Wissot: Maybe Canadians are nice because their government is nicer to them than ours is to us (column)
November 30, 2018
Will Rogers said, "I never met a man I didn't like." (The actual quote was, "I joked about every prominent man in my lifetime, but I never met one I didn't like.")
I feel the same way about Canadians. I've never met a Canadian I didn't like. OK, there was that rude taxi driver in Windsor once, but I'm not even sure he was Canadian. I think he was a Vietnam War draft dodger from Detroit who sought asylum in Canada and liked the place too much to leave.
I've traveled Canada fairly extensively over the past 20 years as a basis for my opinion. I've spent time in Vancouver, Montreal, Quebec City, Edmonton, Calgary, Banff and Toronto.
I'm not sure why Canadians are so gosh darned nice, but they sure are. It's hard not to like a country of people who are polite, friendly, modest, decent, humorous, outgoing and down-to-earth. They are the poster people for the brand of behavior that is likely to promote world peace.
I don't want to draw a negative comparison with other countries, but I guess I'm about to or I wouldn't have bothered to bring up the subject.
Where on the planet are there other countries we would call nice? Russia nice? China nice? North Korea nice? How about France? Have you ever asked a Parisian in busted French where the nearest toilet is? I rest my case.
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I'm not sure we fare much better here. Sure, there is Iowa nice and Minnesota nice. You could add Nebraska nice and Kansas nice. But Philadelphia nice or Boston nice or Miami nice? Coloradans are for the most part nice. But Aspen is in Colorado. You know what they say about one bad apple.
Canadians seem much calmer than people in other countries. That may be because "cities in Canada are significantly less dense than other major cities around the world. The population density in New York City is more than double that of Toronto." ("Population density in Toronto significantly less compared to other major cities," Global News, Jan. 9, 2018)
I recently spent a week in Toronto, and the population density factor seemed to have an effect on street conduct. Car horns blow in traffic, people scurry hurriedly along the sidewalks, much like they do elsewhere. But the pressure that sometimes transforms urban dwellers into people unfit for polite society doesn't show up in Toronto.
For one thing, Torontonians (it's a word; I looked it up) don't jaywalk. In New York City, jaywalking is required, and failure to jaywalk may result in a fine. For another, folks there actually obey the traffic light signals and only cross the street when directed to.
In Manhattan, pedestrians lurch in front of taxis that have the right of way because they know the cabbies will stop for them rather than risk the inconvenience of having to fill out accident forms related to the dead body they hit lying in the street.
Even the sports in Canada are nice. There's speed skating, curling and, of course, hockey.
Hockey is the national religion of Canada. The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto is the sport's Vatican. And while the game is rough and often violent, Canadian hockey players remain polite and well-mannered, even when they body slam an opponent into the boards.
Maybe Canadians are nice because their government is nicer to them than ours is to us. Not being worried about having your health care taken from you or being saddled with onerous student debt or being told you need to be afraid of foreigners probably has a soothing effect on a nation's temperament.
Or it could just be that playing hockey from an early age on frozen ponds in temperatures suitable for the abominable snowman teaches you to respect the elements and the other players suffering on the ice alongside of you.
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail. Email him at email@example.com.
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