Jaillan Yehia

The Simple Bear Necessities of Canadian Telly Vs The British Box

Written by Jaillan Yehia

Post Categories: Americas | Canada | Continents | News | Opinion
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polar bear town

Image courtesy of OLN’s Polar Bear Town 

As a Brit in Canada, I’m asked the same question every time I get into a taxi.

It goes like this:

Taxi driver: “What part of Australia are you from?”

Me: (Struggles to remain polite, but being British and not Australian, succeeds) “Haha. I’m actually from London.”

Taxi driver: “Where do you like better, there or here?”

The phraseology of this question remains remarkably consistent – just as every waitress asks precisely ‘how the first few bites are tasting’ – as though all Canadians come with a script, and I’m still learning the lines (though ‘sorry’ was already second nature ‘buddy’ was new lingo for sure).

I never quite knew what to say to the question of which is better, Canada or England, because the answer is far too complex to discuss on an $8 cab ride.

Until I realised that the bare necessities of British and Canadian culture can be summed up by simply turning on the TV… 

The latest Canadian TV show to catch my eye, Polar Bear Town, has given me real pause for thought as to why I can’t possibly give all these taxi drivers a straight answer on whether Canada or England is the better country.

Polar Bear Town

I imagine he’s giving this Canada vs. England thing some serious thought too.

That’s because the documentary series set on the edge of Canada’s Arctic in Churchill, Manitoba, and chock full of icy images of polar bears and outdoorsy men, demonstrates everything I like best about life in Canada – that it’s totally, uniquely and unmistakably Canadian. And you just can’t get that anywhere else. In short the best thing about Canada is it’s unashamed Canadianness.

Canadian

Spotted on the wall of a bar in Manitoba – strangely no mention of polar bears though.

When I first moved overseas I didn’t have time for TV. But one I spent enough time in Canada to get out of holiday mode, and shook off the idea that it was a waste of precious time to turn on the TV, I was by turns enchanted and bemused by the array of classic Canadiana being broadcast.

With titles like Ice Road Truckers and Carver Kings, I lapped up a TV diet of cliched Canadian pursuits – and I learned that the archetypal Canadian TV show, repeated with a regularity reserved solely for Only Fools and Horses back home is Alone in the Wilderness.

Of course all tourists assume that Canadians spend their time hunting, shooting and fishing, when they’re not playing ice hockey and drinking litres of maple syrup, but surely I thought, this can be no more a reflection of reality than the notion that all Brits commute to work on penny farthings wearing bowler hats and know the Queen.

I'm English ergo I know The Queen. In my case it's sort of true - I do know someone who knows the Queen!

I’m English ergo I know The Queen. In my case it’s sort of true – I do know someone who knows the Queen.

When it comes to TV,  and when it comes to bears, I grew up more Paddington than polar. I also grew up in proximity to it, if we’re talking the London locale after which everyone’s favourite bear is named.

Paddington: Flying the flag for British bears. And Peruvian ones.

Paddington: Flying the flag for British bears. And Peruvian ones.

And that tells you everything about why I think England is best – namely because I grew up there and there’s no replacing that. But also because the best thing about England isn’t actually its Englishness, but its diversity. Paddington is an ex-pat from Peru after all.

polar bear town

Bear or not, there’s no place like home.

Turn on a TV set in Blighty and granted you may be faced with something as English as Eastenders, but you’re just, if not more, likely to discover an eye-opening documentary about coffee farmers in Paraguay, or, well any other subject and location that you can or cannot imagine.

These days Great Britain is far too abashed to bang on about how great it is, but in short the best thing about England, is it’s unashamed flag-flying worldliness and card-carrying diversity.

But try telling all this to a taxi driver while the meter is running.

So perhaps I should just be polite and assure the next Canadian cab driver that I like it right here best, buddy  – after all being polite is something that’s a bare necessity in both England and in Canada.

Polar Bear Town is  on Canadian Channel OLN on Tuesday evenings – and you can get more info and watch the entire series online.

For more information about the polar bear town of Churchill, Manitoba visit Everything Churchill.

And if you haven’t heard of it, do yourself a favour and watch 1 minute of Only Fools and Horses too.


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