you are from the U.S.A. and thus you have all the stereotypes associated with Americans.

    As another note, Saskatchewan is not a town.

  59. jabertra permalink
    June 10, 2010

    I’m so glad that people have already mentioned the errors in this post – saves me from mentioning them!
    I am a Canadian and I have lived outside of Canada for so long now, I am so used to being mistaken for an American. In fact, I almost wait for it. My accent is very ordinary (not exotic like an Australian or South African accent) and so I understand that it is hard for people to tell the difference. I sometimes mix up different accents myself. But… for me the litmus test for Canadians is how they feel about maple syrup.

  60. June 10, 2010

    This reminds me of when I went to college in Canada, and attended a class on Nationalism. One time we were discussing whether we thought Canada or the US were more nationalistic. I am from El Salvador, and had not (yet) lived in the US. I raised my hand and offered my opinion that Canadians were more nationalistic than Americans, because wherever they went, I had noticed they displayed their flag on their bags. Just then, someone said out loud from the opposite side of the auditorium: “It’s not that we are more nationalistic, it’s just that we don’t want to get killed!”.

    Guess that despite Obama now being president, Canadians may still be concerned that other people still remember what happened before he was elected.

  61. Bubs permalink
    June 10, 2010

    I travelled through Europe in the 70’s and we put a small Canadian flag sticker on our luggage, so it isn’t anything new. At the time, Americans were critisized for being occupiers in other countries and killing innocent people in Viet Nam. I encountered a lot of anti-American sentiment overseas.

  62. June 10, 2010

    My husband and I just spent the fall (2009) backpacking through Europe, with a Canadian flag on ONE of our packs–and when we stopped to ask for directions, people would sneer at us and say, “Oh, you are American.” And we would answer, “No, we are Canadian.” And their demeanour would change, and they would happily give us directions, even some of them taking us directly to the place we were looking to go and giving us their phone number to come by later. The same thing when I travelled Central America in 2005-2006. Hostility, until I mentioned “soy Canadiense.”

    Obama or no, some people don’t have the bad American taste our of their mouths just yet, as other readers have mentioned.

  63. June 10, 2010

    So it looks like I’ve hit a touchy point amongst Canadians and hopefully I have not offended anyone greatly.

    This point of the post was to use something that annoys me and expand into a broader topic: accepting someone for who they truly are.

    Backpacking, is the truest sense of that. In our everyday lives, we are not afforded that luxury because our friends, our coworkers, our family already know us. But on the road, no one does and that’s the beauty of it. You get a chance to meet someone and see who they really are. By putting on a flag, that judgement is already skewed even before meeting them.

    As I’m scanning through the comments, I’ve noticed a lot of anti-American sentiment. I hope people realize that a country’s political actions do not determine the ideals and personalities of its citizens. Not every American is a war-mongering, loud-mouthed, get-in-your-face person. Likewise, not every American backpacker are as some described above.

    Don’t let a couple rotten apples spoil the basket and judge each person as an individual, not based on what their country’s president does. I think if we tried doing this a little more, instead of having our judgement clouded by stereotypes and politics, the world would be a much better place.

  64. June 10, 2010

    I’m a Canadian living in the U.S. I try to keep a flag with the U.S. flag on one side and the Canadian on the other. That way I can flip it according to which way the wind is blowing.

    As a totally sexist and unrelated comment, the guy in the U.S. shirt would be welcome in either country, I suspect, at any time.

    When I moved here I was floored at how little Americans new about Canada, seeing as we DO border one another. People were asking me if there were polar bears running around the neighborhood and assumed that I lived in an igloo. Many people had no idea that Canada had provinces and not states. One person thought that B.C. was the only “state” in Canada and that it spanned half the continent.

    I love living in the U.S. I love Canada. I do at times, however, feel that Americans forget to move outside their borders and familiarize themselves with other countries. Just my humble opinion.

  65. northpike permalink
    June 10, 2010

    Oh, man. Your note about people who are US natives pretending to be canadians made me laugh.

