Over the last few months we’ve had many, many moments when we tell people that we’re leaving Canada for France. I’ve been surprised that with very rare exceptions the response is invariably positive.
I know that when I was preparing to move to the US the reaction was decidedly mixed. Some people were true believers that moving south was a sign that you had arrived, and saw it as a true measure of success. Others looked at the crime, the poverty, and especially the guns and medical bills and asked why in God’s name I would do that.
Somehow, even though the vast majority of people know exactly nothing of France except for the Eiffel Tower, they see it as a place where they would like to live. As much as I’d like to say this reflects what they see in the media, even that doesn’t explain it. Aside from a Hollywood movie once every decade, and maybe, just maybe watching Dix pour cent on NetFlix, the vast majority of people in and around Vancouver know pretty much nothing about France.
The Canadian standard for national beliefs is to say that we’re the best, most World Class country in the world. Most of this pride is rooted in long explanations about the ways that other places are worse than us, with no real attempt to define where we excel. This is, after all, a country that considers Tim Hortons to be good coffee - and good donuts. It really is an essential part of our Canadian psyche to judge our nation by comparing it to wherever is worse off than we are.
I think that really what we’re seeing is that an awful lot of people know on some level that our town, our province, and our country are really pretty dull and mediocre, but they’re afraid to say it out loud. And even though they would never state that the US or Germany are better than Canada, somehow France feels safe and non-threatening so they can applaud our decision without feeling disloyal.
And ultimately pretty much every one of these people says that they want to come visit.