One of the side perks of moving to Canada was to discover America and observe our Southern neighbours up close.
Browsing: Cultural Differences
If you ask me a question, I’ll answer it. I’ve been trained that way, it’s the result of navigating a multicultural relationship and being an immigrant.
Reading the Little Red Book and Marx’s Das Kapital fueled my ideological and rebellious teenage years but backpacking and immigrating to Canada shaped my current life philosophy.
Hollywood movies resort to so many stereotypes and overuse so many clichés that I had half suspected school buses didn’t actually exist or were anecdotal.
I’m still on autopilot but it doesn’t matter. I’ve been there for so long now that many things no longer surprise me in Canada, including…
In Canada, the social safety net covers a broad spectrum of programs designed to give assistance to citizens outside of what the market provides. However, it is much less generous and comprehensive than in France.
Today is the National Day of the People’s Republic of China ( 国庆节). So in honour of the Chinese members of the family (namely Feng and… half of Mark?), here are five things you probably didn’t know about Chinese culture!
On garbage night, as I stroll around the neighborhood, I can’t help but silently judge people. Oh come on, I can’t possibly be the only person who eyes the pile of garbage placed at the curb in front of each home and make stupid assumption about it, can I?
I’ve been flying from the old world to the new continent and back for over ten years now, and I know what to expect—at this point, neither France nor Canada is particularly exotic to me. Yet, there are still a few small things that stand out right after landing!
Cultural snapshots of smart vending machines, a funny moment in an art gallery and French-size coffee and more!
It would be years until I display a flag. Like many French, I associated the national flag to yes, the French Revolution—a long long time ago—but mostly to more contemporary dark periods of human history or far-right movements.
As difficult (and maybe pointless) as it is to make a blanket statement about such a heterogeneous population, common characteristics and shared values do exist and bind people together.
One of the first things I noticed in Canada is that North Americans seem to be much more sensitive to smell than Europeans. For instance, many workplaces have adopted a “scent-free policy” for environmental sensitivity and health reasons—apparently, people reported scents were causing issues such as headaches, dizziness or skin irritation.
If Chinese are overly polite, North Americans tend to be overly cheerful and easily excited. I grew up as a cynical French, so it felt very strange at first to be swaddled by so much eagerness and earnest niceness.
Coming from the West, China offers a unique experience. It’s quite a culture shock, really—even for me (this was my 6th trip to China) and even for Feng, to a certain extent. You live, you learn… well, these are 11 things I learned during our trip to China.
Chinese like to treat guests as royalty and it can be embarrassingly overwhelming. There is an entire informal code of politeness, the art of being 客气 (keqi), that I quite don’t master. I understand it but it drives me crazy as a Westerner.
We can’t help it. We are raising Mark the Chinese and the French ways. We respect Canadian customs and abide by local rules, etiquette and laws. But at home, we use Chinese/French parenting skills. I just can’t be a Canadian mother. This is not me.
I was fairly street smart by the time I settled in Ottawa. I had backpacked in China alone, had traveled through most of Latin America and had dealt with all kinds of nuisances all over the world from getting catcalls to being mugged, from losing my wallet to being followed by drunks. I found Ottawa pretty sedate compared to Rio, Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa or even Paris. But do you know where I felt uneasy? Suburbia.
We had a great time in France and it’s always good to be back in my hometown. This time, I got to enjoy the French life for four weeks and I introduce Mark to his other culture. I am not the most patriotic person and I rarely get homesick but I do need to visit my birth country once in a while. It feels comfortable, it feels safe and relaxing.
Then I remember why I left in the first place… There are things from the New World I miss badly after a few weeks!
Now that I have joined the dark side—and that Feng can look at Mark and…
Feng was born in China and came to Canada when he was in his early teens. I was born and raised in Nantes, France, and came to Canada in 2004. So, what are our Chinese, Canadian and French sides?
Don’t be surprised if one Saturday morning, you wake up to a busier-than-usual street with cars parked on both sides, or if your neighbour seems to have taken the garbage out too early—it’s garage sale season.
Canadians love garage sales. At least they certainly seem so, to an extent that sometimes confuses me. I guess this is another one of these cultural differences.
I don’t talk about Canada that much when I’m in France—I’m usually too busy enjoy France in the first place. But one thing you have to know about French is that they have an opinion on everything. And sometimes, it leads to funny comments and questions!
I first noticed the many differences between North American bathrooms and French bathrooms a while ago, but I had somehow forgotten about it. It all came back to mind today, when I went for a drink with one of my oldest friends (we’ve known each other since we were six years old!).