Thursday, August 13, 2009

How to understand Canadians

July 1st, 1867, Canada was officially born. At that time of what we called ‘Confederation’, only 4 provinces made up Canada! Now, we have 10 plus 3 territories.

Canadians are proud of their country and culture, and I thought it would be good to share with you a few points on dealing with Canadians (whether business or tourism) so that you can make a good first impression and avoid accidentally insulting someone.

1 – Canadians are not Americans. Just as we are not British or French citizens, we are not Americans. We may look and sound similar to our big brother at first glance, but as you get to know us and this country, you will understand there are lots of differences. Some similarities yes, but lots of differences.

2 – We are open-minded almost to the point of apathy. We believe so much in the ‘live and let live’ axiom, that sometimes we don’t bat an eye to new ideas, cultures and laws. Generally speaking we are happy if you are happy, and we want you to respect our ideas and decisions. We do not appreciate a bully or a preacher. Having said that, we are painfully polite and patient, so you could probably talk our ear off and we will just smile.

3 – We have history. Yes we are a young country, and we realize that Europe and Asia among other regions have a long documented history. However that does not mean that we were created yesterday either. We have an interesting history and are proud of our contributions on the world stage.

4 – We have a military. Canada made significant and memorable impressions on our allies and enemies in WWI and WWII, even being the first soldiers to be called ‘Storm troopers’ in WWI, due to our grit. At the end of WWII we had the 3rd largest navy in the world. We did not focus on military expansion however, and moved into mostly peace-keeping roles which led us to our limited military today. We fought bravely in the Korean war, the Vietnam conflict (yes, some volunteers were there), the earlier Gulf war (to free Kuwait) but stayed out of the recent Iraqi war, because we knew there were no WMD! We are currently serving our NATO and UN partners in Afghanistan on the front lines.

5 – We are highly adaptable. We can tough out most situations and we can adapt to multiple cultures and languages. Because of this we are excellent travelers, hosts and business partners. We are curious to know more about other people and cultures.

These are just a few points, straight from my head, to give you a little clearer sense of who we are and how we view ourselves. Of course there is no blanket truth for any culture, and you will meet individuals who do not agree or who do not follow these points. Surprising even to me, I have met Canadians who do not drink, do not like maple syrup and/or who do not view hockey as the one and only true religion!

If you are curious about this bilingual land of vast nature, free health care, same-sex marriage and subtle patriotism, (with a little bit of smugness thrown in…) the best thing to do is simply ask a Canadian about their country and culture.

Author: R Phillips Coach

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