    A lot of US people trying to escape our own stereotypes pretend to be Canadian because it’s easy, because the vast majority of Canadians speak English.

    As for me, I happen to be a Chicagoan (Chicago is in the Midwest area). What would I do when I go abroad? I’d pretend to be Mexican.

    I’m good at Spanish and have a decent Mexican accent, because I often watch Mexican videos and things on the internet.

    It’s easy because with Canadians, there’s always a chance that it might be a USA’an in disguise, but the distaste that some of my fellow countrymen have for our southern neighbors is famous as well.

  66. June 10, 2010

    Every country should be proud to represent their flag where ever they go. Americans should feel differently. I am an American who would rather have been born and raised in Canada. The Great Canada should wear their flag proud, even on their backpack.


  67. Cdn_in_GA permalink
    June 10, 2010

    My backpacking days were pre-Bush and the Canadian Flag on the backpack was pre-dominant as ever.

    Personally, I didn’t don one on my backpack, but most Canucks I came across did. The only people who really seemed to take offense to it were the other American Backpackers.

    The Canadian folklore is that the you’ll get better service if you distinguish yourself from the Americans. I’m a Canadian living in the US for over 10 years now and I don’t really buy into it. I got good service in France, only when I opened my mouth and started speaking French. German in Germany and so on. I’m not saying you have to be fluent in every nation you visit, but learning the pleasantries goes a long way, regardless of your country of origin.

  68. June 10, 2010

    As a Canadian, the answer to the blog post question seems so obvious and the comments bare this out. Our subtle little Canadian flag stitched to the back of our backpack gives us safer passage and better service when traveling. So much so, that an American may sew a bigger Canadian flag on their backpack:))))

    What surprises me however, is how carefully we Canadians explain our reason for Canadian flags on our luggage to an American blogger – not once but over 70 times… Is it self-defence or patience? Thank you pduan for setting the stage to gather some great Canadian flag wearing stories.

  69. Dennis permalink
    June 10, 2010

    The most frustrating part about it is the MOMENT they take their backpacks off (to experience the city) everyone assumes their AMERICANS!!!!! It kills me!!!! We went to Europe and i swear every Canadian we met was effing RETARDED, not funny, and had the most immature personality… aahhhhhhhh!!! it kills me!!!!!

    • June 10, 2010

      Because misspelling “they’re” as “their”, calling people retarded (in capital letters) and using up half the world’s supply of exclamation marks is an indicator of maturity.

      • June 10, 2010

        Thanks Frank, that’s what I was thinking. The use of CAPITALS ;0) indicates yelling = what everyone is talking about “loud Americans”. But hey, who am I to judge? Get a couple drinks in me and I’m yelling too.

    • June 10, 2010

      yes. it’s canadians who are immature.

      • June 11, 2010

        Mature people also often use capitals at the beginning of sentences. I know it’s complicated, but it can be learned.

  70. June 10, 2010

    As a dual citizen of the US and Canada (born in the US) I proudly exclaim that ‘I am Canadian!’. Our pride for this beautiful nation was represented well at the 2010 Olympics in a poem by Shane Koyczan “We are more”… I think the poem shows exactly why Americans pretend to be Canadians when they travel…

    …some say what defines us
    is something as simple as please and thank you
    and as for you’re welcome
    well we say that too
    but we are more
    than genteel or civilized
    we are an idea in the process
    of being realized
    we are young
    we are cultures strung together
    then woven into a tapestry
    and the design
    is what makes us more
    than the sum total of our history
    we are an experiment going right for a change…

  71. June 10, 2010

    and PS — congrats on being freshly pressed!!

  72. June 10, 2010

    pduan, you nailed it. When I was traveling in Asia, I was frustrated with the way someone’s attitude would change when they found out I was an American. They would immediately start talking about our leaders’ foreign policy decisions, pointing out weaknesses, and blasting the country on many fronts. Broad generalizations would be made (you must own a Hummer… did you vote for Bush?… you guys just don’t understand China… you probably can’t wait to eat at McDonald’s, to name a few).

