Working With Canadians

by Mr. Cheap

Stuff White People Like is an amusing blog that mocks the cultural norms of the “educated elite”, a group that often denies having any such norms (yet, we clearly do).  Similarly, Canadians both deny having a culture (some Canadians, without a trace of humour, claim they don’t have an accent) and hold particularly trivial things up as examples of “Canadian culture” (hockey, poutine, Anne of Green Gables and other such nonsense).

I’m not trying to provide the definitive guide, but thought I’d try to draw a rough sketch of Canadians, and some of our typical values and behaviours.  The target audience for this being someone who has recently moved to Canada, is working with a Canadian organization, or is trying to make sense of a new Canadian ex-pat in their country or company.

Please feel free to argue with any of my assertions or add any more.  As a Canadian it can be difficult to step outside of myself, so some of my own issues may creep in here.

American

Canadians often define ourselves in terms of how we are different from Americans.  A famous beer commercial aired years ago which basically consisted of detailing minor ways that Canadians are different from Americans.  The irony of all this is our cultures are VERY similar.  If you take someone from Northern New York State or Minnesota they’re probably going to be more similar to a Canadian than to a Texan.  Anything you’re unsure about Canadians, just treat us like an American and you’re on pretty safe ground.

Politeness

Canadians are known for being polite.  Once while traveling in England my family had a good laugh when a tour guide characterized Canadians as “Americans with manners” (see first point).  The plus of this is that Canadians you’re interacting with SHOULD usually be polite to you.  The downside is that we can be touchy about behaviour we perceive as rude (joking around with or teasing a Canadians isn’t something to rush into).

Littering

When I worked down in San Francisco I was walking along the street with a Palestinian co-worker and I saw a man drop his fast-food cup in the gutter.  After I’d been ranting about it for 2 or 3 minutes my co-worker started chuckling.  “It’s really obnoxious to litter like that, eh?” I asked.  To which he responded “No, it’s just that a couple other Canadians I’ve worked with would flip out if they saw anyone littering too”.

I’m not sure if this is just a special case of politeness, but littering is a hot-button with a number of Canadians, so if you do it, don’t do it in front of us.  One of my friends’ father is about the calmest, nicest man you could possibly imagine and he almost got in a fist-fight when he saw a guy littering on the street.

Friendliness

I think many people are taken aback at how nice and friendly Canadians can be.  If you start at a new company or community, people will go out of their way to make you feel welcome and help you establish yourself.  I think it can be overwhelming for people at first (they think we’re after something), but I think it comes from seeing ourselves as nice, friendly people and trying to live up to that self-image.

Standoffishness

As much as we can be friendly, we don’t make friends quickly.  A number of my friends have commented that they came to Canada, someone was super friendly to them so they assume they’re buddies.  They ask the person out for a beer one night and the person blows them off (“no thanks, I’m going home to watch 24″).  One man tried his damnedest to get me to go see the new Star Trek movie with him and it freaked me out.  I ran into him at a university event and we had a nice chat I guess, then he REALLY wanted to be my friend.  Mutual friends told me they told him that you can’t come on strong like that with Canadians.  We tend to ease slowly into friendships.

One friend told me if someone in her home country was as nice to her as most Canadians are, it would mean they really want to be her friend, so she always finds it off-putting dealing with hyper-friendly Canadians who keep rebuking her friendship overtures.

Gluttony

Canadians like to eat.  It can be a bit nauseating to new arrivals how much energy we put into thinking about our next meal (and often the amount of food we put away).  We’re similar with Americans for this, so probably they wouldn’t be taken aback, but I think many new arrivals from other areas are (rightfully) grossed out by it.

It makes us pretty easy to please.  If you have a meeting with Canadians, put out a tray of snacks (cookies or something) and we’ll probably get pretty excited.

Diversity

This is another double edged sword.  The stereotype of a group of rednecks sitting around talking about “them” is pretty horrifying to most Canadians (and we do have an incredibly diverse population).  I think if someone were wandering around making sexist, homophobic or racist comments, they’d get called on it by other Canadians pretty regularly.  We like to think of ourselves as being a tolerant nation.

The other side of it is that often those attitudes are present, just concealed.  One friend-of-a-friend who worked in Asia was upset by the blantant racism she encountered (she’s black).  One time she had a job interview scheduled, told the person on the phone that she’s black, and the person then told her not to bother coming in.  In spite of this (and as painful as it was for her), she said she prefered it in some ways to Canada.  She said in Canada she never knew if race was a part of how people saw her or treated her (even people she’d known for years), and she at least liked that it was out in the open when she was in Asia.

