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Top nine Canadian things to do in London for Canada Day

Posted at 10:00 am, July 1, 2013 in Fun London
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Yes, today is Canada Day. But how the heck are you going to celebrate (apart from flying over the pond)? We asked our resident Canadian Nick Aveling for some advice.

1. Get mistaken for an American

Back during the Bush years, when ‘freedom fries’ first took America by storm, Americans travelling abroad routinely posed as Canadians to avoid confrontation. You’d think enduring the reverse on an hourly basis would be exhausting, and sometimes it is. But it also turns out to be minimally advantageous. For one, nine out of 10 Londoners erupt into spasms of apology the moment they’re corrected – and who doesn’t enjoy getting a good, earnest apology? More importantly, though, Canadians’ transgressions are assumed as a matter of faith to be Americans’. Chatting too loudly in a restaurant? Bloody Yanks. Taking too long at the Tesco checkout? Stupid Yanks. Standing on the left side of the escalator? Ignorant Yanks. Now you try.

2. Pronounce ‘Pret A Manger’ in French

A rookie mistake. Also one that any halfway-bilingual Canuck is likely to make more than once, what with all the Prets across the street from Prets beside Prets around the corner from Prets inside Prets. Still, at least no one will think you’re American.

3. Apologise

Canadians don’t just enjoy receiving apologies; they enjoy giving them, too. And since London has managed to cram more than eight million people into an area roughly the same size as the average Saskatchewan vegetable patch, we’re left with plenty of opportunity. I, for one, would like to apologise to any Americans I’ve offended with this post. I’d also like to apologise to the man I bumped into on the tube this morning. As for the woman who bumped into me – sorry, my foot clearly shouldn’t have been there. Sorry.


4. Feel massively superior when it snows

You call this snow? This? Where I come from we call it May, and we sure as hell don’t cower at home the first time a snowflake lands butterfly-like on the tips of our noses. No sir. When a blizzard strikes we chip the ice off the car and drive to work anyway. And if the motorway’s impassable we get out the car and shovel that shit our goddamn selves.

Or this. Get the idea?

Really though, you should all be ashamed. Unless the whole thing is some kind of tacit, city-wide work avoidance scheme, in which case touché – we want in.

5. Feel massively inferior when it doesn’t

Sorry for the outburst. Canada has something of a national inferiority complex – the inevitable result, in all fairness, of going from largely insignificant colonial outpost to largely insignificant northern neighbour. The danger of overcompensating is real.

6. Single-handedly save the UK economy

You just had to deregulate the banks, didn’t you? Well now look at you. Only a healthy (read Canadian) dose of responsible fiscal stewardship can help you now. Enter Mark ‘The Guv’ Carney, the new Canadian Governor of the Bank England, to save the day.

There’s been a lot in the press lately about Carney’s hands being tied. Arguments that, structurally, no one person can change a whole lot at Threadneedle Street. Well think again. Seems Carney has the final say over who gets their face on the new £10 note. My bet? Wayne Gretzky. Or Geddy Lee.

7. Eat proper poutine at P’tite Poutine in Broadway Market

The question is as fair as it is inevitable: is Canadian food even a thing? Not really, but we do a few things well. Take poutine, a French Canadian staple made from chips, gravy and, vitally, cheese curds. (Fun fact: until the Great Beaver River Act was passed in 1996, poutine made with grated cheese as opposed to the obligatory curds was punishable by hanging in six out of 10 provinces.)  Until recently, Canucks seeking a slice of home had one disastrous option: The Maple Leaf bar (see number eight). Then P’tite Poutine set up in the schoolyard off Broadway Market and changed everything. Try that shit. It’s delicious.

8. Feel alienated at the Maple Leaf bar in Covent Garden

Maybe it’s the plush moose head behind the bar or the perfunctory selection of Canadian beers. Or maybe it’s the requisite hockey jerseys festooning the walls, apparently hung at some point during the ’90s and left to wither away like Anne Murray. Whatever the reason, Covent Garden’s Maple Leaf pub provides a profoundly jarring shock to the homesick Canadian – less a recreation than a cartoonification of the real deal. That said, the wings are pretty damn good.

9. Give’r at Trafalgar Square every July 1

“Give’r” is a catch-all Canadian term meaning “work hard” or “party hard” – or do anything hard, really. But why explain with words what national institutions Terry and Deaner can demonstrate so much better?

Right then, off to shotgun some brews in Trafalgar Square, maybe belt out a couple Hip tunes and make grunting noises about hockey while I’m at it. See you on the last tube home. I’ll be the strident American dick who had too much to drink. Nick Aveling

To see what else is happening on Canada Day, visit the Time Out listings.

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