Have You Any Canadian Connections?
Albeit many people have told me that they wouldn’t live in the States even if one paid them, I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about Canada. So why is this country enjoying such a lovable status? Why is the Canadian passport going to have greater value than even the British one in 10 – 15 years if not earlier?
I’ve sat in classrooms here in Canada for trainings of various types, by various organizations, and for various purposes. Some were corporate, others for the provincial government, others for cooperation with community centers. But all these sessions had in common what inspired me to write this: the Canadian values taught / reminded. The comparisons in these values that I can now draw against mainly the country of my second home, the still great Britain, but also other countries I’ve had the privilege to travel and know people from are interesting. So here’re just a few that interest me the most.
In Canada everyone’s included. This principle is at the essence of why we Canadians are in general a friendly crowd. If you’re of the more pedantic readers, you may disagree with this statement because it’s a generalization. Of course, the fact that there’re misfits in every country is universally understood. But generally, we Canadians ARE a nation much friendlier than many others. Even if we don’t always believe what our governments print in their literature to make things look better than they are, the Canadian citizenship literature states that Canada as a country enjoys the status of the world’s “peacekeepers” which is realistic enough to say when you observe the behavior of the decent citizens in daily life. May this also be why we’re much mellower and much less in your face than are our American neighbors?
And everyone’s included in another way as well. Albeit there are incidents of racial tensions, more between the natives and the white Canadians than between the races within the “Canadian” population, in general everyday life the racial and cultural inclusion is clearly palpable. The question ‘where’re you from?‘ is asked less often and in the context of ‘which province are you from?’ rather than ‘which country / culture are you from?’ or in the context ‘where’re you from? I’m interestedand positively curious about your culture’. People don’t look at you with hostile undertones for your racial or cultural background. In fact, from my personal experience people will show interest in your culture if it’s different from theirs, and it doesn’t take long to strike a conversation about the cultural differences. Comparatively, when I exhibited this attitude in Britain during my 20s, people interpreted it as either the aforementioned North American happy-clappy pretentiousness or as me being a salesperson and businesswoman. With life experience and hindsight I now understand why they did, but from my viewpoint there was never a motive other than that of me being positively curious about another person’s racial and cultural background. In fact, years ago when based in London UK I had to post on my website that I would see black or Asian people because the high volume of enquiries with this question made me conclude that I’d save people time if I posted this information publicly! Does that appear black and white?!
People talk to each other. It’s official – the street talk hasn’t died out yet! Perhaps the reason why Toronto is one of the world’s top 5 livable cities is that you won’t feel on guard walking down the streets of Toronto as you do in some other cities. And albeit even Toronto has its Bronxes and Brixtons, I personally have never had any trouble in passing through those quarters. The atmosphere in the streets of Canada is much more relaxed – some European connoisseurs even say it’s too relaxed. But relaxed produces happier people than guarded. You still see people smile and although I sometimes make it a game to count the grumpy faces while people watching, I genuinely have trouble making the count to a 2-digit number! Strangers greet each other in elevators and other confined places. Are we North Americans pretentious just because we say hi to strangers? Some, notably the more conservative European cultures see us as such because they interpret our humanely and respectfully meant greeting as some sort of happy-clappy American superiority. But why should it be so? Just because it perhaps brings home to them that they’re stiff and grumpy? Isn’t saying hi to someone in an elevator a natural expression of respect for another human being regardless of whether you know him / her?
People have greater respect for their environment, other people, and people’s personal property. I will share 2 beautiful examples of this. A friend of mine lives across the road from me in a complex of 4 56-storey buildings which share a sports center. The sports center has a large pool and a hot tub. Since my building has a whirlpool but doesn’t have a swimming pool, my friend and I make it a regular occurrence to go to his sports center for a swim as regularly as schedules permit. Once we went and I forgot my swimming goggles somewhere in the female changing rooms. I only found out that I had forgotten them 10 days after our visit when I visited my friend to borrow something. I immediately went to the sports center to ask whether they didn’t happen to find the goggles. The guy at the desk rummaged through the lost property box and showed me 3 pairs, but neither was mine. So he sent a cleaner who was passing by to have a look in the female changing rooms. She brought my goggles! Now let’s be realistic: how long would a good pair of goggles last in such situation in some other countries? The second example of people’s greater mutual respect is riding a Toronto TTC [Toronto Transit Commission = the equivalent of Transport for London in the UK] bus. Just watch a less mobile senior citizen get on the bus. Not only will the bus driver [here called operator] press a button to enable a ramp to lower itself onto the sidewalk to enable smoother walk onto the bus, but the operator will WAIT for this slowly moving senior passenger to find his / her seat and THEN move the bus! In other cities bus operators don’t make time nor respect for this. They hurtle on as if driving cattle… And here in Toronto the operator will also willingly advise you not only on what route to take if you’re lost, but also on what route NOT to take due to engineering works etc. And it’s all done with a smile and positive attitude. Unbelievable! Of course there are exceptions, but don’t exceptions prove the rule?
People have more helpful attitude. Here’s an example: have you ever traveled on a public transit vehicle in any city, notably London UK, and witnessed someone needing help in some obvious way while the whole population of the vehicle, including you, was just staring at that person as if at a spectator sport, but nobody would have the balls to offer help? This attitude [especially in London UK] applies to the more unpleasant situations of need of help, ones where people’s “I don’t wanna get involved” syndrome kicks in… In Ontario the law states that if person X witnesses a fellow citizen needing help and DOES NOT get involved, person X could actually be prosecuted. I personally witness people being very helpful in general – they only need to read your body language to realize that you’re lost and looking around and they’ll be at your service before you realize it…
…and the best for last: we Canadians still HAVE pride in our country! This shows in little things such as the two facts that people don’t use their public transit vehicles as toilets and liter-dumping grounds, and when finished with refreshments in coffee shops, everyone automatically clears their table before they depart! In English cities citizens happily leave this “dirty work” to the staff, some perhaps scared of getting stupid looks if they were to clear up after themselves, but then complain that the queues are long and service is slow and there’re no tables available to sit at because the ones unoccupied are dirty… Well, need I say more? Each and every one of us are MAKING our countries and our world. We are all responsible for the world we create – nobody has any excuse.
Enough for this time. I hope you’ve found my Cannucktions interesting regardless of whether you have lived in Canada or not. By the way, what do YOU observe about the countries and cultures you travel?
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