So I’ll turn the post over to our readers at this point (Canadians and non-Canadians hopefully both have a perspective on this).  Any of these you agree with?  People who have moved to Canada, was it a big adjustment adapting to our norms?  Any big points I’ve missed that you’d add?

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Phil

I pretty much agree with everything you wrote, though on the topic of food, I think Timmies is the one establishment that should be mentioned. To a foreigner, Canadians’ love affair with their double-doubles is astounding. And here (in Windsor), you would NEVER simply “put out a tray of snacks (cookies or something)” as you put it. There would always be a box, or several, of Timbits.

I don’t care for the coffee or the doughnuts myself, but I do see the Tim Hortons love affair around me every day.

2 guinness416

Okay, I’ll put a target on my back. Be gentle with me :)

Canadians are by-the-book. If The Rules say something, that’s the way it has to be. I always give this example (but it’s but one of many) – in NYC and other Northeast US places I’ve lived in people at government offices (drivers licences, health insurance, social insurance, townhalls, etc etc) will be rude, snort at you, almost humiliate you but ultimately bend the rules a little if they have to, to help you out. Canadians will be polite, smiling, friendly and refuse to budge in any way shape or form. The same applies, in my experience, to institutional workers.

Passive aggression is also huge in Canada – whether it be the guy next to you on the subway or a coworker. I miss the days of people saying directly what they meant.

On the positive side, I find a lot of workplaces are actually more diverse up here. Again this is my industry specific, but it’s not uncommon in diverse NYC to walk into an office entirely populated by white people. That’s rare in TO.

And yeah, the Tims stuff is just astounding. The coffee’s so awful it has to be turned into a sort of cream-and-sugar milkshake and the food ain’t great either. I hate the place. Ice hockey is also a topic that NEVER comes up in my (mostly Irish, British, South Asian) work/social circle. I know people love it because I see the ads but it’s like there’s a parallel Canadian culture that is nowhere near me.

The guy who wrote stuffwhitepeople …. (which I love and except for the sports items totally describes me) is a Torontonian, by the way. I think I read that he hails from Riverdale. Explains a lot :)

3 guinness416

Good god, sorry for writing a novel there, I must be too hopped up on (non-tim hortons) caffeine this morning.

4 Sampson

One of the things I love about Tim Horton’s IS the fact that there is so much ethnic diversity. Its amazing to see someone of every race/culture enjoying the same crappy coffee – somehow that company has capitalized on being ‘Canadian’ more than any other Co. in the country.

I would peg the ‘standoffisness’ and ‘gluttony’ as similar in the US. I think its a North American way of being to be friendly on the surface, but not as receptive after that. I think as you describe for diversity, people from most other countries will treat you straight up, either nice or not – no superficial acting nice.

I think there is also an element of ‘insecurity’ associated with being Canadian. This makes up the basis for the popularity of the ‘I AM Canadian’ commercials and is why we are always trying to seperate ourselves from Americans even though (as you mention) we are more similar than we like to believe.

5 Kathryn

Oh, yeah, we’re obsessed with queues too. There could be 20 people in a group waiting for a bus and everyone in line will know who comes first and who is after them. Don’t even think about budding in line in front of a Canadian. I can’t imagine the wrath incurred if you budded AND littered at the same time!

Apparently the whole ‘pot luck’ think is rather Canadian. In Canada when asked for dinner the first thing we ask is, “What can I bring?” and the host more often then not suggests something. That doesn’t happen in a lot of other countries.

6 Mr. Cheap

Phil: Timmies is absolutely an oversight, thanks for calling me on it! Years ago I was in Vancouver and apparently they don’t (or at least didn’t) have the same Tim’s addiction we do (they had them, but they were just viewed as another coffee shop).

Guinness416: I wouldn’t have thought of that, but you’re 100% right that Canadians are “by the book” type of people. We love long comments, so no apologies needed.

Kathryn: That’s another good one. I thought I was the only one with hang-ups about lines (glad to hear its a national thing). Someone would get lynched if they littered and budded in front of some Canadians.

Hmm, I just did the “what can I bring” for a Thanksgiving dinner I’m attending tomorrow… Maybe I should have just gone empty handed and chowed down ;-).

7 Adam

I don’t buy the polite thing, maybe we’re more subtle about it but we are rude as an American if we want to be. You want to experience polite? Go to Texas. Even young punks say Yes Ma’am, thank you Ma’am.

8 Mike

I am outraged at this post. Hockey is trivial and nonsense? I don’t think so. :P

9 WM

I don’t think we Vancouver people fit the Canadian model too well. Friendly – absolutely not! Polite – not really.

