Tuesday, January 12, 2010


It was pointed out to me a while ago that I have a very limited notion of what Canada is: after all I've never been further east than Toronto, nor any further north, nor I have I been any further to the west than Sarnia (which is nothing at all like Narnia or Yarnia). And I will freely admit that my experience moving to Canada has been limited to moving to Southwestern Ontario.

I can further admit that my experience with living here has been pretty much limited to a fairly closed group of intellectual elites whose experiences have little to do with the vast majority of Canadians, Ontarians, or Londoners. This is, of course, probably somewhat true of my life in Nashville, as well, although that is more skewed toward a sub-culture of yarn-lovers than academics. I digress. The point here is this: in the United States, we tend to be aware of only a few parts of Canada: those that touch the U.S., those that appear on U.S. television (i.e. Vancouver, although we are sometimes led to believe it is some faceless U.S. city), Toronto, or places where the skiing is good (i.e. Banff). We tend to ignore the flat bits that provide most of our energy.

Of course we ignore the flat bits of the U.S. that provide most of our food, too. In politics, the middle section of the United States are often called "fly over" states.

I've been ruminating over this for a while. Several months, in fact.

I have recently discovered Project Runway: Canada, and it is fab.u.lous. But here's the thing. It isn't just we Americans who are Ontario-centric. Of the show's 14 contestants, fully half hail from Ontario. Of those 7, 4 are from Toronto, and I'm pretty sure that a couple of the others are from what could fairly be called "Toronto-adjacent," although my geography isn't strong enough to be sure.

My point is if I am guilty of Ontario-centrism, so is the vast majority of Canadian media. Furthermore, I had to call this blog something and "Jess Moves to Southwestern Ontario and Socializes with Elites" doesn't have quite the same ring as "Jess Moves to Canada." Understand that I have only one experience of moving to this vast and diverse country. Someone who moved to Manitoba to farm cattle would have a completely different experience of Canadian culture than I am having.

But making observations about culture is my job, and I'm going to continue to do it. (Seriously, this is what musicologists do. I can't really turn it off. It is a little obnoxious, sometimes.) Just because they don't sell milk in bags in British Columbia doesn't mean that some of the observations I have found about Canadians aren't true across the board, and as true for the dude who makes my coffee as it is for my students as it is for Elisha Cuthbert, Dave Foley or Jim Carey. But there are also other cultures I comment on: for example that of 19-year-olds and that of crabby, sarcastic academics, and that's because this blog is about Jess moving to Canada. I can only report and consider my own experiences, and I'm going to carry on with that.


ashupe said...

I know I'm guilty of the same thing, and I feel sort of capable of picking up on it. I feel like I've learned a lot about other parts of Canada from people who are down on London: "In Montreal, we had _______ that was SO AWESOME," or "In Toronto, _______ isn't a problem the way it is here."

On the other hand, if you watch Canadian TV, the commercials are not mostly Ontario specific, and we also get Toronto's news.

And like you said about milk in bags, they may no have them in BC, but they're still part of my experience here, and they're way different than in the US.

Anonymous said...

You go girl! The blog is all about YOU and YOUR Canada. My limited experience visiting you though, has proven your observations correct. But maybe that's an American from the Southeast thing.

TalithaDillingham0 said...
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