Red and white: patriotism in Canada


On my trip up through the Pacific Northwest, there was one particularly glaring difference between Vancouver and the American cities I visited.

It wasn’t the hiked alcohol prices, or the ubiquity of Tim Hortons, or even the (deny it all you want, it exists!) slightly different accent in ‘ou’s.


It was the patriotism. The massive patriotism.


It seemed that everywhere I went, a Canadian flag was hanging somewhere. Red and white and a bold maple leaf were somewhere. On store signs, in windows, on newspaper advertisements, even painted over people’s vans.


In contrast, I feel like many coastal Americans wouldn’t be caught dead with an American flag. We feel fierce alliance to our states, our towns, but to the country as a whole? Maybe it’s stubbornness, or elitism, or the simple disconnected feeling that America represents so many different people, groups, and cultures, that it doesn’t perfectly represent us, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a concentration of flags anywhere in America like I did in Vancouver.


Maybe it’s also because Canadians never elected a president as embarassing as Bush ;)

So, what’s the deal with Canadian patriotism? Is Vancouver typical of other Canadian cities, or am I just underestimating the patriotism in America in contrast?

19 Responses to Red and white: patriotism in Canada

  1. Jill 4 July, 2012 at 00:17 #

    Wow. I’ve never seen Vancouver that decked out and I’ve been there many times! Did you go around Canada Day or something? Funny too, because my Canadian friends who live near Toronto say the opposite… that as soon as you cross into the US there are flags everywhere. It must be a geographical thing because you’re right, there are not many flags flying like that around the NW.

    • na-o-mi 7 July, 2012 at 10:10 #

      How strange…maybe it’s a border city thing??

  2. Ekua 9 July, 2012 at 14:18 #

    I think your last remark on “blue” America’s lack of outward patriotism hits the nail on the head. I traveled during that era and at times I felt sheepish about having to explain Bush, and then when people knew I was from California, about Schwarzenegger as well! It’s so different now, but that era is still a very very recent memory. But I have to say that regardless of that, I do feel strongly that I’m a Californian first!

    For the above comment, I think it’s probably a regional cultural thing as well as a border thing. I’ve crossed the border in NY, Michigan, and most recently, Washington State. Washington has a very different atmosphere from Michigan or Upstate NY!

    • na-o-mi 16 July, 2012 at 13:53 #

      Definitely agree – politics can play a pretty big role on someone’s patriotism, ha! ;)

  3. Louise 15 July, 2012 at 20:58 #

    I’m leaving home to live in Canada for a year and this post makes me very happy! I’m from Scotland so patriotism is very important here. Hopefully when I need to I’ll find homely similarities like this x

    • na-o-mi 16 July, 2012 at 13:54 #

      Is it in Scotland too? I didn’t notice much when I was there, but maybe that was just me being oblivious! A Canadian friend of mine made the comment that Canadians probably seem more patriotic than Americans because Canadian patriotism is so much less threatening, ha! ;)

  4. k 6 September, 2012 at 02:19 #

    Just wanted to let you know that I think you did come up here on (or around) Canada Day (July 1). The picture you have of Gastown by the steam clock, all those Canadian flags are gone now =\

    • na-o-mi 6 September, 2012 at 21:42 #

      Ahhh, maybe that’s it! It was a month past Canada Day but they could have still been up :)

  5. Doreen Pendgracs 21 October, 2012 at 05:41 #

    Naomi, I can assure you that a heavy prevalence of Canadian flags definitely would have been that Canada Day is July 1st and Canadians get quite sentimental about being Canadian on and around July 1st.

    However, during the ret of the year, you won’t see a lot of Canadian flags around in Vancouver or in any other Canadian city. In fact, in my frequent travels to the US and many festivals and events in many different American cities, I’ve always found Americans to be WAY more patriotic than Canadians. Canadians may love their country, but it’s generally in a quiet and unassuming way — except for Canada Day, or at the World Hockey Tournament and Olympics.

    • na-o-mi 21 October, 2012 at 15:05 #

      Really? You know, I’m starting to think more and more that what I was seeing what the influence of Canada Day and the Olympics…though I do still think all of my Canadian friends are miles more patriotic than my American friends ;)

    • Willhelm 20 November, 2012 at 20:32 #

      Doreen Pendgracs & Naomi, I’m a Swiss person so I can definitely say Canadians are very very patriotic. Maybe a local won’t notice it, but to a foreigner, the Canadian flag flies everywhere in Canada. Absolutely everywhere. If you want to see countries that don’t display flags, come to Europe. I’ve been in many cities in Canada – Vancouver, Banff, Calgary, Toronto, Halifax, and I can definitely assure you, the flag was flying in many places. I was amazed actually.

      I found this old article I read upon my return home that confirmed everything I thought about Canadians. Very patriotic people. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-559303/Pictures-shame-reveal-shabby-way-Britain-treats-fallen-heroes.html

      • Doreen Pendgracs 20 November, 2012 at 22:19 #

        Willhelm, thanks for getting in touch.

        I agree that when it comes to saluting the military and their efforts, we Canadians are pretty good.

        But I can assure you that the Americans up-do us on most occasions. I have been to many festivals and events in the US where the patriotism overwhelmed me!

        The link you provide about Switzerland is surprising in some ways, not in others. As Swiss culture is a blending of French, German, Dutch and the morph into Swiss, some patriotism may be diffused. But I can assure you that in my research as an author writing a book about the best chocolate of the world, the Swiss (by far) have shown the most patriotism and support for their brand of chocolate. :-)

    • Willhelm 20 November, 2012 at 20:38 #

      Canada is in the list for most patriotic nations. Switzerland is in the least patriotic :/

      http://www.forbes.com/2008/07/02/world-national-pride-oped-cx_sp_0701patriot.html

      • Doreen Pendgracs 20 November, 2012 at 22:30 #

        Willhelm: One thing that definitely comes into play is that the Swiss are generally a humble people. That is part of your culture and I definitely noticed that trait during my travels there. We Canadians share that trait with you. We are humble (for the most part) and the Americans actually make fun of us for that and call us the “polite Canadians.” Many US comedians have made fun of this. But I think we (Canadians) are proud to be humble. An oxymoron is I ever heard one.

        Thanks for the discussion.

        • na-o-mi 21 November, 2012 at 00:19 #

          Interesting discussion! Thanks for leaving your input, Willhelm & Doreen :)

  6. Willhelm 20 November, 2012 at 20:32 #

    Doreen Pendgracs & Naomi, I’m a Swiss person so I can definitely say Canadians are very very patriotic. Maybe a local won’t notice it, but to a foreigner, the Canadian flag flies everywhere in Canada. Absolutely everywhere. If you want to see countries that don’t display flags, come to Europe. I’ve been in many cities in Canada – Vancouver, Banff, Calgary, Toronto, Halifax, and I can definitely assure you, the flag was flying in many places. I was amazed actually.

    I found this old article I read upon my return home that confirmed everything I thought about Canadians. Very patriotic people. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-559303/Pictures-shame-reveal-shabby-way-Britain-treats-fallen-heroes.html

  7. Willhelm 13 January, 2013 at 20:46 #

    Uhhh… Switzerland is not Dutch at all :/ Everybody is Swiss but linguistically we speak Italian, French, German, and a small language called Romansch. This “linguistic” traditions have no effect on people feeling and being ‘Swiss’… I can assure you. We just don’t display it like Canadians.

    I have to say, many Canadians only think of their country compared with America. I think it could be a complex. This is a shame because Canada is actually a very beautiful country and also a very wealthy one. I have seen some articles in my studies for my college application that show more Americans are now moving to Canada for better economic opportunities than the other way around. In terms of Canadians being “polite,” I thin k this is a general stereotype that does not imply reality. I’ve done some research and some of the anecdotes say the 2010 Olympics were a monumental shift for Canada to show its pride.

    With all respect, Doreen, showing support for a military is very patriotic by and is your statement ‘Canadians get quite sentimental about being Canadian on and around July 1st.’ We Swiss don’t celebrate our National Day the same nor do we celebrate our military – though we like to be a neutral country ^_^

    Perhaps Canada may not be patriotic to Canadians themselves but to foreigners like me it is. Perhaps Canadians don’t think it’s so patriotic as America but compared to most other countries beyond America, Canada is very patriotic (in the top 10: http://www.forbes.com/2008/07/02/world-national-pride-oped-cx_sp_0701patriot.html).

    I wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2012 by the way :)

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