I do think that we are
-standoffish
-extremely politically correct and aware of diversity issues
-non confrontational – did you ever notice how long it takes for someone to honk their horn when no one is moving at a green light? A long time.

Obviously though, if you compare Canada to the rest of the world you can see things that are much bigger. We have low tollerance for power differences, are individualistic, are short term thinkers, are rule followers, are time obsessed, and all that other jazz that makes us so similar to the USA.

10 Phil

Speaking of Canadians’ propensity to avoid confrontation, there’s something else I’ve noticed in the 13 years I’ve been here: in the grocery store, if you have stopped your cart to pick something off the shelf, somebody behind you will patiently wait until you’re done.

I’m more inclined to politely say “excuse me” to let the person know that I’m behind them, but there again, I guess I’m not a fully fledged Canadian yet.

11 FlookiiDuke

I guess my point on view of Canadians is really limited to Toronto and surrounding area. As an Englishman who has also lived in Australia for an extended period I was shocked by the rudeness of Canadians when I arrived here. I guess I was just used to Australian’s who are some of the friendliest people I have met, living in Canada has actually made me reconsider the English, something I thought I would never do.

As for the diversity, I’m not so sure that the non-metropolitan Canadian really knows what that is…..you only need to go 30-40 minutes outside Toronto before non-whites start getting real funny looks. I’m a pasty Englishman as I said above but my wife is from the Middle East (not a Muslim so not looks for the scarf etc.) so I notice the difference in behavior.

Obviously my comments here are a generalization and I have met very nice people and not so nice people since I have arrived in Canada but the average Torotonian you might met in the street doesn’t fit the Canadian stereotype.

Incidentally, why do most people here give me a dirty look when they jump out into the road in front of me…..the lack of a self preservation instinct of Canadians constantly amazes me.

12 Mr. Cheap

FlookiiDuke: Sorry to hear you haven’t had a good experience in Canada. In terms of your wife getting looks outside of Toronto, I guess that’s what I meant by attitudes being present but not being expressed. I’m sure the people looking don’t realize it’s so obvious (and they aren’t saying nasty things to your wife I hope).

When Canadians have been rude to you, has it been right away or after you’ve been talking to them? MAYBE they react to English humour and think you’re being rude to them… That was part of what I meant about you can’t joke around or tease Canadians right away (I know this is very different than Australians). If people have been rude right off that bat to you I’m really sorry to hear that.

13 FlookiiDuke

Mr Cheap: No nasty comments thankfully.

I think the point I am trying to get across is that most people encountered in everyday life (shops, banks, etc. employees and other patrons) seem to put politeness a second place to thinking about their own problems. I myself try to operate on the theory that if you make a point of being polite to someone you are dealing with it makes for a nicer transaction as they will hopefully respond in kind. Unfortunately this theory has not had a high success rate in Canada. Again it depends on the person/institution you are dealing with, for instance although I mentioned banks I actually have a very good polite and friendly relationship with my bank and MOST of the staff at my branch, again there are exceptions.

I don’t think my English humour is the problem, I usually don’t joke around with people unless I know them quite well. My sense of humour is a little odd and quite often I’m the only one that gets the joke so I generally keep it to myself. English language however is an annoying thing here. I have no problem with most dialects of English but sometimes you would think I was talking Martian and my accent is probably one of the more neutral ones from the UK, but I digress.

I really think that Canada or at least the GTA is a high stress area and people let it get to them and it shows in their treatment of others.

One thing I do like about Toronto is the availability of precious metals. Those in the GTA are in a privileged position to invest in Gold and Silver etc. Try going into a bank in almost any other country and buying PM’s. More people should be taking advantage of this, maybe they wouldn’t be worrying so much if they had a stash of PM’s and could spare the time to rise above their problems and make every bodies day a little nicer.

“Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day.” ~Quoted in P.S. I Love You, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

14 FlookiiDuke

I have to agree with a few of the other posts here on:

1. Tim Hortons
I am amazed this company is still in business. I love coffee and as such have only visited this place twice. I had to give them second chance, right? The other amazing thing about their business model is they only accept cash and Mastercard, no Visa, no Interac. Oh but they do accept the internationally recognised Timmie Card.

2. Queuing
Canadians are indeed anal about their queuing more so than the British which is an achievement (of sorts). I have never seen people queue for a train anywhere else in the world, these people know instinctively where the train door will stop on the platform and start the line up way before the train arrives. I have seen an almost empty platform two people dutifully in line…WTF? I could understand the queue if there where limited seats but as far as I have seen there has always been ample room. I find the whole thing quite fascinating and ….weird.

