Oh Canada!

Canada

“I love this country.”

I’ve said that many times and sometimes people ask me, “What do you mean? You love the country? The land? The government? What?”

“Everything!” I say. “It was a struggle to adjust at first, but I would never wish to live anywhere else.”

When I was six years old, my parents immigrated to Canada from Germany. I was just starting grade one. I was still pretty naive and thought everyone in the world spoke the same language, so at school, when I babbled away in German, the kids laughed and the teacher rolled her eyes discreetly. I tried again, but they didn’t understand me. I didn’t understand them either, so you’d think that made us even, but the thing is they understood each other. I had a few tough days ahead, but my parents were very supportive and encouraging.

I soon clued in that I had to figure out this new language. “Yes,” “no,” and “thank you,” became the first words I learned. I remember that in my first report card I had a “U” in Language. “U” stood for “unsatisfactory” in those days. My parents were not pleased but they were understanding. By June of that grade one year I had made my parents proud with an “O” for “outstanding.”  Kids learn quickly and much of it is learned on the playground.

I was so lucky to have had the opportunity to grow up in Canada. Germany has an excellent school system, but in Canada, it seems that the spirit of education is freer. “You can achieve whatever you put your mind to.” If I had stayed in Germany, I would have had an excellent education too, but the mindset would have been different. In those days it would have been more like, “This is what you are suited for, so this is what you should do.” Subtle differences, but the freedom to think and create and choose are fundamental here.

I love this country, not only for its nature that seems to be everywhere because of the vastness of the land and the relative sparseness of population, but for the kind of people who live here. When you live in a harsh environment such as Dawson Creek was with its clay gumbo mud and its bitter cold -40 winters, you are thankful for the help of neighbours, friends, and even strangers.

The first time our car got stuck in that deep gumbo, everyone got out and pushed, but it wasn’t enough. The next car that came along, stopped and the people jumped out to help push us out of the mud.  Most of us were splattered in mud, but everyone was smiling. After we thanked our rescuers, my mother said, “This would never have happened in Germany,” and she didn’t mean that they would have had the roads plastered instead of leaving them to get so muddy. “People would have driven past and not helped.” It’s not that German people are unkind or unsympathetic. Far from it. But in a small country with a large population, you become wary of strangers. She might just as well have said, “This would never have happened in New York, or Chicago, or LA.”  But in a pioneer situation, and in harsh conditions, people help each other.

I may not always agree with what our government is doing, but I love that freedom to disagree without persecution. It’s having the freedom to think and speak for myself (while abiding by the laws of the country) that makes this a wonderful place to live.

If I had one thing to say to young Canadians of today it would be, “Be proud of your country and grateful for the privilege of being a Canadian.”

37 thoughts on “Oh Canada!

    • I hope you weren’t offended, Pit. I really do believe the German system is excellent, and in some ways better planned out than the Canadian one (such as in providing training in the trades for those who are not destined for university), but the general way of thinking is less flexible (in my opinion).

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  1. We are so happy and proud to be Canadians. We love Canada with our heart and soul. While living in Canada we felt what freedom is – for the first time in our lives. It was the best time we ever had and we miss it so badly. Here in Europe people are kind too, but it’s a very different kindness. The nature here is so beautiful too but we miss the untouched and wild nature where we lived for not a enough long time. We think that Canada is the greatest place to live.

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    • As a teacher I’ve often watched kids being disrespectful during assemblies when Oh Canada was sung, and I thought how sad that they didn’t appreciate what they have, while I (not even born here), had tears of pride in my eyes. I wish I could have made those kids understand how lucky they are.

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  2. This is really great. It’s also ironic, because I just drafted a post to be proud of my country as well. I have it scheduled to go up on our Independence Day. The thing is, I think at least in the U.S., we’re told we’re haters if we love our country. I love the American culture, but society seems to be telling me that if I do, that means I’m being hateful toward other cultures. No way. Everyone should be proud of the culture they’re from, and I’m glad you are, too.

    When you left Germany, I’m guessing there was a wall separating it. Yes, your life would’ve been very different there.

