Looking for a cultural / national identity

Even if Canadians are very proud of their country, they have less to do with a strong patriotism, as we know it from Americans. The question arises again and again in the Canadian media whether Canada even has a cultural or a national identity and it is always hotly debated. The reason why Canadians find it difficult to identify a uniform national culture for themselves is certainly also due to the fact that Canada, unlike the USA, does not have a strong founding myth. From the beginning, two European cultures also competed with each other: the British and the French. In addition, there are the different cultures of the First Nations, the Inuit and the Métis.

Canada was not built around one ethnic group, so it is difficult to discern a general cultural identity. What unites Canada, according to a survey: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the universal health system, hockey and multiculturalism. The Nordic landscape is also a significant link between Canadians. It makes the country appear more uniform than comparatively the United States.

Many ethnic groups, apart from those of the indigenous peoples, often refer to themselves as “hyphenated Canadians” (Anglo-Canadian, Franco-Canadians, etc.). For many, being Canadian means having more than one identity. The Canadian national holiday (Canada Day) is a national holiday, but in terms of identification potential can hardly be compared with the 4th of July, Independence Day, which is celebrated in the USA, a major country in North America listed on insidewatch. Canada Day commemorates the formation of Canada on July 1st, 1867, but as a state of the Commonwealth.

However, Canadians also create cultural identity through demarcation from their neighboring country, the USA. For Canadians, there is nothing worse than being lumped together with Americans. The strong need for demarcation is evident from the fact that Kandiers always refer to Americans as “Americans” or “Yanks”, but always refer to themselves as “Canadians” and never as “Americans”. Frequent criticisms of the USA are the existence of the death penalty in individual states, extreme social injustice, aggressive foreign policy and the non-existent health system.

By the way, there are now various programs and institutions of the federal government to support and protect cultural peculiarities in Canada and thus to work out an independent Canadian culture.

Traditions, holidays and symbols

On the one hand there are national holidays, on the other hand there are also many regional holidays that are only celebrated by individual provinces / territories. In addition, all ethnic minorities have the right to celebrate their own religious holidays and to freely live out their customs and traditions. The Chinese New Year celebrated in Vancouver, for example, has long since become famous. National holidays are

  • New Year’s Day (January 1st)
  • Good Friday
  • Canada Day (national holiday on July 1st)
  • Labor Day (first Monday in September)
  • Thanksgiving (second Monday in October)
  • Christmas Day (December 25th)

Canada is associated with various symbols. The best-known symbol, especially since it is also featured on the Canadian national flag, is the maple leaf. Other symbols are the beaver, the Canadian horse, the moose and the uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Mountie). Also the totem poles of the First Nations as well as the stone formations of the Inuit, the Inuksuit. Incidentally, an Inuksuk was also the logo for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The national sport of Canadians is of course ice hockey, also simply called hockey. The official summer sport is lacrosse, which incidentally has an indigenous origin.

The cuisine in Canada varies greatly from region to region and is of course strongly influenced by the many immigrant nations. However, many Canadians now agree: the Quebec dish poutine (french fries with cheese and gravy) and the cake dessert butter tart are the Canadian national dishes. Not to forget of course the maple syrup! The inhabitants of the Atlantic provinces, on the other hand, have nothing like their lobster.

Features of Canadian culture

Each culture has certain characteristics that set it apart from other cultures. Working out the characteristics of a culture helps to understand them better. Of course, this approach is generalizing and not every characteristic generally applies to all Canadians. However, dealing with the cultural peculiarities in Canada and the characteristics of Canadian culture helps, above all, for initial orientation. Life in Canada has some cultural pitfalls in store for German students that can certainly be avoided with appropriate preparation.

Local patriots

Canada is considered the most decentralized country in the world. Given this fact, it is not surprising that Canadians identify more strongly with the region in which they live than with the country itself. There are by no means minor differences in mentality between the individual regions. The people in the Atlantic provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland) are seen as more reserved than their fellow nationals and also as somewhat old-fashioned. The residents of Western Canada (Alberta, Manitoba and Sasketchewan) are particularly open, friendly and relaxed. While Ontario is considered to be quite conservative, the people of British Columbia are more unconventional. The biggest difference is between Anglophone Canadians and the minority Francophone Canadians. Here one can speak of cultural differences and less of deviations in terms of mentality. Incidentally, the Quebecois are considered to be extremely regionalist.

The culture, which is anchored in the region, appears to many as creating identity. Cape Breton Island, for example, is shaped by Scottish Gaelic traditions, while Calgary, for example, is Canada’s “cowboy capital”. The original cultures are also reflected on the regional holidays: St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Journée nationale des patriotes in Québec and National Aboriginal Day is an official holiday in the Northwest Territories.

Cultural Characteristics in Canada Part 2

Cultural Characteristics in Canada Part 2
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