That’s probably enough from me…..except to say that Canada gave me my perfect woman (my wife in case you are wondering) and that’s what brought me here, so I guess I’m just going to have to ‘suck it up’ and find out what this ‘hockey’ thing is that everyone is talking about.

15 El Cid

Canadians hate littering? Was this written by someone who has lived in a Canadian city? Canadians polite? When, the 1950s?

Really, these nationalistic generalities are really tiresome.

16 Jeff

Mr. Cheap is right, the double-double is a source of national pride, for me anyway, I just got back home to Toronto from NYC, and the new Times Square Timmies (hurray is exists) made my double-double with milk and not cream. Anybody read about the Fort Knox Timmies opening recently?

and to El Cid, I don’t see many litterers in Toronto, except when people throw glowing cigarette butts out of their car window in the car in front of me, I want to make them eat the damned thing.

oh, and to Flookiiduke, the yellow warning strip on the train platform is dirtier where the doors end up, if I can’t get a seat or have to give it up, I want dibs on one of the better leaning spaces rather than having to hang from the handles.

Oh, and from How I Met Your Mother, and the New York City M&M Store.. If you bump into someone and they apologize to you.. they’re a Canadian.

17 FlookiiDuke

Jeff: If you’ve taken the time to notice the dirt on the platform you must take your queuing very, very seriously.

Personally I wait until all the sheep have boarded and stroll on at my leisure, I’ve always found a seat.

The fact that I was almost physically assaulted the first time I got on a train at Union station (before I knew the system) has obviously put me off the whole Canadian queuing thing as the penalties for stepping outside the rules can be a detriment to ones health.

I still find it weird. It’s still the only place in the world I’ve seen people queue for the train and I’m quite well traveled. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen elsewhere but it happens in a Stepford wives manner here.

18 Michael - The Fat Loss Authority

haha… love that commercial. Unintentionally funny and absolutely agree with your point about Northern states being more similar to Canadians then anybody in the South.

Mike

19 db

*Some* Canadians are polite. On the roads they are not polite. I’ve seen various times people on the sidewalk being shouted at.

Ripoffs are rife too. Always count your change in a variety store.
When you land at Toronto airport, make sure you keep an eye on your luggage cart or else it will be grabbed by the kids who work the area to get your 25cents.
Any possibility of using the “rules” to squeeze more money out of you will be utilized to the full.

Canada is the only part of the English speaking world where it’s assumed “Canadian Experience” is better than any other kind of experience when applying for a job.

Canadians don’t know how to board a train or a bus.
They try to force their way on before everybody has gotten off. That drives me nuts.

You absolutely cannot tease or mock a Canadian either. They don’t seem to make fun of each other and the facial expression is akin to a deer in the headlights. You *better* not say to a Canadian that something about their system sucks either, or else…

And the queuing thing? I can’t say I’ve noticed that. The Scots are the worst queuers I’ve seen, not the Canadians. The Scots will line up on a two lane motorway in a single lane when it’s merging into one lane, rather than use the other lane. That too drove me nuts when I was there.

Canadians will remind you if you’ve cut in line in front of THEM, but if you’re in the supermarket and a new line opens up, they will race from behind you to try to get ahead of you.

Similary, on the highways on the on ramp the guy behind you will try to pass you before you’ve got a chance to merge, thus forcing you on to the hard shoulder. I’ve only seen that in Canada.

Canadian women are peculiar too. If you talk to them ever, it’s assumed (by them) you are trying to pick them up, even if not in a bar.
Thus just pleasant conversations and a little friendly chat are often sadly ruled out because the assumption is you’re really saying “heh baby you wanna do me”. Ironically witty conversation doesn’t work if you ARE trying to pick them up and “heh baby you wanna do me” does. Go figure.

Also: all Canadians believe the urban legend about Americans coming up to the border to go skiing in July.

20 Mr. Cheap

db: The trying to force their way on when boarding drives me INSANE too. I’ve also seen the passing on the on ramp, and always found it quite obnoxious.

