Exploring America’s ignorance of their northern neighbor

Canada question “The cool thing about being famous is traveling. I have always wanted to travel across seas, like to Canada and stuff” – Britney Spears

Being from Canada, I think I can safely say we Canadians find humor in almost anything. One area in which we amuse ourselves is through the ignorance of our American neighbors when it comes to their knowledge of our country.

Some of us might feel insulted to know that more than 50% of Americans couldn’t name our capital city, but I think most of us are so used to it that we just laugh it off. After all it’s no surprise, even Americans themselves are aware of their own lack of knowledge, but they don’t find it funny.

In a country where 18% of the population still thinks the sun revolves around the earth and up to 20% can’t identify their country on a map (let alone ours), it’s easy to understand why they don’t know us all too well.

According to the same poll only 29% of Americans aged 18-20 said they learnt something about Canada in school. Perhaps this is why so many of them believe those age old Canadian stereotypes. We live in igloos, we all know each other, etc. Know what I’m talking aboot?

Anyway, the American school system might be to blame, but it should be sharing it along with Hollywood and the media.

Let’s face it; a growing amount of people in either country would rather watch the movie than read the book. Regrettably, as I mentioned in my Oscar rant a couple weeks ago, Hollywood has a knack for changing the story.

Any American who saw the academy award winning Argo will never know its actual true story, but in Hollywood it’s not just what they change, it’s what they omit. Of all the World War II flicks, try and find one that even mentions Canada. No surprise that only a small percentage knows we Invaded Normandy and liberated the Netherlands.

It can be said the American media these days is responsible for the dumbing down of the country, I wouldn’t argue (in fact we aren’t far behind). When Canada makes the headlines in the US it’s normally to report on a presidential visit or a mundane story regarding some grisly murder. When it comes to a referendum that threatens to break up our country however, no one is aware.

canada us flags

I think the main reason some of us find America’s ignorance of us so amusing is that we’re right next door. If we were a peaceful country on the other side of the world it would be a little more understandable.

Canadians know what happens down south affects us up here and although they should, Americans don’t feel the same way. Look at it like this, if Canada hadn’t legalized gay marriage back in 2005, would gay marriage in the States have garnered so much momentum so fast? Perhaps not.

In the end, we know that America’s lack of knowledge of their neighbor isn’t an important part of our relationship. Even with Stephen Harper in office, Americans have a 96% favorable opinion of Canada (I’ll assume the other 4% have never heard of us!). So, while they don’t know us, they sure love us and we won’t complain about that.

Britney Spears was an easy target earlier; rest assured she’s not alone…


  1. Oh wow, why don’t you go out on the streets in Canada and interview the general public about ridiculous fictitious issues in the United States and see what happens there. I’m sure the general population in Canada is not superior to that of the United States, probably quite similar.

  2. As an American, I feel that Canada has a society that is far more decent in approach to its citizens. I don’t follow Canadian politics too closely, yet I understand the conservative Stephen Harper is trying to undo some of the institutions that make Canada this decent society. America is a nation based on a philosophy of self-advancement. What I mean by this is that the individual is prime (at least according to conservatives) and the state does not owe any service to its people other than keeping them contained with a military and police. Because Canada is better than the United States in several sectors, the United States right-wing and nationalists often tend to blame Canada for what few things it doesn’t do right in order to justify the many things the United States does not do right. It kind of reminds me of South Park’s old “Blame Canada” routine. We Americans (some at least) tend to blame outsiders rather than accept our own faults and accept personal responsibility for ourselves and each other as a community.

    As a side note, my grandfather once told me a story involving a Canadian couple that he met on vacation years ago. My grandfather was having lunch and he engaged in a conversation with a Canadian man and women who were married and also on vacation. They were talking about lots of things, and then they started talking about politics and foreign affairs. The Canadian couple stated that it was a “good thing” that the United States was the world’s sole hegemon in world affairs. Why is this? Well the couple stated that it was good because “the Americans can go and spend their money and lose their kids in all these wars and operations in the world. Meanwhile, Canada can pay for healthcare for all its people, as well as free education for all, and we only have to worry about defending the St. Lawrence River way, and Newfoundland.” This story puts things in context for me, which often makes me ashamed to call myself an American. I am proud of my country in its diversity and rich history, it is capable of accomplishing great things, and it has in the past. Maybe with Canada’s help, America can do great things again.

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