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Kategorien/Categories:    ›Sprachkultur/Language culture‹  ›Kultur/Culture‹  ›EN‹   –  28.10.2013

Cultural melting pot

Everyone thinks about the USA when you talk about the proverbial ‘melting pot’, but just across the border, in southeastern Canada, cultural and linguistic diversity are still very much a part of daily life.

As much as US and Canadian culture might be seen as largely one big “North American mish-mash”, there are distinct differences, no doubt. This became very apparent on a recent trip to the Canadian Maritimes. Once you cross the border checkpoint into New Brunswick, you are greeted not only by highway signs in kilometers (how familiar!) but also by completely bilingual signage (English and French, both official languages in that province). Every road is a rue or chemin at the same time, every Provincial or National Park also does double duty as a Parque.

All around the Bay of Fundy, in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, you find much evidence of North America’s classic cultural melting pot. Next to the French and English colonists there were also the Acadians. They are descendants of a distinct group of French colonists with a dialect and culture altogether different from the Franco-Canadians, who today are mostly found in Quebec. The Acadian culture and love of music took on a whole new meaning when, after the great deportation at the hands of the British in the mid-1700s, many Acadians ended up in Louisiana, where they soon became known as Cajuns.

Today, Acadian culture and language are still very much alive, a proud and very visual ethnic minority (they love to display their flag on just about anything, from mailboxes to painted rocks in the front yard). I was surprised to learn that especially in southern Nova Scotia almost 50% of the population grew up speaking Acadian at home.

You can also find remnants of the indigenous culture of that area, most notably, that of the Mi’kmaq. While we were there, we even saw a headline in one of the large daily newspapers written in Mi’kmaq! Scottish and Irish influences in culture and language are found all over Nova Scotia as well, not surprisingly most concentratedly around Cape Breton Island. There, the Gaelic traditions are a great magnet for tourism (especially music events and Highland Festivals) and you can find street signs in Gaelic and even a few Gaelic educational intuitions.

Looking back on these experiences, it was kind of neat to encounter a host of different languages and cultures on such a relatively small footprint – almost like being back in good old Europe.