I actually have a post about “Canadian Experience” in our queue…

21 Troy Johnston

I Need Lawyer Help
Anyone with a Heart
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am righting this letter and putting it in all the places I can, in the hopes that someone will see it and help me.
In the year 2001 I was mugged in Ontario, I am currently living in Alberta. As a result of the mugging I received severe head trauma. I was in a small coma with a 3 inch crack in the back of my skull. After I got out of the wheelchair and started to walk again (about 3 months), I was attacked again and received a cracked Eye socket, cheekbone and jaw. I was supposed to receive steel plates in my skull after this but did not due to the reasons I will explain.
I went over 12 months with no health care in this country, also no welfare, no disability and no E.I. insurance. I was refused medical help in Hospitals, walk-in clinics and even the medical clinics that help the homeless. To date I have yet to receive the help I need but I am working on it. So I will not get into the mental stress it caused me, a born and raised Canadian, that I did not receive any help from my government and that they threw me to the street to die.
The issues that I am now dealing with and will be for sometime or forever are as follows:
– I can not remember 40%-50% of my life before or after the injury.
– Lost 30 IQ points.
– My emotions and moods are all over the board.
– I have numbness throughout the left side of my body
– Panic and anxiety attacks almost on an hourly basis.
– I have lost all of my education and skills from prior to the injury.
– I lost my children.
– I lost my ability to sleep ( severe head trauma, you should sleep at least 10 hrs a day Not 5 )
– I lost my respect and faith in our Country!
– I have been forced into work like construction, (due to the fact that all of my education is gone) where there is a good chance that I will injure myself and expire from this life. I can not take even one more hit to my skull.
– I am scared of being in public places, being alone with someone in their house, In short I am very afraid deep into my bones.

That is the few I will say in this letter, I do have more though. I know The Canada Health Act was violated as well as my Human Rights as a Canadian Citizen. I just want a chance at having my life back. Somehow to provide for my children, to be educated again, to go back to work at a safe job that enables me to live. And to feel like my Country cares about me and stands by its word that if we pay our taxes and work hard that the Government will not allow us to fall so far that we will never get back up.
Sincerely,
Mr.Troy Johnston
mr.johnston73@yahoo.ca

22 Nicola

These comments are so bloody funny! I’m English and have lived in Canada for nearly 2 years. So far I love Canada and will be more or less (apart from hopefully working abroad for a few years when I finish Uni) growing old here. However, I have to say that Canadians are so hard to make friends with, no one is open to new people joining their group and everyone is so set in their ways. In England everyone just invites each other out down the pub, but it just doesn’t happen here. Oh and the tv sucks, you can’t even watch shows on the internet cause you have to be in England or America.

On the other hand living in Canada definitly has its benefits. The skiing is amazing and for me only an hour away and $40 for the day, you couldn’t ask for much more really. Once more the shops are open all the time, but this could be seen as a drawback for a struggling shopaholic like myself.

Oh I nearly forgot the absolute worst point of living in Canada. I have been to a few major cities including London and Paris and I have never seen such bad lane changing until I came to Canada, the country that has most likely the biggest roads in the world. An indicator is there for a reason, when I indicate I am pulling out, do not speed up!! Everyone has to pull out at some point and sorry, but tough luck this time it is infront of you. Also when people are pulling onto a motorway move over or make a space, it is how the road works.

Sorry didn’t mean to get into a rant about Canadian driving. I do love Canada and it is teaching me how to chill about abit, because lets face it, you can’t teach the 1 million people of your city how to drive by beeping your horn and giving them the finger, especially when they have no idea what they did wrong in the first place.

23 Stacek

But we are NOT like Americans…there is such a mixed bag in Canada anyone from Europe or the UK can identify with, because we encourage ppl to hang on their roots i.e. customs, traditions etc. I have lived coast to coast and served in the military giving me the luxury of working with NATO countries. Canadians are more aligned with the Brits, Kiwis and Aussies than we are with the Americans. My family is from Britain and they and their friends know we are not Americans and nothing like them. We are an outward thinking nation and very international…our education system is second in the world in terms of quality and people find us funny (depends on where you’re from in Canada). In Victoria, for example, we’re dry humoured and like to banter – in the Maritimes, they like to makes fun of people and have extremely funny sayings. I don’t see the similarity to Americans AT ALL!! We’re just so different from them. When I have been to the US I KNEW I was in a different country, whereas, in Australia or New Zealand, I felt very much at home. Sorry but you’ve grabbed the wrong end of the stick on this one!! Sorry buddy!

24 FlookiiDuke

@Stacek I am British myself and lived in Australia for 5 years prior to living in Toronto, Canada. In my experience Canada is very, very American. I felt very much at home in Australia, no so in Canada or the US.

I’m sure the maritimes have their own Celtic flavour and that the West coast is more laid back (although I wouldn’t know as I’ve never been to either) but Toronto might as well be in the US in terms of the general feel and culture. Honestly there are more similarities than differences.

