Well, it's official. At least three nations have put out travel advisories to warn tourists about the dangers of a Canadian vacation.
What, you may ask, is so dangerous about Canada?
Are we a country torn apart by civil strife, where gangs of young men roam the street, expressing their anger and frustration via slingshot and Molotov cocktail? No, not unless you count that one incident last year when a Burnaby, BC, Tim Horton's ran out of maple dip doughnuts.
Are we afflicted by dangerous medical conditions, where people bleed heavily from the mouth, get strange lesions on the face and suffer head trauma? No, that's just the standard list of injuries from a hockey game.
No, what appears to be freaking out our friends the Brits are…the moose.
Apparently Britain has issued a travel advisory about Canada warning potential tourists that deer, elk and moose are a major road hazard here.
Now, I've lived in Canada all my life and the only moose I've ever seen is the chocolate kind. In fact, chocolate mousse is the only sort I've hunted too. The one elk I've seen is a member of Elk Lodge No. 348, and the only time he's dangerous is if he gets behind the wheel after a particularly, ahem, cheerful meeting.
British officials also worry about rabid raccoons. I'm sure this leaves potential holidaymakers with fearful visions of rabid raccoon gangs, roaming the streets, bashing unwary tourists with garbage can lids and foaming at the mouth. However the only people who need worry about being whapped with garbage can lids are Tim Horton's staffers, and then only if they haven't thrown out enough stale maple dip doughnuts. These are Canadian raccoons, after all.
Curiously, British officials also warn that forest fires can happen “anywhere and in any season,” which I am sure comes to a major surprise to the residents of cemented, suburban Toronto in the middle of a -20C winter. Come to think of it, Toronto residents might actually welcome a forest fire in the middle of a -20C winter.
The US, meanwhile, warns of dangerous winter road conditions. In this case I'm not sure if they're warning about ice on the road, or the fact that Floridians driving north in nothing but an open '57 convertible risk getting their tans frozen off. Strangely the US also warns tourists about Canadian drivers frequently ignoring red lights. In a country where if one Canuck accidentally steps on another Canuck's foot, the victim says “Sorry,” I can't see us being rude enough to run red lights that often.
Australia, meanwhile, focused on SARS and West Nile. The concern makes perfect sense, of course, given Australia's occasional rounds with say, malaria and dengue fever.
Actually, I really don't mind that other countries fear our moose and punk raccoons. Consider the following travel advisories for these other nations:
Britain: Travelers are warned that there is just one season in Britain: the wet one. Traditionally, Brits have as many descriptive words for rain (such as “blasted rain” or “damn rain” or “bleedin' rain”) as they do types of ale, which is to say, thousands. Tourists are also advised to exercise extreme caution when using the nation's train system. Although generally good, it is subject to sudden bouts of “engineering works” which can mean your trip from London to Manchester gets rerouted via Aberdeen and possibly Penzance.
United States: Although mostly safe, tourists are generally advised to keep out of the following areas: California (landslides, fires, Hollywood, earthquakes, being groped by the governor, riots, plastic surgeons), Texas (Texans), Florida (snakes, alligators, retired Canadians, Jeb Bush) and Detroit (home of Eminem 'nuff said).
Australia: Holidaymakers should be aware that Australia has the most poisonous things per capita in the world, and that includes the beer. Australians also suffer from a speech issue, which means they lay all their vowels on their side before pronouncing a word; this may be due to the fact their country is upside down and at the bottom of the planet. Prolonged exposure to this accent will disrupt your own speech patterns for several weeks. Finally, be advised that Australians view good weather as their constitutional birthright, and tend to get crabby and irritable if the temperature dares to drop to single digits, or if a single cloud crosses the sky.
There. You've been warned.
To read more of Chandra's work, visit www.ChandraKClarke.com.