The continent of North America is made up of 41 different countries. Most of these countries are small and many are tiny islands belonging to Denmark, France, UK and USA. The mainland is dominated by the 2 giants USA and Canada, with Mexico coming third. Mexico occupies negligible land area as compared with USA and Canada, but it is a densely populated country, with a larger number of inhabitants than Canada.
The United States of America emerged as a world super power along with the USSR in the bipolar era that followed the Second World War. The country is often referred to as America, a tribute to its significance in the New World. USA is also referred to as the United States or the US. It is the fourth largest country in the world by land area. It comprises a Federal Republic of 50 states. Forty eight states are contiguous and lie in the mid-latitudes of the continent. Alaska the 49th state lies at the north western extreme end of the continent and the Island State of Hawaii lies in the mid Pacific Ocean.
The Northern neighbour of the USA is Canada. Canada occupies 2/5th of the North American continent. By land area it is the second largest country in the world after Russia. The two countries, USA and Canada, share a border that is 8,890 km long including the border with Alaska. This is the longest border in the world and it is a tribute to both countries that the border is not controlled by military forces.
USA and Canada have many similarities. USA is much more densely populated with a population of approximately 320 million. Canada by contrast is sparsely populated with a population of 35 million. However most of Canada’s population live within 300 km of the border with the US. The people share a popular culture that makes Americans barely distinguishable from Canadians.
Both nations also share a common history. Both countries were treated as battle grounds for European powers to establish their dominance. Many powers were at play in the US but in Canada the dominant forces comprised only the British and the French. In both countries contact with the Europeans led to the near annihilation of the cultures of the original people of the land. These people who bear a strong resemblance to the people of Siberia probably walked over the now submerged land bridge between Siberia and Alaska during the last Ice Age twelve thousand years ago. They are known as the Native Americans in the USA but are called the First Nation is Canada. The Eskimo as the Inuit are now called developed a lifestyle especially adapted to the frozen expanses that Canada was during the Ica Age. Other tribes proceeded to the warmer climes further south.
As the European powers started to exploit the natural resources of these virgin lands, hordes of immigrants from across the Atlantic started to flow into North America. At first these were mostly from Europe but Asians soon followed. Both countries have large populations of Latin Americans, though this group is more significant in the US. African slaves were brought in to work the natural resources of the vast agricultural lands of the US. This population now called African Americans are more prominent in the US.
The huge number of immigrants, in addition to the native populations has led to both countries developing an attitude of tolerance to people of different customs, traditions and life styles. While the US is called the melting pot with various traditions merging into a cohesive whole, Canada has crafted a multi-cultural society.
Canada rejected the American Revolution and stayed loyal to the British Crown. Those parts of Canada that maintained the French connection held on to their religion, language and way of life.
The American belief in individualism is not an intrinsic feature of Canadian culture. Canadians believe in an orderly central government with community taking precedence over individualism. They maintain a pluralistic world view. While most of Canada functions like any British town, Quebec is almost completely French. The Inuit have been awarded their own state, Nunavut. The Canadians are seen by the rest of the world as the peace makers unlike their warrior neighbours.