Alright. So this is the most common conversation-opener people use with me online, particularly on writer’s websites where it is common to have your nationality included in your profile. Being Canadian, that it’s considered geographically pretty seems to be the only thing the average person outside Canada even knows about it, but I don’t really mind that. Thing is: I have no clue how to respond to it!
Generally if it’s coming from an American I say, “And yours makes damn good whiskey.” Considering the politics of the day and my love of whiskey, it’s really the only honest compliment I can give. My general philosophy overall is to counter a compliment with a compliment- is this what I should be doing?
That line, of course, is out of the question when talking to former alcoholics- the last American ex-drinker who told me I live in a beautiful country, I resorted to saying “Thank you” instead, which makes me cringe because it sounds like I’m taking credit for putting all those lovely mountains and trees and lakes and such where they are. Lol.
Because these are fellow writers, when it comes from a British person I will usually say something about a British writer they’re likely to like (I infer their tastes based on age and their own writing). i.e. “Yeah, but you’ve got [insert author here]”. I can’t do that with Americans because I can’t stand most great American literature, not even Hemingway- I’d be quickly called out on my bullcrap if I said otherwise.
And that’s only the US and England… I got the exact same compliment from a Swedish woman a while back and had to fall back on the dreaded “Thank you” again. It killed the conversation, which sucks, because that one was on a dating website!
Well, you could always try slipping in some stealth insults, but you might not get the response you’re hoping for.
I can’t say I’ve ever had anybody say to me, “You live in a beautiful [whatever],” even though I do live in a beautiful region (in a beautiful state and in a beautiful country), so I’m thinking your friends are a little strange. Still, in the interest of being polite, why don’t you just say, “Yes, I really enjoy living here,” then follow it up with a question about the person’s own residence or personal experience.
When I get that compliment, I tend to say “I’m very fortunate” and change the subject.
If I were on a dating site, I’d say “I can’t wait to show it to you!”, or “Yes, and the best part is the skiing/surfing/local music scene/cute woodland creatures/really big trees/whatever”.
The appropriate response to a compliment is “Thank you.” You are not taking credit for the beauty of the country, you are thanking the person for complimenting it. This applies to all compliments – they do not need to be deflected, or replied to with another compliment, as if it’s some kind of contest.
If you want to keep the conversation going, you can add whatever personal reflection you like, “Thank you, I enjoy visiting [a particularly beautiful spot in your country],” or "Thank you, we’ve had [nice] [terrible] weather lately. You could also try, “Thank you, have you visited?” or “Thank you, is there any particular place you would like to visit?”
I’m a little confused, though. If you feel the need to compliment the U.S., why not go with, “Your country is also very beautiful”? Whatever you think of the U.S., it has some stunning natural beauty.
Nobody else is going to say it, so I will: When the majority of Americans picture Canada, what they actually picture is a hockey-obsessed nation that is mostly (though granted not exclusively) a bitterly cold wasteland and has punished the world with the likes of Nickelback, Jim Carrey, and (of course) Justin Bieber.
In other words, there is an excellent chance that most of the people saying you have a lovely country are just saying it to be nice. It’s okay for you to respond with “Why thank you. You have a lovely country too” even if the person you are talking to is (somehow) in North Korea.
I would say that “Lovely country” comments fall in the same realm of social niceties as answering “How are you?” with “I’m fine” (because it is understood that nobody actually wants to hear the truth about how you’re doing when they say that) or gushing over some new parent’s ugly baby instead of pointing out to them the truth of their child’s hideousness.
(I hope it is clear that I am kidding around with the Canada bashing and don’t actually have any sort of grudge against Canada. I have actually been there a few times since I spent most of my life living near the border.)
I would just say, “Thank you, I love living here.” Or, just “thank you.” I may reciprocate a compliment if I really want to do that, but it’s not necessary and if it was a forum where others could see multiple replies over time, I would think someone who always deflected compliments was a little weird.
So woeful that people have such bad examples in mind when they think of Canada. But it’s encouraging to know that there are people working to give an accurate representation of Canadians: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsgVspgy184
As GirlyColor says, it’s a conversation starter/compliment, not much different than “I like your shoes”. I’d respond with this: