What’s the deal with moose anyway?
Ask anyone what springs to mind when they think of Canada and it’s most likely to be one of five: moose, Mounties, cold weather, maple leaves or ice hockey. Some nations shun their stereotypes, but Canadians not only accept their reputation as a bunch of beer-swilling, hockey-loving, moose-riding igloo dwellers – they embrace it. Before you head to Canada, get familiar with a few of the nation’s emblems – the locals will love you for it (of course, it’s not too tough to make friends in a country where people apologise if you kick them, but still...). Here’s a rundown on some proudly Canadian emblems:
Whether you call ‘em moose, mooses or meese, there’s no denying that these gigantic, gawky mammals are truly Canadian. Sadly, you don’t tend to see them wandering the streets and Mounties don’t actually ride them, but there’s nothing quite like seeing your first moose in outback Canada. Just keep your fingers crossed that you don’t see one while you’re night driving, for in the battle of moose vs rental car, Avis will rarely end up victorious.
It might come as a surprise, but in fact the noble beaver, not the moose, is Canada’s national animal. The UK has the lion; the USA has the eagle; Canada has the beaver. Despite its destructive tendencies, the beaver brought wealth to Canada during the country’s fur trading years and is now immortalised on the five cent coin, stamps and military uniforms.
Canada is renowned as a pacifistic nation with comparatively low violent crime levels, so it seems a weird paradox that their national passion should be fraught with fighting. Those who don’t follow hockey are invariably shocked the first time they witness a fight breaking out as an apathetic referee looks on. But perhaps we could all learn something from Canadians – take out your anger while everyone’s wearing body armour and back in the real world revert to smiling at strangers and leaving your door unlocked.
No nation on earth has a police force with such an emblematic (and some might say comical) uniform. Sadly, RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) officers are seldom seen sporting their cherry red jackets, ballooning blue breeches, knee-high boots and brown Stetsons. Unless you catch them on ceremonial days, you’ll have to make do with standard blue uniforms, which can be a bit disappointing if you’re carrying a camera looking for that perfect Canadian photo.
The maple leaf was used as a Canadian emblem as early as the 1700s – way before Canada existed (in name that is – the land was already here then!) Since then the world’s most recognisable leaf has been used on their flag, adopted as the moniker for one of the country’s most popular hockey teams and appears at least once in any Canadian’s wardrobe (or on a patch sewn to their backpack). Whether or not Canucks actually swig maple syrup from the bottle is debatable, but when you can buy this iconic tree’s sap as butter, candy, chocolate, syrup, sugar or fudge and can order it smothered over ham, carrots or mixed with beans you can be sure they take their national plant very seriously
It’ no secret that Canada is cold. The mildest winter lasts at least four months, temperatures regularly reach minus 20 and show drifts are often higher than a moose’s antlers. But does that mean Canadians complain about their climate? Far from it. In fact, they love winter. They can’t get enough of it – or at least that’s what they’d have you believe. Once the spring thaw begins, they nostalgically discuss the passing of weather that freezes your boogers and make it painful to breathe in, and claim that they couldn’t live without their annual months of nose-numbing misery. To really join in, you have to experience the arctic temperatures yourself, as it’s tough to imagine the sensation of your nose hairs freezing within seconds of stepping outside.
So now you have a bit of background on the Great White North, what are you waiting for? Stock up your winter wardrobe, learn to talk about beavers without smirking and prepare your cavities for an overdose of sugar. Pretty soon you’ll be finishing every sentence with ‘eh’, calculating the size of a moose in metric measurements and apologising when people bump into you!