As an occasional host on couchsurfing I meet quite a few people looking for the “canadian experience”. The surfers who come through Edmonton are generally arriving to find work or passing through while they travel across the country; many are on year-long work visas and living in other cities. When people from other countries stay with me I want to make sure of a few things 1) they experience something in Edmonton other than that giant mall, 2) they learn about at least a few things that are quintessentially Canadian. Most of them have told me that they get somewhat blank stares or fumbling when they ask “what is Canadian? What should I do/see/try that would give me a true Canadian experience?”. Because of this question and a love for my country* I’ve tried to come up with a list – music, books, TV shows and experiences that play out in Canadian life. These are generally things that – I think – most Canadians have at least heard of, that hold a special place in Canadian hearts. The list does not include some of our more obnoxious exports to other countries such as Biebs or Shania but highlights the great things we tend not to export. We keep the really good stuff for ourselves.
This is what I have come up with so far – perhaps you can help me add to the list? Does anything not belong here?
Joni Mitchell – this one goes against my criterion for lack of notoriety outside of Canada however she is included because A) her music is great, B) people may not *know* she is Canadian (and they should).
Our Lady Peace – this is a band that, while heard outside Canada, this was for a brief period in 1997 where they had 1-2 mega-hits in North America. Little do many outsiders know, they continue to make decent music in the 2010s. Yes, I picked their song “Thief” because it gets me every damn time. That, and “Clumsy”.
The Tragically Hip – Now here is a band that has been a staple in Canada for decades but rarely makes a splash beyond the borders. American friends (our most likely export-market) always stare at me blankly when I suggest this band to them. Plus, they sing songs about hockey.
Marianas Trench – This one is included entirely for personal taste and nostalgia reasons. Trust me, I know that pop-punk (mostly pop in their latest album) doesn’t rate that highly with the cultured but I have a soft spot for this band and I’m including them. Plus they really are pretty big these days and mostly a maple-leaf thing.
Great Big Sea – Giving a little love to the east coast. This is another staple band that has been around the block and still drums up a good crowd wherever they may play in this country.
This is threatening to become an unmanageable post so I’ll break it up into categories. Look forward to movies/television, food, and culture/experiences.
Others that deserve a mention (some were not included due to international fame level): Leonard Cohen, Sarah McLachlan, The Barenaked Ladies, Feist, Alanis Morissette, Neil Young, Nelly Furtado, Diana Krall and Michael Buble.
What would you add to the list? Remove?
Edited to add suggestions from a reader:
Jann Arden – this woman croons the Canadians. She has also established herself on CBC radio and can be quite entertaining. It is always a treat to find her as a guest star to a favourite show. Ms. Arden is a person that would put on a good show – she is definitely on my must-see concert list.
Chantal Kreviazuk – she is the other half of the Canadian power-couple that makes up Chantal and the lead singer of the aforementioned Our Lady Peace. She’s another lady that knows how to entertain the audience. I once pulled an all-nighter to finish my first university psychology paper when I decided to see her in concert instead of start said paper on time. I got 85%.
*I’m not a blind patriot, I know Canada is far from perfect, but I love it anyway