It has been 2 months since I published my last post… I always attempt to write a new post in the past weeks but I really can’t get enough time to sit and gather my thoughts together… Yes, I am busy as a bee, and finally I had the chance to put my Mackey (yes, my laptop has a name) in my lap and start typing.
So last, January, I started with my volunteer job as Settlement E-Volunteer for English Online Inc., a non-profit organization led by volunteer board of directors that aims to provide online English resources to adult learners. English Online is supported and funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The main responsibility of a Settlement E-Volunteer is to provide information and support to newcomers, to simplify, to give insight to newcomers to the new environment and community that they now belong.
I had my first session with my client in January, after our conversation, I was taking down notes about what we talked about and what are the things that I should discuss with her on our next session, when I realized that one of the best things that I should talk to her is about “Canadians,” their manners, gestures and etiquette…
For someone new to Canada, it is very important that you are aware of what is the proper behavior and correct manners that you should exhibit, so let me tell you, some of the things that I learned and I noticed in the past 6 years that I have been here in Canada.
How do I find dealing with people of Canada? Well, Canada is a nation of polite people that respect privacy and individualism of others, in fact, one of the common international stereotype about Canadians is that they are “excessively polite” people, there are a lot posts and articles in the internet that even made fun with the polite Canadian stereotype. Still I am glad that my family and I landed in Canada, because for me, Canadians are people with one of the best manners. Canadians give higher degree of politeness to senior citizens, people with handicaps or physical disabilities, most buildings and establishments’ always have doors, elevators and washroom dedicated to people with disabilities, while the front seats of public buses are designed to accommodate them as well. Signs reminding passengers to surrender seats to old people or disabled people are common in Canadian buses and trains.
Canada is culturally diverse, well, as we all know Canadian immigration is open to people from different parts of the world who would like to settle in their country and help them grow. And so far, I enjoy that the society that I belong to is free from distinction, regardless which country you came from or what race or cultural background you have, whether you are a male or a female or religious practice you have, everyone deserve the same rights and respect. Most Canadians do not tolerate disrespectful or derogatory comments to anyone, to any race.
When introduced or you met someone for the first time, the most common way of greeting someone is through handshake — accompanied by an eye contact and a genuine smile. I don’t know with other places, but in the places that I worked, I noticed that Canadians would normally address someone using their first name. Though I’d rather prefer to be called by my nickname (Tina). I got used whenever people call me by full first name, “Cristina.”
When conversing with someone, there are certain topics that you do not want to discuss, especially to someone you just met, these are matters about sex, politics and religion. These topics are considered to be private and personal. As I have mentioned, Canada is a diverse country, so people have different background, there is a big chance that the people you will be talking to may have a different view about these things. Bringing up these topics in a conversation may feel awkward or uncomfortable for you or for the person you are talking to.
Another thing that I noticed about Canadians is being particular about time and schedule. Well, my other post would tell you that I am from the Philippines and yes in our country we have this so called “Filipino time,” which I am not going to discuss in this post, you may want to ask Mr. Google what Filipino time am I talking about. But anyway, since I start to work here in Canada, I have learned to adapt to Canadian time – which is very exact. When someone says that he or she will meet you at 12:00, come at 12:00, coming late is considered rude and being too early not also advisable, especially if we are talking about coming to someone’s house when you are invited for a lunch or dinner. And when it comes to telling time, it is also here in Canada where I learned to refer to time in fractions, like, instead of saying three fifteen (3:15), you can say quarter after three or when you want to say (twelve thirty) 12:30, you can say, half past twelve.
Speaking of being invited to come to someone’s house for a dinner, aside from coming on time, you should also remember to bring something with you, a bottle of wine, a tray of food or fruits. And based on my experience dining etiquette in Canada is relaxed and not too formal, table manners are generally continental wherein you use fork and knife when eating and it is fine to refuse to certain foods if you really don’t like it or eat it, no need to explain why you don’t want it. And if it is a gathering for a birthday, you may also want to bring a gift for the celebrant, aside from birthdays, Christmas is also another time of the year where you give presents.
But one of the things that I truly appreciate in living in Canada is celebrating “weekend.” Yes, weekend, as in Saturday and Sunday, oh no, I should say Friday evening to Sunday. Though there are people here who work night shift or have work on weekend especially those who work in the hospital industry, most people in Canada who has full time job usually work from Monday to Friday for an 8-hour shift, some work from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM or until 5:00 PM. I am one of them, I work 7 1/2 hours Monday to Friday, and I look forward to being off from work every Friday as it is the start of the weekend for me, though, I do not have work on these days, I still consider the weekend as the busiest day of the week not only because it’s the only day where I have time to clean the house, do the laundry or go for grocery shopping but also because it is the days of the week where you get the chance to socialize. Not only it is considered as family day but “party day” as well.
So when it comes to communicating with Canadians, yes, I will not deny that when I first came here, I had a hard time, there are occasions that I feel that I am “stupid” that I cannot easily understand what the other person is telling me… little by little I realized maybe because when I was still in the Philippines, we were used with American English, that’s why there are some words that I use differently. And there are certain words or phrases that only people in Canada will understand, try reading my post about “Speaking Like a Canadian, eh!” and you will understand what I mean. But one thing that I noticed the most is that Canadians communicate more through spoken word and not by non-verbal expression which is kinda opposite from the country I came from, cause we Filipinos tend to use our body parts as communication tools (insert wink here).
Well, I hope I’m able to impart something to you based on what I experienced and what I observed from the past 6 years that I live and work in Canada.