    After telling them I’m an American, I would often get “You don’t seem like an American.” Which makes me wonder, what makes an American after all? Where did you develop this belief about the homogeneity of Americans? We aren’t all the same. Sure, we have our weaknesses as a country, but with EVERY country, each citizen is different. Each citizen has things they are proud of about their homeland. Each citizen has things they aren’t proud of about their homeland. And no individual represents the entirety of the citizenry.

    So next time you encounter a foreigner, take pduan’s advice, and remember– we all have more in common than we think.

  73. June 10, 2010

    you no when you said ” and im certainly not going around telling strangers im from california” well, you just kindda did.

    anyway i love canada <3 its my home , nova scotia, sidney crosby <3 and im gald im canadain <3

    btw, not all of us say eh

  74. gweny permalink
    June 10, 2010


  75. Nina Lytton permalink
    June 10, 2010


  76. Larry permalink
    June 10, 2010

    that’s a lot of comments over a fun piece of copy. Eh?

  77. June 10, 2010

    oh how fun to read the comments from both Canadians and Americans …
    I am Canadian who lived as an expat in Mexico for many years and married an American from New York! I am proud to be GLOBAL!

    Only since the Vancouver winter olympics did I consider wearing anything with a Canadian flag… Love it and yet proud to be Global.

  78. June 10, 2010

    Most of the Canadian flags you see when traveling are on Americans who are hoping it will stave off the anti-American sentiment. First-time Canadian travelers tend to see that flag and run up and say, “Yay! I’m Canadian too! Where are you from?” Seasoned Canadian travelers don’t bother, because we’re so disappointed hearing, “Um… Toronto?” in a Texas accent.

  79. andydbrown permalink
    June 10, 2010

    I’ve heard that 90% of the backpackers with Canadian flags out there are American!

  80. June 10, 2010

    If I were Canadian, I would be happy to proclaim that I’m from the the same country as Rush. I see no need for any other justification.

  81. June 10, 2010

    Perhaps because they are proud for their country?

  82. June 10, 2010

    Reading over these comments has reinforced my decision to wear an American flag on my pack. I find the Canadian use of their flag as a shield against ignorance one of the most self-serving things I’ve ever read. I will wear an American flag on my pack because I am not the
    American stereo-type, I earn peoples respect with my own acts.
    Instead of throwing up your flag and cowering behind a Canadian stereotype, do what you all are doing here, defending individuals actions, and not buying into intolerance.
    Oh, but that may mean you have to sit in a less-great seat, or wait a minute longer to be served.
    And if you are having bottles thrown at you, you may want to re-consider what it means to be a western traveler in a foreign country.
    But you would never judge a country by the actions of the few, you’re too polite for that.

    • June 10, 2010

      Well said skye, well said.

    • June 10, 2010

      PS. It’s not so that we get extra service, free things, better seats, superb treatment, what people are saying is that the “flag wearers” don’t get BAD service, like the Americans UNFORTUNATELY do. But you are right, that if you’re in a place, having bottles thrown at you, maybe you should reconsider being there. But I bet if the bottle-throwers knew the victims were Canadian, maybe they wouldn’t have thrown the bottles. I’m just sayin’.

  83. June 10, 2010

    Oh, dont forget those Americans that wear a Canadian Flag on their backpacks while traveling in Europe. Yes, there are some that do!
    Check the video at this link.

  84. June 10, 2010

    As an American who lived in the US for a year, I can attest that Canadians don’t like people thinking they’re Americans. Canadians often get treated better overseas. I know a few Americans who attached maple leaf flags to their bags when traveling overseas so people didn’t treat them like Americans.

    I have a Canadian flag patch on my backpack, actually. I also have one from Sweden and Ecuador. I like to get them from countries I have visited.

  85. June 10, 2010

    the point of backpacking is to meet people from all over the world and to see the world. so what does it matter if i have a canadian flag sewn onto my backpack, if when i meet you i’m going to tell you i’m canadian anyway? just like i would ask where you were from. it seems to me that you’re the only one judging here…