When Canadians Are Mistaken For Americans

A supporter of Canada's tennis star Milos Raonic (Issei Kato / Reuters) ( )
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

We heard from Americans posing as Canadians while traveling abroad, but how do Canadians feel about that? From a Canadian ex-pat living in Germany:

I’m Canadian and a teacher to boot. I know my country and have no reason to fake it. These days, I avoid traveling to hotspots where I could be accidentally mistaken for an American. Let’s face it, your foreign policy is largely to blame for the current international climate. And I don’t want to be inadvertently caught in the crossfire.

Another Canadian reader:

I lived in Europe for 12 years, and during my time over there, the one thing I noticed is how Canadians were much more in your face about their nationality than Americans. You could be almost certain that Canadians would have a Maple Leaf flag sewed onto their jacket or backpack. If that wasn’t signaling enough, they would almost certainly announce their Canadian citizenship either directly or indirectly (“I’m from Toronto”). The funny thing was that I suspected their outwards displays of nationalist were more rooted in a dislike for Americans than a pride in Canada.

This Canadian reader says he was bought drinks after indicating he wasn’t an American:

I have traveled abroad a fair bit. Some areas, like the Caribbean, have been friendlier about Americans. In my experience, English-speaking Caribbean countries dislike the English more.

I have many American friends. Only a few actually fit the stereotypes.

I have been bought drinks by people who asked if I was American, and only bought me the drinks after finding out I was Canadian. The implied commentary on Americans was stated directly during the conversations that followed.

I have seen people pretend to not speak English in order to get Americans out of their stores. A good example was an American lady in Brussels that paid in U.S. dollars. The clerk checked exchange rates and gave change. The American customer said “I gave you real money to pay for that, I want real money back!” That kind of talk makes no friends. The clerk had spoken in broken English while the family was in the store. She spoke perfect, if accented, English to me after they left, and I assured her I was Canadian and apologised for the rudeness of the other customers.

In my observation, most Americans are on probation in the rest of the world to see if they will become mini-Trumps. Loudmouthed, rude, insensitive, self-important, and demanding.

A sales representative from the U.S. from a major international tech firm told me that he regularly tells people he is Canadian. He says that while he loves his country, he feels more temperamentally Canadian because he likes being polite and doesn't like being demanding ... at least that's what he said to us as Canadians. I believed him. The other folks out for drinks with us (Singapore) laughed quietly or chuckled and just avoided the conversation.

The only other group of tourists that I have observed the same level of eye-rolling and animosity toward is Bavarian Germans. The complaints about loud, rude, and overbearing are similar.