Many years ago, while speaking in Arizona, one of the conference attendees asked me the following question: “Do you speak Canadian?”
To which I of course replied, “Eh?”
Not only do I speak fluent Canadian, eh, I was also proud to tell her that I was a Canadian speaker. That’s right, 100% made in Canada and completely Canadian owned and operated. As Canadian as a Don Cherry rant. As Canadian as Celine Dion gulping down a back bacon-flavored Tim Horton’s Timbit. As Canadian as a beer-drinking, toque-wearing, bilingual moose wandering the streets of Moose Jaw in search of a curling bonspiel. (I could go on with these metaphors, but as a good Canadian, I know when enough is enough).
And now that I’ve had the privilege of speaking overseas in places as far a field as Iran and Newfoundland (check a map folks, it definitely qualifies), I am even more proud to be able to say that I am a Canadian speaker, because it seems that no matter who I speak to, no matter where I travel, people adore Canadians. Of course, it may just be me they adore (I am rather cuddly), but I think there’s more to it.
In fact, being Canadian has become such a marketing advantage for me, I’m considering branding myself Canadian by actually branding myself Canadian—literally. (I am an Albertan after all, and this is what we do in Alberta. Although I’ve been told by ranchers it only hurts for a short while, I’m confident that I will be able to sit down again in only a matter of weeks).
Why are Canadians adored so dearly? Rightly or wrongly, Canadians have earned a reputation as being squeaky clean, reliable and polite (and let me just preemptively apologize and say I’m sorry to anyone who feels otherwise about Canadians, and while I’m at it, let me say excuse me right now in case I bump into any of you in the future.)
This sounds rather boring, though, doesn’t it? I mean, I for one don’t want to be the family sedan, Hush Puppy shoe or Perry Como of the world. Which is why I’m glad to report that being clean, reliable and polite (which I considered shortening into an acronym, but for obvious reasons, declined) is only a starting point for Canadian speakers.
You see, Canadians also happen to be natural born speakers, humorists and storytellers. Being Canadian you’re probably too polite to ask why this should be, so I’ll just go ahead and tell you.
The first reason: As the second largest country, Canadians are the number one phone users on the planet. Ever since our own Alexander Graham Bell uttered the immortal words “For the last time, I’m not interested in your long distance plan,” Canadians have been yakking it up on the phone. And this coast to coast yak-fest has turned us into a nation of gifted gabbers.
But it’s more than this. As a cold country, Canadians are forced into Tim Horton’s at an astonishing rate. In fact, Canadians consume more donuts than any other nation on the planet. And it’s this forced cohabitation around donut shop tables that has turned us into a people who know how to converse about any topic under the sun, especially if it’s the weather. Or, say, the weather.
But it’s more than this. Our multicultural mosaic (why, just the other day I met a Canadian fluently bilingual in two languages!) means that we Canadians come in contact with an amazing diversity of cultures, and that’s before we’ve even left the house. This hodgepodge of humanity has created a nation of people able to communicate with nearly any type of audience on the planet, with the possible exception of my brother-in-law.
But it’s more than even this. As comedic actors from Jim Carey to William Shatner have proven, Canadians know how to make people laugh. Our natural wit is due to a complicated convergence of influences connected to our conversion to the Metric system, our fondness for Kraft dinner, and Newfoundland’s entry into confederation falling on an April 1st. (In other words it’s far too complicated for me to get into right now with you).
And if all that isn’t enough, all Canadians possess the inherent ability to know what to do if a moose ever stumbles into our audience by accident. I mean really, do you think an Australian or Peruvian speaker would know what to do if a moose broke into a meeting room? I honestly don’t they they’d have a clue.
I could go on (obviously) spouting the virtues of Canadian speakers, but being the humble, self-effacing Canadian I am, prevents me from doing so.
And so now, alas, I have the ultimate Canadian conundrum, because being humble is another great quality we possess, but my innate humbleness is preventing me from actually coming out and bragging about it. But knowing how subtle and clever we Canadians are, I’m sure I’ll figure out a way of mentioning it without anyone even knowing it.
Michael Kerr is the president of Humor at Work and the author of six books, including the best selling “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work,” “Inspiring Workplaces,” and “What’s So Funny About Alberta?”. For humor at work books, articles and other resources, surf him up at www.mikekerr.com or reach Michael at email@example.com
Copyright Michael Kerr, 2006
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