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Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

Will My Son Label Himself Canadian, British or American?

April 17, 2011 5 comments

A recent comment on  my blog got me thinking. The comment, from my friend Maria, questioned what pieces of the accents of his English dad, American mom, and Quebec home he would pick up. It got me thinking about his ‘identity’.

I am a dual citizen – British by birth, Canadian by naturalization. Kerri – my much better half  – is American. My son was born in Pointe-Claire, Quebec in 2009. He is Canadian.

I never got round to applying for my Canadian passport, so I travel on a UK one. Kerri holds an American passport, and my boy has a Canadian one. This seems particularly confusing and disturbing for US customs officials. And, I find myself wondering if Evan (that’s my son) will grow up confused about his national identity.

When you ask Canadians about their nationality, many tend to answer by describing their heritage. I had a conversation with two Canadian colleagues recently on this subject. One is of Indian heritage, but was born and has lived her entire life in Montreal, the other has Iranian ancestry, and has been in Montreal since her formative years. They felt that when someone asked where they were from, they were actually enquiring about their lineage. That’s why, when asked, they tell people of their heritage.

Does it matter that people who were born and raised in this vast country answer ‘Scotland‘, or ‘Morocco’, or ‘Italy’ to the question ‘where are you from’? Does it dilute Canadian national identity? Or add to the eclectic melting pot we live in?

I’ve reminded myself of someone I met very early in my Canadian adventure. He was a barman (go figure – I met a barman in my first days in Canada. No idea how that happened). He was a big guy. I’d put him at 6 foot 3 inches. And wide too – strong, muscular. He was wearing a tartan skirt. Or as the Scots like to call it, a kilt. His chest was adorned with a blue t-shirt with the cross of St. Andrew blazoned across the front, and the word ‘Scotland’ in old-fashioned, intricate looking lettering. I got talking to him.

“You’re Scottish?” I asked.

“I’m Scottish and English” he replied.

“Uh?”

“My Mum…”, he emphasized the ‘U’ in mum, “…is Scottish, and mi Dad is English. From Caaaarlisle.” He explained. The emphasis on the ‘U’, the use of ‘mi dad’, and the drawled out aaarrrr in Carlisle, adding what he thought was authenticity to his claim. It was somewhat contradicted by his obvious Canadian accent.

“Oh great!”, I said. “When was the last time you were back?”

“Never been. I’d love to go.”

Is this my son’s future?

The Changing Face of My St. Paddy’s Day

March 17, 2011 1 comment

Montreal's St. Patrick's Day Parade. Image source: CTV

The location: St. Catherine Street, Montreal. The event: the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It’s a Montreal institution.

Many in Montreal would have you believe it’s the longest-running St. Patrick’s Day Parade in North America (the first one was in 1824 apparently), although some folks in NYC might dispute that. Regardless, the 187th Montreal Paddy’s Day Parade will go ahead on March 20, 2011. And Montrealers just love it.

I’ve seen various attendance estimates – anything from 300,000 to 500,000 line the streets to watch the parade every year, depending on which article you read. Exactly how they count is beyond my comprehension. Let’s just say a lot of people show up.

They wear tacky Irish themed hats, paint their faces green, and pretend they’re from the Emerald Isle for the day. The irony that St. Patrick was born in Britain (England or Scotland depending on which legend you subscribe to), that the colour originally associated with him was blue, and that his name was probably not Patrick at all, is undoubtedly lost on most. Still, why let facts spoil a good party?

For many, the Paddy’s Day Parade signals the end of winter, but you can still be standing in snow, freezing your arse off watching it. For others it’s a day of too much green beer.

I used to partake in the green beer fest. But, alas, time has caught up with me. The pubs are just too busy for me now. Too many people, standing on too little floor space, drinking far too much beer that they had to wait too long to be served. Somehow this was fun in 2002, but now, it’s not for me. I have work the next day. Yes, I think I am old.

