Patriotism and Canadian Coffee in AD

The United States of America and Canada Night will take place on Thursday, Nov. 15, and while many appear to have a clear idea of what U.S. culture ...

The United States of America and Canada Night will take place on Thursday, Nov. 15, and while many appear to have a clear idea of what U.S. culture might entail, there is less talk about its geographically larger and stereotypically politer northern counterpart. Indeed, were it not for the fact that the mayor of Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, admitted last week to smoking crack, Canada might have been entirely excluded from any recent conversation.
There is considerable difficulty in defining Canadian culture. The country has two official languages — English and French — and approximately 39.4 percent of Canadians have parents who were born outside of Canada or were born outside of Canada themselves. There’s also considerable geographical separation across the country; Montreal and Toronto are both closer to Mexico City than they are to Vancouver, Canada. Through all of these differences, what does it mean to be Canadian?
For some Canadian students at NYU Abu Dhabi, national identity is defined in comparison to the United States.
“At least in English Canada, it's quite similar to American culture,” said senior Carmen Germaine of Calgary, Alberta.
Sophomore Robson Beaudry from Clearwater, British Columbia, agreed with this idea.
“We share a lot of the same institutions, ideals, music and art,” he said. “What sets us apart I think is the connection we have to complete vastness of land we inhabit ... Canadians have had to learn to live with nature, and I think that has ramifications in our social and cultural life.”
An estimated 75 percent of Canadians live within 161 kilometers, or 100 miles, of the U.S. border, and so-called cultural differences between the two countries are often discredited, with one satirical U.S. movie sensationally claiming “Canadians: they walk among us, unnoticed.”
Ben Higgins, a senior from the United States, said that pinning down Canadian culture was difficult to do from the outside, given how spread out it is. Still, he thought that Canada was similar to the United States, only more liberal.
“Canada seems less aggressive, except for their hockey and [better education] as far as I can see,” he said.
In the UAE, where U.S. culture, food chains and music tastes abound, a number of Canadian locales have been similarly cropping up over the past few years. After all, as many as 40,000 Canadians are working and living in the UAE. Last month, The National published an article all about places to find distinctive tastes of Canada, including a Montreal-style smoked meat deli in Dubai and a burger joint.
For Germaine, however, Tim Hortons is the place to go.
“I'm not even that big of a fan at home and still haven't been. It's just such an emblem,” she said.
The coffee brand that’s marketed as quintessentially Canadian has been in the UAE since 2011, and now boasts 29 stores in the GCC, 19 of which are in the Emirates. Tim Horton, its founder and namesake, started the company after playing professional hockey in the National Hockey League. Perhaps it’s the association the company has with “Canada’s favourite pastime” that makes the coffee shop so popular.
“Tim Hortons — isn't the best coffee and people I bring to Timmies all excited are often disappointed,” said senior Chani Gatto of Toronto, Ontario. “But it makes me feel more Canadian, and I like sharing it with people from other places.”
“I usually walk into Timmies feeling mildly authoritative — yeah, I’m Canadian … and this is my coffee,” she said.
Both Gatto and Beaudry have visited Tim Hortons in the UAE, which they agree stays true to the chain’s stores in Canada.
“It was pretty much like any other Tim Hortons, except there was no drive-through,” said Beaudry.
Higgins, who had visited the chain while in Niagara Falls, said that it was nice, although overrated.
“I didn’t really see [what] all of the hype [was about],” he said.
So whether Canadian culture can be pinned down in an arguably generic coffee chain, or whether it can be understood through musical exports like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, or more recently, Carly Rae Jepsen, Justin Bieber and Avril Lavigne; Canadian culture extends outwards, though subtly, without fanfare and often unnoticed.
Correction: An earlier version of this article neglected to mention that Chani Gatto is a NYUAD senior. 
Alistair Blacklock is editor-in-chief. Email him at 
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