Sun 29 Oct 2006
Amanda and I were wandering around the city on Saturday afternoon and down near Circular Quay we came across three young Canadian backpackers. All three had small daypacks on and all three sported something along the lines of this:
There are actually two Canadian flags on that bag, but more on that in a minute.
Before I left for Europe for five months of travelling in 2002 I had a very short debate with myself: do I stick a Canadian flag onto my backpack or not? I very quickly decided not to. The reason I didn’t was because I felt if people wanted to think I was friendly, polite, and not American than my actions would speak far louder than a flag on my bag (even if it is a pretty cool flag). Because let’s be honest, the main reason Canadians sport the Canadian flag while backpacking is so that they aren’t mistaken for Americans. But come on, what difference does it really make? In five months in Europe the most disgusting person I came across (in fact, one of the most disgusting human beings on the planet I suspect) was from Toronto, Ontario. And nearly every single American I met was warm and friendly. And I’ll tell you now, Osama’s cronies don’t give a crap if you’re American or Canadian.
But while my backpack didn’t have a Canadian flag on it, I found other Canadians could identify me as Canadian pretty quickly. Which brings me to the secondary Canadian flag, Mountain Equipment Co-op. I’m pretty sure 90% of Canadian backpackers own a MEC backpack (see above photo). As soon as I walked into a hostel and looked at the backpacks strewn about the dorm I could count how many Canadians I’d be sharing a room with that night. The best part was that only other Canadians could recognize this…kind of like a secret unspoken handshake. Just a simple look and nod and you knew who had your back if it all went down that night in the central Salzburg hostel.
Since moving to Australia I’ve learned there are other Canadian flags. In fact, the main one I’ve noticed is more of a Vancouver flag. A few months ago while I was in a chicken place down the road the Canadian chicken flunky asked me, “Are you from Vancouver?” When I asked how she knew she pointed to my shirt which happened to be from Westbeach.
Westbeach is a great snowboard/skate shop from Vancouver and while they distribute clothing to skate shops all over North America, it seems the majority of Westbeach clothing is worn by Vancouverites. I’ve even taken to notice this myself, and just a few weeks ago I noticed a fellow Vancouverite in the same chicken shop wearing a Westbeach shirt. We had a little chat about home and what we were doing here and I expect he’ll watchout for other Westbeachers as he explores Australia.
So, I guess what I’m saying is this. Canadian backpackers, it’s time to let the flag go. If you want people to think you’re nice, act nice. If you’re afraid of being mistaken for an American, get over it. And if you must wave a flag around make it a subtle, quiet one. After all, what could be more Canadian than that?
Of course none of this applies if the Olympics are on…then it’s all out with the Maple Leaf.