I know very little about Canada, even less about Mexico. My international neighbors are strangers to me. Funny that, because so too are my immediate neighbors here on my street. I don’t even know the name of the guy next door perhaps because we see so little of him. Honestly, he could be sitting at the table right next to me in a restaurant, and I wouldn’t even recognize him. The young couple on the other side just moved out, and after living next door to them for four years, at least I did know their first names, and the name of their young baby, but that was about it really. Never knew what he, or she did for a living. And it wasn’t as if they were unfriendly, they weren’t.
I guess given enough time we might have learned a bit more about each other and, who knows, at some point down the road, we’d have occasionally shared a beer and looked after each other’s pets and flowers while the other was out of town. That’s part of what being a good neighbor is, isn’t it? Taking a genuine interest in the affairs of those who live next door, respecting each other’s privacy, but being there to help out from time to time? Oh, and knowing something about one’s neighbor, being able to describe them to a stranger; that’d be part of what being a good neighbor is too, wouldn’t it?
Which brings me back to Canada and Mexico. Because, to use the yardstick of “knowing something” about one’s neighbor as being part of the hallmark of being a good neighbor, then I’d be a very poor neighbor to our partners to the north and south. Let me see, I think Steven Harper is the Prime Minister of Canada, but I don’t know who the president of Mexico is. I know it was Felipe Calderon, because his name always reminded me of “cauldron”. I probably could, if you gave me three names to chose from, pick the president of Mexico, but right now, off the top of my head, I can’t name him.
The capital of Canada is, I think, Ottowa, and I know they speak French in the state of Quebec. However, they don’t call them states up there do they? Are they provinces? I desperately want Google to answer this question, which just serves to underline my point really. The point being, I don’t know for sure what these administrative territories are called, and yet, I feel I should. I am woefully, shamefully, inexcusably ignorant of things Canadian. And of course I’m not much better, in fact possibly worse off, when it comes to Mexico.
Why is this? Surely I am not alone in this regard? Why are we so pathetically ignorant of our neighbors to the north and south of us? I’m guessing however that the level of ignorance is not reciprocated. I bet they know a heck of a lot more about us, than we do of them. Why is that?
Brian O’ Nuanain runs “Across The Pond And Beyond”, a company that organizes international vacations. You can reach him at acrossthepondandbeyond.com