I think that if you asked British people that didn’t have family in Canada or hadn’t visited the general response would be more like “they are just like americans aren’t they?” ….. now that may be ignorance but let’s face it there is a lot of it going around.

So I don’t feel the author of this post has ‘grabbed the wrong end of the stick’ to use your words. He has just expressed his view of the world he lives in which is obviously coloured by his education, background and upbringing just as our opinions are too.

Sorry buddy!

25 Eclectic Investor

@db:

Re: *Some* Canadians are polite. On the roads they are not polite. I’ve seen various times people on the sidewalk being shouted at.

Yup – especially for the driving part … though I’ve only seen the sidewalk bit is in Toronto. Driving in Montreal, though – made Toronto drivers look civil.

Re: Canada is the only part of the English speaking world where it’s assumed “Canadian Experience” is better than any other kind of experience when applying for a job.

*shug* – when I worked in the US, I experienced the opposite.

It puzzled me why the US team lead kept raving about the skills of the Canadians hired for the project. Later at a lunch, he explained that when interviewing US candidates, he was finding a lot of exaggeration of what they had done and what their skills were. According to him, the gap was so large that for any new hires, he’d prefer a Canadian over an American.

Re: You absolutely cannot tease or mock a Canadian either. They don’t seem to make fun of each other and the facial expression is akin to a deer in the headlights.

Sure you can – my Indian co-worker have been doing it for year. He gets back as much as he gives. Maybe the difference is that he waited until he’d been around three years before he started.

Re: Similary, on the highways on the on ramp the guy behind you will try to pass you before you’ve got a chance to merge, thus forcing you on to the hard shoulder. I’ve only seen that in Canada.

I’ve seen it in Montreal and Chicago as well.

Re: Canadian women are peculiar too … a friendly chat is ruled out …

Must be a Toronto thing – I’ve seen or participated in lots of friendly chats with women without an issue.

Re: Also: all Canadians believe the urban legend about Americans coming up to the border to go skiing in July

There is a problem with believing the truth? My sister thought it was a legend until she was asked how much further north to get to the ski slopes in August when she worked at Niagara Parks in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Incidently, I’ve also been personally told by Americans that the US won the war of 1812 and that Greenland is physically closer to the US than Canada.

Similarly – when visiting the UK, I was asked to confirm that the driving time from Toronto to Tampa Florida was about three or four hours. They thought I was kidding when I responded it was over twenty-three hours until I pointed out the scale on the map.

Cheers

26 Sandy Sanchez

I’ve been in Canada for six years and have very, very few friends. I grew up all over the world and I find that Canadians are friendly, but definitely standoffish. It’s like they only care about themselves. You try to make friends with them and they’re polite. But they’re never gonna make a second move. They’ll just go home their own business. I am really puzzled why this is so? My question is: how can you make friends with a Canadian and how long does it take for them to open up to you? Or what will make them open their hearts to you? On the other hand, luckily I found a husband on my second year here, and I must admit I did it because I realised if I did not have a partner in Canada, I’d be all alone because it’s so hard to make friends. But I would still like to make friends OUTSIDE my marriage. Please offer me some answers.

27 Jane Smith

To the person above I am canadian. My family has been here since 1640. All the immigrants who came the first few hundred years had to blend into the canadian culture and we not allowed to keep their culture. This is what canadian has meant until massive waves of 3rd world immigrants ca me for the past 30 years, we are mocked and laughed at and treated as second class citizens in our own country. THis country used to be very trusting, peaceful and everyone respected each other. Now it has turned into a pitiful mess. Each culture is trying to outdue the other. There is alot of jealousy. There are people who stay in their ethnic ghettos and dont want to even be canadian and do not like canadians. We are canadians if we speak up they call us racists. There are also alot of immigrants who came to canada 30 years ago and are not white who agree with us. We are no longer a welcoming people because we did not agree with multiculturalism, it was pushed on us by a lame Liberal government in the 1980s…….we had no idea it would mean to our people and our country……………..

28 Dave

First of all, my respect to Mr. Cheap for being reflective, polite, and tolerant of criticism. Sadly, I must say that in my many years of living in Vancouver, people have not been like him. Although I’ve met a few nice Canadians, the vast majority are loud and obnoxious. They are also the most arrogant and self-righteous people I have met anywhere in the world. They lack basic manners, such as saying “sorry”, “excuse me”, “thank you”, and often do not even reply when I say hi. (Where I grew up, not replying when spoken to was considered very rude.) When I smile at people (with my most genuine, friendly smile), people do not smile back, and often give me a dirty look. To end with a positive note, I must say that people from Toronto have been nicer, and people from Montreal much nicer.

