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Michelle Keong

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The proud declaration of Molson Canadian’s spokesperson circa 2000 has never been more used – or beneficial – than when travelling.

There’s something about being Canadian that makes locals more welcoming, shopkeepers more friendly and even the most tourist-weary waiter crack a smile.

We sew on our flags and do so proudly.

I’ve met many travellers that have received better service at restaurants and even free drinks at bars. Or perhaps it’s just a result of denying that they’re American. Whichever the case, the maple leaf definitely sets a traveller ahead.

On a trip to Israel shortly after 9/11, a New Yorker roommate whom I met in Florence actually disguised her backpack with a Canadian flag. And I thought this was just an urban legend.

Her aunt from Nelson, BC, Fedex’d the swag complete with T-shirts, a hat and even a teddy bear. How a stuffed animal would have aided her, I can only imagine. But I do know that the red and white, maple-leafed patch can do wonders in foreign countries. I wouldn’t be surprised if people started to order Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) garb online in the same vein.

Never considering myself to be particularly nationalistic, I discovered that seeing those flag-bearing packs in hostel dorms never ceased to excite me.

So there I was, sitting on the edge of the Amalfi Coast with a couple of Canadians that I had just met. Laura, our MEC-toting adventurous leader, found us a pristine and secluded spot to soak up the Mediterranean rays, away from the crowded beaches. You can always count on the outdoor lifestyle of Canadians to veer off the beaten path.

This was paradise. Bright turquoise blue waters and colourful stucco houses lined the 50km coastline of sheer cliffs. It was funny how the mental Polaroid was even more picture-perfect alongside gals from Ontario. Perhaps it was our shared attitudes, humour and general friendliness that attracted each other as well as foreigners.

So even if others may not know of lumberjacks and loonies, or think that the beaver is a truly noble animal, they know enough about Canadians to welcome them with open arms.

And believe me, after unstrapping my heavy pack, mine were stretched even wider.

Article commissioned by UBC Careers, July 2008

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