Commentary

Oh, Canada

A guide to thriving in Vancouver, one smile at a time

Updated: February 15, 2010, 12:36 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN The Magazine

CanadiansFrederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty ImagesCrazy Canadians need to be treated kindly, too.

It's always so cute when Canada hosts an Olympics. Canadians try so hard. This comes from living next to America and having an inferiority complex worse than Tito Jackson's.

For instance, it's rained every day I've been in Vancouver, athletes are starting to withdraw because of pruny fingers, and Canadians feel terrible. They're always saying "Gee, sore-ee about the rain, eh?" Do you realize they've been helicoptering snow up to the mountain venues? Who does that?

These people are nice. Preposterously nice. Aunt Bee in mukluks nice. This is a country that has human-chomping grizzlies on every corner and yet chose the furry beaver for its national animal.

Here's how nice: Twice already, Canadian mogul star Jenn Heil's bus has broken down on the drive up from Vancouver to Cypress Mountain. And both buses were from California! Peter Judge of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association was quoted as saying after the second time: "It was a bit of a concern." A "bit of a concern"? If it had happened to an American star, they'd have made everybody responsible stand against a wall in front of a running 2010 Prius.

Anyway, I think Americans who come to these Winter Olympics should try to be nice back. You can't be nicer than Canadians, but you can try. Here's how:

• Do not talk about hockey. A Canadian team has not won the Stanley Cup in 17 years. This is possibly because there are no more Canadian hockey teams left. OK, that's not true. Still, if Canada doesn't win the gold in men's hockey this time -- something it's only done once since 1952 -- fans here might all throw themselves under stampeding moose.

If your birthday is August 9, always look at the ground, shake your head and add, "The day Wayne was traded."

• Use the "organics" recycling container in your hotel room. This is one of 14 recycling containers you'll find there. The mind recoils as to what you're supposed to put in the "organics" can in a hotel room, but the little sign says to put "meat, poultry, fish, plants and flowers." That's weird. I always leave my poultry in a gift bag for the maid.

• Speak Canadian. ATMs are ABMs. Street hockey is "shinny." Butt is "arse." Beer is "brew." Stuff is "whatnot." Newfoundlanders are "Newfies." Never say the "g" in "ing." And yay is not a cheer, it's a measurement, as in: "I'm lookin' for my malamute, about yay big and yay long?"

• Call Vancouver "Van City" or even "The Van" but do not call it the name it hates: "No Fun City." It IS a fun city, except that a lot of the bars close at 11. In the morning.

• And it apparently NEVER STOPS RAINING.

• Use abbreviated words whenever possible. For instance, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police becomes the "RCMP," which becomes "the Armsee," as in the sentence: "I sure hope Bode Miller doesn't get pinched by the Armsees this Olympics. I got 10 Loonies on him."

• Abbreviate your new friends' names, too. Hamilton becomes "Hams." If your friend's name is already short, add "er" to it. This is how you get a sentence like, "Let's go play some shinny, eh? You be Gretz and I'll be Nasher."

• Compliment their national anthem. It's way better than ours.

• Pretend that you have to plug in your engine block at night to keep it from freezing, too. Makes them feel better.

• Go to Tim's (short for "Tim Hortons") and have a double-double (two creams, two sugars) and some Timbits (donut holes) and stand around and talk about curling. This will be a welcome topic. The Canadians are still great at curling.
You: The boys oughta do priddy good, eh?

Him: Oh, sure. The sweeps are beauties.
You: You thinkin' they might be winnin' and whatnot, eh?
Him: Boy, would that ever be neat!

• When referring to Elvis, be sure its Stojko not Presley. If you're talking about acting, don't forget the god of all Canadian thespians -- Lorne Greene from "Bonanza." If your birthday is Aug. 9, always look at the ground, shake your head and add, "The day Wayne was traded."

• Never say "said." Say "goes," as in: "So Lindsey goes, 'I'm freezin' way up here in just a bikini.' And I go, 'Linds, it's a bitchin' career move!' And she goes, 'K, but it's colder 'n a Newfie's arse up here!'"

• If you're a snowboarder and you snap your neck in three places doing your Double Fakie Ollie Grab and they're putting you in the ambulance, smile and go, "It's fine! Canada's got free health care!"

But if those bastards say anything about their dollar being worth more than ours, slam them in the nose with your organics can.


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