29 Diana

Salut,
I find that many of the people talking on this page are immigrants, and while your observations are a lot more clear than that of a Canadian, raised in Canada, I find that some of your comments are not quite hitting the mark.

Canadians are very polite. However, if or when you cross a social norm, we get very rude, very quickly. This is because of the high tolerance of various cultures that most Canadians strive to achieve. We are so accepting that small offenses in manners do not trigger a reaction.

For instance, in my Grade 11 English class the other day, our teacher asked us to share our pet peeve with the class. There was not a single person who’s pet peeve did not apply to the misapplication of manners in everyday life. We get annoyed when you walk through the left hand door, or walk on the left side of the sidewalk. You stand on the right side of the elevator and walk on the left side. When entering the subway train, you stand back and let the entire mass waiting to exit, do so before you move. None of these will get you yelled at if you fail to follow them, but everyone in the immediate vicinity will consider you a rude and selfish person.

Now, I am Torontonian, and a lot of you say that we have terrible manners. I find this this opposite. When we get mad, we just tend to become angrier. This, I think is due to being in a confined space with roughly 4 million other people, urban life, pent up disappointment in the Leafs and the suppressing anger at small errors in manners, for so long. If you don’t own a cottage, you have nowhere to go and vent. It’s like pumping an empty water bottle with hot air. At some point, it will explode. And violently.

Some things that Canadians will get mad at you for are littering (why would you purposefully drop garbage when it is bad for the environment, animals could and do try to eat it and choke and it demotes a nice community feel?) , sexism, racism, homophobic comments, anti-diversity and general ignorance for the cultures of the world (just to name a few).

We are one of the few cultures where it is considered normal to take off your shoes when you go to someone’s house.

Just in case you don’t already know this, if you go to Québec, greet whomever you talk to in French. They can tell from your accent you can’t speak French, but it’s only polite and it shows respect for one of the oldest cultures in Canada.

To the think about queues? It’s because we won’t take someones place from them. They arrived before you, they deserve that spot. Why take it away from them and ruin their day (or make it worse?)

To all Canadians who don’t like Hockey or Timmie’s: Please stop degrading the both of them. I’m very sorry if you are annoyed by being asked “so if you’re Canadian, do you play hockey?” However, when you announce on a website “I’m form *insert Canadian place* and I’m a Canadian and I _____” then please realize, you are representing all Canadians. Perhaps you don’t like Hockey or Tim’s, but the majority of the nation does. Remember the 4 hours following the Vancouver 2010 Men’s hockey final? And there is a reason why Tim’s is the most successful franchise in Canada. So please, your angry responses make us all look bad, and we don’t appreciate it.

Finally, (and I’m sorry this took so long) if you are of the opinion that we Canadian’s are not polite, consider that one of the most commonly used words in Canadian English is sorry. If someone walks into you on the subway, you both say sorry. You both know who’s fault is was, but it’s easier and nicer to just apologize and go on with your day, albeit happier than if you’d received an angry look or comment.

Thank you for you time :)
Have a good day

30 Jeremiah Gallag

I have lived in Canada for three years, but I was born elsewhere. I do believe that Canadians strive for an image of politeness, but I really don’t understand why. In many theories, “politeness” varies from culture to culture. However, I will try to understand why here, and also why — for exchanges like bumps on a train — politeness is probably negative.

First, an example of a culutre that exhibits a negative reaction towards politeness. In mathematics, politeness is abhorred, above all else, except maybe incorrectness and grandiosity. Mathematics is extremely information dense, and padding communication with politeness is absolutely impossible.

Now, consider the internet protocol known as TCP. TCP uses a form of artificial politeness to establish connections. Rather than just sending information to a source, in TCP you have to first ask if the source has time to deal with your information. This really is a form of politeness. The reason for doing this is to ensure that a valid connection can be established. However, after the connection gets going, the politeness is dropped for efficiency’s sake. The point is that for really long conversations, a bit of politeness up front ensures that you are actually communicating with someone (oh there is so much one could say here).

However, for short conversations — conversations where it is easier to just resend the message if it is lost — should not be used with TCP. Instead UDP is preferred. This is a very rude communication. I just shove my information in your face, like or not, and neither of us make a fuss. Here, the efficiency benefits of not being polite outweigh the social benefits of politeness.

Thus in conclusion: politeness helps if you want to establish a longer form of communication– or if the information you want to send is valued. But for short interactions that you don’t care about — like bumps on the train, politeness should be avoided.

