By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Moncton Times & Transcript
It’s Canada Day and this has me thinking about this wonderful country we all live in as we celebrate our 148th birthday with parties, barbecues and a whole bunch of fireworks as long as the weather cooperates. So far this summer, we’re having a beautiful October, aren’t we?
When I was growing up, I didn’t really have a concept of other countries except from television shows featuring characters with different accents or of different races and living in faraway places. As I grew older, I started to recognize that not everyone was Canadian and exactly what that meant.
Like many people from around here, my first exposure to non-Canadians was from cousins living in New England. While their parents (siblings of my own parents) still sounded like they were from around here (either Moncton or P.E.I.), my cousins were another story altogether since they were born in the U.S. – Massachusetts to be exact. While one set of cousins was a bit older with an accent that wasn’t as strong as the stereotypical Boston accent, I did have one set of cousins from Boston proper. And let me tell you, they had the Boston accent.
They didn’t say “car” – they said “cah.” And my cousin Mark wasn’t nicknamed “Marky,” he was “Mahky.” When they’d arrive to visit, we were all terribly shy until about an hour later when we’d start gabbing and playing, only finishing when our toys were destroyed. Apparently, Boston-raised kids take after the Boston Bruins hockey team and are pretty rough. And when it was time to go, we’d hear, “Mahky, get in the cah!”
They were on my mother’s side. On my father’s side, I don’t remember much colourful language from my cousins, but I do remember my uncle asking for a tonic. Everyone in his family knew what he wanted, but the rest of us sitting around were bewildered until he finally told us that what we call ‘pop’ is actually ‘tonic’ where he lived in Massachusetts. I always found that so interesting for some reason – about how there could be such different regional words for things. Of course, I knew soda and soft drink, but tonic was a new one for me.
My first mega-introduction to people from different countries took place when I attended the Junior Chamber International world convention in Miami in 1992. There were 5,000 delegates in attendance from all over the world. It was fascinating to see so many different cultures mingling.
The Japanese were very serious about the entire thing. It was all business and tuxedos! Like Canadians, the American delegates were a mixed bunch depending on which part of the country they were from. The Canadians seemed to have a lot of affinity for the New Englanders (we were all probably related to each other anyway) and the Texans, who were loud, happy and lots of fun.
The Finns loved to travel and regaled us with their stories while we munched on reindeer tartar in their hospitality suite. (I counted the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh at Christmas later that year and none seemed to be missing. Phew!) The Dutch all seemed to be very tall. The Australians were friendly and liked to party.
I don’t remember many people from any of the other countries, except for the Scots. The Canadians and the Scots got along like long-lost friends. Even if we didn’t know each other personally, it was almost like we were all part of some secret affinity group. Maybe it was the Commonwealth. Maybe it was a love-hate relationship with England and the monarchy, I don’t know. Whatever it was, we were attracted to each other like magnets – in a good way.
I could sit and listen to someone who speaks with a heavy Scottish accent all day anyway, but having a few drinks with an entire clan really pushed the envelope, especially after you’d had one too many and could barely understand someone who lived next door to you let alone someone who lived across the ocean. After a few hours of revelry, for all I know someone could have asked me to marry them while I thought they’d asked for directions to the washroom.
I saw something online the other day that made me think about my propensity for not travelling much. It went something like, “I’d rather pay for an experience than a new computer gadget.” I have many outdated computer gadgets sitting around not doing much, but I’m still talking about that trip in 1992. Maybe it’s time to spread some good old Canadian hospitality around again. It makes someone think, eh?