Life as An Expat: Americans And The ‘Other C-Word’

Don't Worry Be Happy
Don't Worry Be Happy

Now, let me start this by saying I don’t have anything against Canadians and have some close friends who come from the Great White North. Think of this as more of a public service announcement for newbie American expats just off the plane who are fresh faced and eager to make friends in the Land of the Morning Calm.

See, kids, there is a lot of resentment on the part of Canadian expats towards American expats.

When I first came to Korea in 2004, it was a huge shock to me to discover this. At that point, it was in large part because of the American involvement in Iraq (it wasn’t just Canadians who hated Americans it was pretty much every expat group) and all of this got me so worked up that when it came to choosing my gmail email address I picked something showing my love of country: migukin (American in Korean.)

Let me break down the differences between Americans and Canadians for you.

Canadians                                           Americans
Polite                                                        Friendly

Nationalistic                                         Patriotic

Center-Left                                             Center-Right

Good Government                              Government is the Enemy

Hockey                                                     Baseball

35 million                                               about 350 million

I could go on, but you get the drift. We’re very similar, but the differences are enough to grate on the nerves of our friends from the north.  Americans are like that big brother that always gets the chicks and the spotlight and makes Canadians angry just in general. I suspect things have gotten a bit better because of the change in government, but you’d be surprised how quickly a Canadian expat will start to bitch about Americans if you press them on it. What’s startling about all of this is too often Americans are completely oblivious to how much resentment there is on the part of Canadians. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that we don’t know!

I was living in Incheon back in the day and one day I found myself in a Starbucks in Itaewon. I sat down and was suddenly pummeled with questions by Americans sitting nearby. They lived on the American base, so it was like they were straight from the heartland of the Land of the Free. For a second, I realized why Americans get such a bad reputation as expats — we can come off as a little bit aggressively friendly. Before Facebook’s origins were well known, there was a rumor in the expat community that it was based in Canada because it seemed so, well, Canadian in its outlook. (But, then some Canadian expats have believed that South Park was from Canada as well, so that tells you not to believe the rumor mill.)

Maybe things are a lot better now than they were when I was in Korea. But, young American expat (hipster), think twice before you start to get all red-white-and-blue at a bar full of expats. You’re not in America anymore and the American Way is not the Only Way to do something.


  1. I was once an American living and working in Toronto for a few months – my first expat experience. While everyone was very polite and friendly, I was surprised with the public awareness about the historical fact that America has invaded Canada three times! It is hardly mentioned in US history text books.

    I was shocked. Whatever caused such a lapse of judgment on the part of American leadership. I mean, who would want The Great White North that badly?

    Digging into the history books, it seems that we Americans weren’t fighting the Canadians so much as the British who still ran the place when the invasions (“incursions” really) happened. Of course, the locals joined in or were drafted by the Brits so there was some friction. But then, most of Ontario was settled by people kicked out of the US after the Revolution who just couldn’t see living in a republic without a tyrannical king.

    Right after I moved to Toronto I went to a local bookstore and asked for a book to help me, an American, understand Canadians better. The clerk took me and insisted I buy a book entitled “Why I Hate Canadians,” written by a Canadian.

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