Maple Leaf Masquerade; Some Americans Abroad Pretend to Be Canadian

Article excerpt

Byline: Jennifer Harper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Ready to trade that Yo for an Eh?

There are those who insist that smart American travelers should stow their Yankee identity and simply pretend they're Canadians to ensure safe passage overseas.

New Mexico-based T-Shirt King, in fact, is offering a "Going Canadian" kit for $25 that includes a T-shirt emblazoned with the Canadian flag and the phrase "O Canada," a matching maple leaf patch for luggage, a window sticker, lapel pin and a little guide called "How to Speak Canadian, Eh?"

"Now when somebody asks you about American politics, you can say, 'I'm on vacation. I don't want to talk aboot it,' " the company advises.

The kits, which the company intended as a collegiate gag gift, are literally flying off the shelves.

"You've got to have a sense of humor here," said owner Lisa Broadbent yesterday.

She's getting calls from Canadians and Americans alike.

"Some of the Canadians are thrilled by the idea. Others are offended, because they don't want what they call 'rude' Americans disguising themselves as Canadians," Mrs. Broadbent said. "The Americans say if you're not proud to be an American, then go pack your bags and move to Canada."

Both sides, Mrs. Broadbent said, "are definitely wrapped up in politics."

And those politics have gotten partisan.

Her husband, Bill, who created the Canadian kit after hearing tales of Americans harassed overseas, said 70 percent of the buyers are Republicans who had a Democratic recipient in mind.

Meanwhile, the kit includes a quickie guide to all things Canadian, advising readers that "Wayne Gretzky" is a good answer for any sports question, and that Toronto is nicknamed "Hogtown."

Academics and diplomats would have nothing to do with the discussion yesterday.

"It's a tempest in a teapot. American travelers have been disguising themselves as Canadians for 30 years," said one expert in Canadian-American relations at the University at Buffalo, part of the State University of New York.

A Canadian diplomatic source also was reluctant to comment. …