In 1957 I was invited by the American European Foundation of New York City to write an essay on my impressions of life in the United States and of "how American habits of thinking and ways of life" differ from those of my own country. This Chapter is a slightly revised version of that essay, which was published with nineteen essays from contributors of other countries as a book entitled AS OTHERS SEE US: The United States Through Foreign Eyesin 1959. This revision is reproduced with permission of the publishers, Princeton University Press.
To someone from Europe or Asia, or even from the United States, the striking thing about the two North American peoples must surely be how unnatural the border that bisects the continent, how similar the lives of those on its two sides. Both peoples have so much more than their fair share of the world's material comforts, and every prospect of becoming wealthier yet. With the exception of the French-speaking Canadians (who become less of an exception every year), they use a common language and even a common slang. They share a European cultural tradition. Both enjoy or endure the mass culture and the mass gadgetry of twentieth century civilization. Both hold to an ethic of human brotherhood and a belief in the sanctity of the individual. Beside this common tradition of beliefs and values and institutions, any recitation of differences is bound to pale.
Yet to a Canadian these differences are crucial. It is the area of distinctness which interests him. Indeed, it obsesses him. He wants to know what may be said to be distinctively Canadian in