But, I will be there on Parade day. As always. This time I will be with my young boy. We will clap our hands as the marching bands pass, wave at people dancing on floats, and point at inflatable objects. We’ll have a blast – and be home for nap time.

Multi-national Mash-up

February 16, 2011 11 comments

When I got my first job after University, it was in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. It’s a lovely place. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I worked at one of the town’s largest employers – a glass works. There had been a glass works on that same site since 1751. I will resist the temptation to suggest that many of the folks I worked with had probably been there since the opening day. But, there was a history of generations of families earning their living there. I worked with people whose Dad had worked there, and their Dad too.

Basically put, the majority of the workforce were local – from Rotherham, Sheffield, Barnsley and Doncaster. As a native of the Black Country, I was definitely the ‘exotic’ one. This type of local community was one that I was familiar with. Most of the folks I went to school with were from within a couple of miles radius. I suspect that things may have changed a little since I left the UK, but in my day, when you entered a community, you usually found yourself with locals.

Canada is made of immigrants. And they emanate from all corners of the globe. Montreal is a melting pot of diverse nationalities and cultures. In my first job in Canada, I remember working with 1st generation Canadians with Italian, Indian, Greek and Israeli heritage. Added to that, bona fide, just-off-the-boat immigrants from Sri Lanka, Ireland, Scotland, Poland, Lebanon and myself from England, and it was an extremely multi-cultural environment. I’m not talking about folks scattered throughout the company. These were not people I’d bump into every now and then – these were my closest working colleagues, sitting within yards of me every day.

Typical Canadians... kinda

At the moment, I work directly with two Iranians, a Japanese, a Filipino (spelled correctly, I checked), an Armenian, an Italian, a Venezuelan, and a couple of Canadians… not to mention the South Korean and the Frenchman I occasionally engage with, and the recently departed German.

I suspect that the UK is becoming more diverse too. When I speak to my old friends back home, they talk about the people from eastern Europe currently living their lives in the cities and towns of Britain. On my last visit, I was served coffee by a Czech, I was waited on by a Pole, and an Albanian cleaned my table. Three different venues between breakfast and lunch. And, they all seemed pretty Indian in Shimla Pinks (I recommend this Indian restaurant if you’re in Birmingham – and they’re not paying me to say that).

The Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: November 2010, seems to support the theory of a changing demographic in the UK. The report, published by the UK Office for National Statistics, shows Poland as one of the top suppliers of immigrants for the year up to March 2010, joining more traditional immigrant providers such as India, Pakistan and Ireland.

Source: Office for National Statistics, Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: November 201

I’m not sure that the Brits are as comfortable with this type of diversity as the Canadians are, yet.

UK. Great Britain. British Isles. England. What’s the Difference?

February 13, 2011 3 comments

This is a question I have been asked more than once. It’s a complex subject. These are concepts that even the British struggle with, never mind Canadians and the rest of the World. People are further confused by the insistence of the Scottish in particular refusing to acknowledge they’re British and correcting anyone terming them as such.

As I researched the subject (yes, I did have to research this subject) it became clear that it was even more complicated than I first thought. I had written 7 paragraphs (about 500 words), and I was confusing myself. Then, up popped a tweet. The Difference Between The United Kingdom, Great Britain and England.

The tweet had a link to a video, which fully explained the differences and relationships between the UK, Great Britain, the British Isles, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Not only that, it also did a pretty good job at outlining all the commonwealth countries, crown dependencies and British Overseas Territories. I could have used that tweet a couple of weeks ago – before I started writing!

So, I highlighted my 7 paragraphs, pressed the delete key, and posted the link here instead. Click on the image to see the full explanation. It’s a good 5 minute watch, if you can keep up with it.

After watching this, you do have some sympathy for non-Brits feeling a little perplexed.

The Difference Between the UK, Great Britain and England - courtesy of Grey's Blog

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