For many years, I taught marketing courses at both the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. I encouraged my students, particularly foreign students to better understand the not so subtle differences between Canada and the USA and to be able to use those insights in their marketing efforts.
Since that time, I have had the opportunity to work with clients in the public sector and non-profit field trying to make inroads into the USA. So, for those marketers who are marketing to USA and vice versa this is for you.
One of the books I used in my class when I was teaching marketing was Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values by Michael Adams. The book was written in 2003 but is still somewhat relevant today although there have been many changes in both countries in the past 13 years.
Michael Adams offered a surprising argument that the values of Canadians and Americans were diverging in important ways. Despite the two countries’ profound economic integration, (and the fact that 90% of Canada’s residents live within 100 miles of the US border) their many historical, demographic, and geographic similarities, and the ubiquity of American popular culture in Canada, Adams argued that Canadians and Americans increasingly view the world differently.
Relying on thousands of social values surveys conducted in Canada and in the United States, Adams describes cross-border differences on matters ranging from religion, authority, and the family to entertainment, consumption, and civic life. Fire and Ice offered an illuminating portrait of the evolving values of two nations separated at birth.
Adams was particularly interested in finding out why an initially “conservative” society like Canada has ended up producing an autonomous, inner-directed, flexible, tolerant, socially liberal, and spiritually eclectic people while an intentionally “liberal” society like the United States has ended up producing a people who are, relatively speaking, materialistic, outer-directed, somewhat intolerant, socially conservative, and deferential to traditional institutional authority.
He asked “why do these two societies seem to prove the law of unintended consequences?” Americans may speak the same language as Canadians ( although Canada was founded on 2 official languages English and French), and both watch much the same TV, the same movies, and read many of the same books – there are Canadians appearing in those TV programs and in those movies, and even ghost-writing for the President (e.g. Conservative writer David Frum, son of one the best-known broadcasters in Canada- the late Barbara Frum) — but make no mistake, Americans are not the same as Canadians.
If Adams were writing the book today he would be somewhat astonished by the recent American election, Canadians are somewhat puzzled and shocked that the USA could elect someone like Donald Trump.
Now Canada and the world awaits the 45th President of the United States with curiosity and incredulity. He and his associates have reiterated plans to re-write or cancel trade agreements, deport illegal undocumented aliens, withdraw from international agreements on climate change and nuclear arms, rethink NATO and recast relations with Russia. (My Mom who was a Russian immigrant to Canada once told me that the Russians are a great people but you cannot trust their politicians).
So, what is the difference between the 2 countries today? According to Canadian, Andrew Cohen, a journalist and author, and a Fulbright Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C. Canada does not produce out spoken billionaires (yes there is Conrad Black but he is no longer a Canadian). Ours, like the Thomsons, McCains and Irvings, live modest lives. They don’t go into politics and they don’t trade in innuendo and conspiracy. Our prime ministers tend to be humble and deferential.
Trump represents a sense of the world utterly different from Canada.
He wants to close the US borders to Muslims, build a wall (or is it now a fence?) facing Mexico, refuse all Syrian refugees. Canada has taken 33,000 Syrians and may bring in more. Canada embraces open immigration, and are considering admitting more than 300,000 newcomers a year (its population is a tenth of the size of the US). Canada is the only Western democracy without an anti-immigration party.
Trump wants to repeal – perhaps amend – Obamacare. Canada have had a universal single payer healthcare system for 50 years. Canadians believe in government, with some role in the economy, and defender of national culture. Trump sees government harshly. He picks up from Ronald Regan who stated that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
Trump opposes free trade. Canadians depend on it, which is why Canada has NAFTA, negotiated the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union, and endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Trump slags the United Nations and criticizes NATO. Multilateralism is the foundation of Canadian internationalism, long a counterweight to the influence of the United States.
Trump opposes climate change. Canadians, in general, are keen to act on climate change starting with a carbon tax. Trump is against abortion and for the death penalty. Canadians allow abortion and abolished capital punishment in 1976. Trump tends to degrade women. Canada has a cabinet of gender equity. Trump is protectionist, nativist and isolationist, an America Firster. Canadians are open to free trade, immigration, peacekeeping and an integrated world. Canada’s youthful prime minister has sunny ways; Trump has Sunni ways.
Recently, the Gallup organization in the US updated a series of questions they have asked over the years about what behaviours or choices Americans consider to be moral or immoral. Bruce Anderson & David Coletto of Abacus Research decided to mirror the questions in their July 2016 survey of Canadians.
Here’s what they found:
• The vast majority in Canada (95%) and the US (89%) consider birth control morally acceptable. But Canadians are 22 points more likely to say it is moral to have a baby out of wedlock, (84%-62%). And 26 points more likely to say abortion is morally acceptable (69%-43%).
• Canadians are 21 points more likely to say gay or lesbian relations are moral (81% vs 60%), 19 points more likely to say that sex between unmarried people is moral (86% vs 67%) and 14 points more likely to say divorce is moral (86%-72%).
• Canadians are far more likely to feel that doctor assisted dying is morally acceptable (79%-53%).
• Canadians are 15 points more likely to think pornography is morally acceptable than Americans (49% in Canada, 34% in the US).
• Americans are more comfortable with the idea of medical testing on animals and wearing clothing made of animal fur, by 14 points.
•Very few in either country believe it would be moral to clone a human (14% in Canada, 13% in the US).
• Interestingly, there is almost no difference when it comes to the death penalty, with majorities in both countries (58% in Canada, 59% in the US) considering it morally right.
Americans are also more open to the idea of cloning animals, but most people in both countries feel this is immoral.
Yes, Canadians love Hockey which is its national sport, Many Canadians also like football, basketball and baseball. My Americans friends are absolutely floored when I tell them that both American Football and Basketball were invented by Canadians. And recently it was discovered that Baseball was a British invention. Soccer is starting to become popular in both countries especially with the influx of immigrants who come from countries where soccer (known as football) is very popular.
Oh, one more thing, Canadians are totally baffled with regards to the American love affair with guns. It seems that almost every week there is some type of mass killing.
But the biggie is the NRA, how does a country allow itself to be controlled by an association of gun owners. Extraordinary!
Here are some quotes regarding Canada and the USA:
A Canadian is someone who knows how to make love in a canoe without tipping it. – Pierre Berton
Canada is the essence of not being. Not English, not American, it is the mathematic of not being. And a subtle flavour – we’re more like celery as a flavour – Mike Meyers
For some reason a glaze passes over people’s faces when you say “Canada”. Maybe we should invade South Dakota or something. – Sandra Gotlieb, wife of Canadian ambassador to US
Americans arrive at the Canadian border with skis in July- Canadian Border Guard
I’ve been to Canada, and I’ve always gotten the impression that I could take the country over in about two days. – Jon Stewart
When I was crossing the border into Canada, they asked if I had any firearms with me. I said, “Well, what do you need?” – Steven Wright
I saw a notice that said “Drink Canada Dry” and I’ve just started – Brendan Behan
Americans like to make money: Canadians like to audit it. I know no country where accountants have a higher social and moral status. – Northrop Frye
The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation – Pierre Trudeau former Prime Minister of Canada
We’ll explain the appeal of curling to you if you explain the appeal of the National Rifle Association to us. – Andy Barrie
Canada could have enjoyed: English government, French culture, and American know-how. Instead it ended up with: English know-how, French government, and American culture. – John Robert Colombo
A Canadian is merely an unarmed American with health care. – John Wing
I believe the world needs more Canada – Bono
Canadians are more polite when they are being rude than Americans are when they are being friendly. – Edgar Friedenberg