When traveling abroad, one often becomes an ambassador of their country, whether they want to or not. I’ve found some great Canadian friends since arriving in Korea 3 years ago and we’ve had many laughs over the random things people say about Canada. I gave a shout out to my fellow Canucks on the facebook community group “Canadians in South Korea.” I asked my countrymen to share the most common or outlandish questions they have been asked about Canada. These questions could be from anyone – not just from Koreans – and the results were hilarious.
Here are my top 10 favourite (and most common) responses:
1. I often get asked if we hike in the mountains in Canada. Many people I know believe that Canada has many mountains and assume that, as in Korea, we all live near them.
Ok, fair enough. A lot of people outside of Canada have no idea how vast our land is.
2. I was asked last week if I lived in an igloo.
Seriously, I was asked this as well when I went to New Mexico.
3. I was once asked if I had a polar bear as a pet.
Ok ok, this guy actually lives in BC, but he’s the ONLY person who has a polar bear as a pet and he’s been a bear trainer for over 40 years.
4. An American recently asked me if we have an army and was shocked to find out that we have a very well trained military.
5. Over the summer I was planning to go home to the GTA and my Korean boyfriend was trying to convince me to land in Vancouver instead of Pearson (in Toronto) because “it isn’t that much further.”
“Hey I’m in Vancouver, just gonna pop over to Halifax real quick. Brb.”
6. I had a coworker say, “I don’t mean to be racist but I’m going to ask you because you’re Canadian (he was an American guy) but do goats have hooves?” I guess he figured because I’m from Canada that we’re just overrun with goats or something? He also obviously thought that Canadians and Americans are different races…
Wow. I’m just gonna leave that one there.
7. I had an elaborate “4 seasons” presentation by a woman who thought that I must’ve been misunderstanding the concept when I said Canada had 4 seasons. She said “no no no” and proceeded to draw a series of diagrams (poorly) that represented the 4 seasons. Then she drew (again poorly) a picture of snow and said “This Canada: 1 season. These are Korea” and held up 4 fingers. I replied that Korea actually has “different seasons” than Canada: winter, yellow dust, rainy and humid, and fall.
Good burn! Haha, but in all seriousness, this was the most popular answer I received and I’ve been through this myself. For some reason, many Korean people think that Korea is unique for being a country with 4 seasons and also believe that Canada only has winter.
This is the yellow dust being referred to above. It’s bad all year-round but tends to increase during winter in both China and Korea.
Another expat said, “Whenever I say something like, ‘It’s so cold today!’ I’m asked if it isn’t colder in Canada and why I’m not used to the cold. I have to explain each time that we use central heating to regulate the room temperature so we don’t need to wear coats and mittens indoors. Also that we keep windows and doors closed during the winter!”
As an example, here are some students from my winter camp last year. It’s common for kids to wear their jackets indoors all day due to open windows and cold hallways or classrooms.
8. I’m from PEI so I get 1 of 2 responses when I tell people I’m from PEI:
“Is that part of Toronto or Vancouver?” and “OMG Anne Of Green Gables! *gasp*”
A lot of my east-coast friends get the Anne of Green Gables thing. That story is huge in Korea and in Japan, no idea why.
9. Why can’t we build buildings more than 4 stories? A local told me he saw a piece on Canada on TV and they said it is too windy in Canada so we can’t build buildings more than 4 stories high or they will blow over.
I don’t even know what to say about that one.
10. I always am kind of shocked when Koreans assume I don’t like spicy food. I’m like duuuuudde Canadians drink Caesars! Then I tell them how to make a Caesar (I teach adults) especially because I assume Koreans would love it (I mean a mix of alcohol, spiciness, seafood and sometimes Pickled beans!) and them I’m surprised again when most of them tell me it sounds weird and disgusting.
The classic Ceaser: Running through the veins of most Canadians nation-wide.
This one really makes me shake my head because I find it strange that someone could think that their nation is the only one with a corner on the market on spicy foods. When I tell Korean people we have Jamaican, Indian, Thai and all kinds of other culture’s spicy cuisine in our country, they seem surprised. I have been defending the fact that I like spicy food since I got here and know many others who would say the same. Why is it so shocking that another culture may also be into the hot sauce and chilli flakes? Maybe it’s the power of kimchi, which is a pretty magical thing I must say.
Me at a kimchi making class in the fall of 2013.
You can’t really blame people for not knowing about our great nation but what you can do is educate them. As long as people have the courage to squash their ignorance with honest questions, we should have the patience to answer kindly. Slowly but surely, people around the world will know that Canada has 4 seasons, a military, only one man with and pet polar bear and skyscrapers too!