Here comes that awkward moment when you get up one morning and find out your neighbours’ political preferences.
Browsing: Cultural Differences
If you don’t want to waste time in front of Judge Judy, here are a few programs worth watching to better understand Canada.
Besides true clichés—locals are nice and welcoming—a few Canadian attitudes can be baffling to a foreign eye. So here are three examples of “Canadian logic.”
Communicating with French people can be tricky. I should know that—after all, I used to be one of them.
Cultural norms are weird and are best learned over time, observing people.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now that I have joined the dark side—and that Feng can look at Mark and…
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 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!).
I have been living in Canada for quite some time now and all in all, I think I adapted pretty well. Yet, there are a few cultural facts—habits, customs etc.—that I adopted without being entirely comfortable with.
At school, I learned that the three largest countries in the world were Russia (and at the time, the USSR was larger than current-day Russia!), Canada and China. As a kid, it was hard to comprehend how big these territories actually were. But as a new Canadian, the country immediately struck me as humongous.
Thanks to globalization, no matter where you go these days, you will probably experience a lesser culture shock than the great explorers did a few centuries ago. Familiar brands and franchises took over the planet and local customs and lifestyles were exported well beyond their original boundaries. But it’s not always the same. Or rather, it’s the same… just different. Here are a few examples between France and North America.