Any length of travel will provide, and basically force, a mirror into the traveler hand to their home culture. In my time abroad, which was rather extensive, it allowed me the opportunity to consider certain social norms prevalent to being Canadian. Now before I say another word, Canada’s a pretty good place – we enjoy reasonable prosperity, great multiculturalism, and the opportunity to pursue who we want to be. Now though, with that said, a few things I learned about myself and my country through the lense of travel.
Canadians need awhile to warm up…
Living in Europe you come to realize that in the Northern European will ask very direct questions to you in a relatively quick time frame. Now Canadians are famous for our “niceness”, but often that niceness involves talking about safe topics that cannot be construed as inflammatory or controversial. What I quickly came to realize is that a lot of Europeans find those topics trite and boring. They want to go straight to deeper more meaningful conversation. You have to realize that the Europeans are not trying to embarrass or put you on the spot, they actually are interested that’s why they are asking their directed questions.
Canadians favour individuality and independence from family –
Leaning the same way as our American brethren to the south, Canadians favour leaving the nest pretty quickly and establishing ourselves in the world before having families. When within the cocoon of North America this seems completely normal. However, if you ever deal with some Asian cultures they will be baffled that you would step away from your family in this way. I remember once talking to a Chinese girl who in earnest was completely stunned that I would live across Canada from my family. She kept asking me about losing face to them and going against duty. This here is just a fundamental difference in cultures and one that is interesting to see from the other perspective. Really there is a good discussion to be had of pursuing individuality versus responsibility to family and their expectations.
Canadians tip toe around the Truth –
Now the title makes this sound worse than it is. All I mean is that rather then say a truth that is rude or could be construed as confrontational Canadian culture is to divert the conversation or if really pressed tell a white lie. The best comparer I have for this is my experience living in the Netherlands. Dutch people are extraordinarily blunt people about expressing their own personal thoughts. Given time this becomes reassuring as you know where you stand with them. For instance, I remember colleagues at work saying to each other: “I can’t work with you, and to be honest I don’t really like you… but, it’s fine we can have a beer.” Then they both laughed. Canadian on the other hand have a tendency to veer away from any admission that would cause social discomfort. Is there utility in doing this?… absolutely, but it also does take a little away from authenticity – perhaps.