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    • Not only was there a wall in Germany, but there was still a lot of postwar hate talk from people here who were still fighting the war ten and more years after it ended. I wasn’t even born yet when the war happened and yet I felt that residual hatred from others. I suppose it’s understandable. Hitler did some terrible things. But I wasn’t Hitler, nor were most Germans. I’m so glad that hatred of other cultures is subsiding. I understand what you mean about being hesitant to celebrate your own culture. But really, people need to grow up! Just because you like one, doesn’t mean you hate all the others. You need to continue to celebrate your American culture(s) and be proud of them all. And don’t be bullied into denying your own.

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  3. When I was young I couldn’t have told you what was different between Canada and the US. Except we fought England and Canada didn’t. I know there’s a little more to it than that. I do believe I would be just as happy living in Canada. And I don’t even mind the cold! 🙂

    There was a time in my life when I was somewhat ashamed of my German heritage. Not because of what anyone said to me, but because of what happened to the Jews. Most of my ancestors were here before WW1, so how does that make sense?

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    • I know exactly what you mean, Pat, but we have to remember, you and I didn’t do those terrible things. A maniac got control and did things that even the bulk of the German population didn’t know about or believe when they heard it. I mean, would you believe such a thing? I used to hesitate about telling people I was born in Germany, but I’m not going to hide it anymore. I’ve done nothing wrong and I try to be a good person. That’s all any of us can do. German people have a lot of good things to be proud of too. We can’t change what that maniac did, and even those who knew were powerless to say or do anything against the huge organization he had built up.

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  4. Great post, Anneli. Interesting to read about the school system, and also all the comments.

    As you well know by now, I’m a Swedish expat, but with a very different story from yours. I was almost fifty when I came here. That said, I’m very happy it was Canada my online love lived in. I’ve found my place here in Saint John, I love my adopted hometown.

    How often haven’t I had to say the same thing to my husband, as your mother said [that could never have happened in Germany, in her case]. People volunteer to help you get the car out of the snow drift, chat with you in the elevator, open doors … I love it!

    Happy Canada Day!

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  5. Very nicely written, Anneli. I have to admit, today I experienced just how kind and polite Canadians can be. While shopping at Save-On this morning,(and it was very busy) I am sure I counted at least 10 or so “excuse me(s), oops sorry(s), and Thank yous” during my visit there. It was a real example of the politeness and kindness in our neck of the woods. Having said that, it is a holiday weekend, so perhaps they were tourists. Hmmm…

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  6. I didn’t realize until today that I had “missed” Canada Day. Happy Belated Canada Day!!! I’ve been musing on patriotism, too, because tomorrow is Independence Day for us. I love your enthusiasm. How easy you make learning English sound. It seems so difficult for children today in the US to learn English. I will say that learning other languages has always been difficult for me, but I’ve never had an immersion experience and am self-conscious about having a poor accent. I did learn quite difficult reading and writing in German at one point for grad school, but not speaking–and I’ve now forgotten everything!!! I also tested out in French at the highest level and now know nothing. What a failure.

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  7. Anneli, so happy you love Canada and have felt glad this is your home! I enjoyed how you were determined to learn the language of your new home. I liked the story of being stuck in the “clay gumbo mud.” ❤
    This is how my German grandmother (Paula Haller, maiden name) and her Swedish husband (Walter Matthewson, who had to shorten his last name to Mattson, to please immigration) felt about America. 🙂
    They separately before they met, both felt the quicker they learned English, the faster they would be accepted. My Grandpa's male ancestors were stone masons; so he decided to get good grades and go to NY technical college, studying engineering. He didn't want to lay bricks not build stone walls. . .
    Hope it was okay to agree with you, leaving Europe was a great decision for your family and my grandparents, too.
    Canada is still part of North America, while we may have a border between us, I feel we have close ties, dear friend.

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      • So warmly and nicely expressed! ❤ I am sad I used to be able to go to Canada, without a passport. To go again, even to a Lake Erie island called Pelley Island, I would have to go through the expense and process of acceptance, too.

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        • I can’t imagine being without a passport. It’s your ticket to anywhere and a ticket away and back to home in a crisis. You should consider getting one. It’s worth the expense. So glad you liked my Canada Day blurb. Thanks.

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