The ship entered United States waters sometime during the night and we awoke to see the US flag flying proudly over the pier as we docked. After twelve delightful days in Canada, it is good to see our own flag, newspapers, and familiar signs along the highway.
I have visited Canada a few times, though never for almost two weeks. The cruise allowed us to visit some large cities and some small villages. Two weeks gives you a chance to get a feel for the culture of people, though most Americans already regard Canadians as our closest kin.
Britain has been viewed as our staunchest ally since the end of the 19th century. However, since Canada became a confederation in 1867, they have also been by America’s side in almost every conflict around the world.
We share a continent, a long border, a common language in most parts, and a love for freedom and democracy. Most Americans think of Canadians as being just like us except they live further north. While true in many ways, I believe we do not give Canadians their full due as an independent nation.
For instance, the Canadian dollar is not the American dollar. While the two dollars are close in value, most Canadian businesses will not accept American dollars. You can pay with an American credit card, but not with American cash.
You will see Quebec’s flag more prominently displayed in that province than perhaps the Canadian flag, but in the rest of the country you will see the Red Maple Leaf Flag prominently and proudly displayed everywhere you go.
Canada is not a good place to visit when you want to watch SEC football on television. For two weeks in a row, I followed Auburn’s football game on the internet because a broadcast was nowhere to be found. For Canadians, the sports world is about hockey. From grade school to the pros, Canadians love that sport above all others.
The food is similar, but not exactly same. Poutine, which are French fries covered with cheese curds and brown gravy, is the national snack food. It is actually quite good, but probably would never replace the classic American French fry south of their border.
Much of the country, at least from Montreal east, is bi-lingual. People move easily between French and English, especially in the service industries. I admire that about the Canadians, and any other country that regularly communicates in different languages. I have long thought that our insistence on English only shortchanges us, not the rest of the world.
Living along the Gulf Coast, I have often thought our area got to experience some of the freshest seafood possible, and we do. However, the deep cold water off the coast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland provides a rich harvest of lobster, cod and haddock that cannot be matched. It is tough to choose between a fresh Gulf shrimp and a fresh Canadian lobster.
Yet, in two weeks I never heard or saw a single disparaging comment towards any American. I never saw the first piece of graffiti negatively targeting America. In fact, I never saw much trash or litter at all. I heard comments regularly from our traveling companions about how clean everything was.
I left with the feeling that Canadians really do value their friendship and long standing relationship with the United States. I could not help but feel, however, that Americans do not give Canadians their full due.
Perhaps the greatest thing about visiting Canada was that we were not constantly bombarded with tweets and newscasts about politics and government dysfunction. I was aware of Hurricane Nate and the horrible shooting in Las Vegas, but they were news accounts, not a 48 hour nonstop repetition of the facts, or lack thereof.
America is not the center of Canadians’ universe, nor should it be. It is a sovereign nation with its own history, traditions, culture, and sports. It was a delightful place to visit and a place I hope to return to in the near future.
In the meantime, I am happy to be back in my own country, which for better or worse, is still the greatest nation on earth.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org