31 Neutral

I am trying very hard to keep a straight face while reading this blog.

Canadians are friendly? Are you out of your mind?

I don’t know which planet you live on — but on this planet that I am on I can swear to God that Canadians are by far the rudest people I have ever come across — and that says a lot because I am well-travelled and have been to many places with people that are widely perceived as rude, such as NYC.

Canadian cities like Toronto really defines rudeness and put NYC to shame. The people in Toronto are by far the rudest jerks you can find.

Rude, passive aggressive and simply arrogant.

Wanna to see rude people? Don’t bother going to NYC, just visit Toronto and Canada.

So I am not sure why the author thinks canadians are friendly.

Perhaps the author is in denial or delusional.

32 Joey

Yes I agree. canucks rely on image vs reality. If you are not a, “mcSomething” descended from Sir Johh Ehhh’s Clan, you are a nobody and they will treat you like that.

I have worked with Americans, South Koreans, Scots, Irish. Rudest A-Holes? Yep, kanadians!

33 Earl Camembert

I am Canadian. The best Canadians, as the cliche goes, are expatriate Canadians. I avoid dining with my family in Canada as they are gleefully cheap. I have waited tables and I find it offensive. I also find this practice a little “Ma and Pa Kettle” – hick, awkward, clueless…cheap. They are not unaware, just pulling a slight rip off on their way out the door. There is a also a subtle, insinuating nastiness to some people’s tone in conversation, as though they are collecting damning evidence against you through a fog of niceties – very passive aggressive in what should be a warm, social conversation. This behavior largely explains the appeal (to me) of some slightly abrasive native New Yorkers – they’re genuine. There is also the massive cultural insecurity in place for the past fifty or so years, an unnecessary proactive defense of Canadian cultural influence and importance around the world. The existence of this neurotic defense is proof of Canada’s muted cultural power – too much circumspection and conformity exists to foster unique talent. A unique talent born in this environment ultimately makes an exit – just ask the thousands of world class performers who flew the coop ASAP.

34 Anna

What an interesting post! No one is deemed a saint before his death but Canadian people seem to be born in sainthood. There is no perfect country, culture or civilization. However, if you talk with a Canadian person, it’s like being from this country means you can do no wrong and are above the rest of the humanity. I have been living in this country for more than seven years and I have never been around so many complacent, sanctimonious, self-righteous, narrow-minded, judgmental and insecure people. Canada is the most individualistic and ethnocentric place I’ve ever been and like many people on this post, I have already lived on 3 different continents. The whole “we’re reserved, we’re good-mannered people” rhetoric is complete BS. Canadian people have been told that they’re better than the rest of the world, that everyone loves them and dreams to become Canadian so whenever you meet a Canadian person, guess what? He/She acts in this off-putting distant and cold manner that he/she deems to pass as politeness while waiting for you to prove him or her that you’re worth his/her imperial Canadian awesomeness. Nope, people might act/appear nice but they aren’t. They lie to themselves about being nice hence the high percentage of passive-aggressive people in this country. Why don’t Canada try to make genuineness one of its national values? Btw, it’s mind-boggling how a lot of white Canadian people talk about “their” country, the one of their “ancestors”, I guess they mean their aboriginal ones. That’s another thing about Canada: they don’t teach their children the whole and true story of this country. You’ll be surprised by the number of Canadian people who ignore that Japanese people were locked up in camps in this country during WWII. Nope! That was just obliterated from the history classes curriculum.

35 Hello

It is interesting that the author of the article above admitted that, being Canadian, he finds it hard to step out of himself and evaluate his Canadian traits objectively and that some of his own issues may creep in into his opinions.

That certainly explains a lot as to why much of his opinions as set forth in the article seems out of touch with reality. They cannot be more warped.

Canadians are friendly and polite?!?!?!

Come on! You have got to be kidding me.

Can one actually say that honestly and objectively?

I agree that Canadians often think of themselves as being friendly and polite, but what one thinks about oneself has little to do with what one really is.

I may think of myself as a chicken and stick feathers all over my body, but does that actually make me a chicken? Clearly not.

It is time Canadians stop the self deception and hypocrisy; it has gotten out of hand and is bordering on megalomania. I think we can all indulge in abit of self deception once in a while, but to go this far and actually tout up something that is the opposite of what one truly is is quite another thing.

The truth is that Canadians have a major league passive aggressive problem. They are extremely rude and unfriendly, especially to those perceived to be outsiders. I have never come across more jerks. Just carefully observe what they say and do and don’t do, and you will see why this is so.

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