Over the years I’ve read some posts on a list from a woman who was born, raised and went to college in the US. Her entire family of origin was from, and stayed, here, while she moved to Canada as a young woman. She is passionate and vehement about how she IS NOT AMERICAN, SHE IS CANADIAN. She likes to use “our” in contrast to “your [American]” ways frequently.
It has always made me uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel like natural and organic pride in her country, but like a mantra “I’mCanadianI’mCanadianI’mCanadianI’mreallytrulyCanadianandNOTONEOFYOUPEOPLE!!”
But whatever floats her boat, really. It jars me when I read it, like when I read egregious grammar errors, but it’s not offensive. Just seems defensive.
This is a corollary to something that makes me sad. Because, for me, I could move to the UK or France (or Canada, whence came my great-grandparents), and become a citizen thereof. And to me, I’d still be American deep down (regardless whether I wanted to be). I will never not be an American, even if I didn’t hold US citizenship any longer. I realize that if I’d moved at 24, rather than 44, I’d have been more malleable and better able to assimilate into another culture, although I still think I could do a fairly seamless job in an Anglophone country.
But on Veteran’s Day, “our” veterans would not be the British, French, Canadians to me. I don’t have any connection to, relatives in, the armed forces of any other country. (Well, I might have, unfortunately, distant German cousins or, more fortunately, distant British cousins, but no one I know of.) I would never have had the experience of growing up, going to school, having family, in my new country. And while I might be “French” in terms of my passport and, eventually, my language, and I’d be proud of my adopted home, I’d only be French the same way Americans (save Native Americans) are Americans. Being American is a citizenship, not an ethnicity. I’d be British/French/Canadian in the same way. (Although Canadians already have the same citizenship, not ethnicity, thing going.) And I still would have been formed deeply by being born on the West Coast of the United States, speaking West Coast American English from toddlerhood, attending American schools, working in American settings. I’m a “bad” American in many ways and am much more in tune with the attitudes of many Europeans, but in day-to-day life, I’m still an American.
So I guess in a way, since neither of the northernmost North American countries has a national ethnicity, the aforementioned woman can be just as Canadian as she was American. But I can’t see an adult moving to another country and giving up their entire identity to date. It doesn’t ring true to me, and it doesn’t ring true in her emphatic declarations of non-American-ness.
On a trivial note, I feel the same way about “hometown” on Facebook. To me, your hometown was the town you were born in, unless you left it very young, certainly before school. My nephews were born in one city but never lived there, so I don’t mind if they call the city they grew up in their hometown. My niece was also born in the first city, and left around ten or so. She lists the city she left for as her hometown, and to me, it’s not. She lived ten years in her birth city, and to me, that’s her hometown. When people ask me where I’m from, it depends on context. If I’m traveling I figure the question means “In what city are you living at home/from what city did you come to us?” and I answer accordingly. If I’m in the area and people ask me where I’m from, I tell them the city I was born and raised in.
I have some very strong feelings about some really off-the-wall stuff. Adults moving to foreign countries: not suddenly transformed completely from their original identity in their country of origin. People’s hometowns = their birthplaces unless they have no connections thereto. Damnit! 😉