Canadians aren’t nice, we just think we are

“Why are Canadians so cold?”

I did a presentation on Canada to a group of Brazilian students last week with B*, and this question came up during the question and answer period. The asker prefaced the question with “You guys seems really nice, and definitely don’t fit this description, so now I’m wondering…” B* and I were floored.

“Did you mean physically cold?” B* finally asked. Since English wasn’t their first language, it would have been understandable if there was some miscommunication. But…

“No, not ‘feeling cold’. I hear that you guys are cold towards other people. Why?”

All my life, I’ve hard various stereotypes regarding Canadians,

  • We all live in igloos and ride polar bears to work
  • We say “eh” all the time
  • We were born with skates on
  • Our only weather is winter

Out of all these stereotypes, being cold was definitely not one of them. In fact, I thought one common stereotype about Canadians was that we’re excessively nice towards everyone!

Canadian Vandalism Canadian Graffiti Canadian Standoff

Now, I could have dismissed this as a strange and random occurrence, but the question popped up again today, when E* and I were talking culture on the way home from work. He told me that he heard Canadians were remote towards others. Since this was now the second time I had heard this, I had to jump on the topic.

“It’s so strange for me to hear this. Have you never heard that Canadians are always nice, sometimes too nice? That only our weather is cold?”

Canadian Protest Canadian Graffiti 2 Canadian Cats

He shook his head. “I’ve always heard that Canadians were just… cold everywhere – physically and otherwise.”

My brain subsequently imploded and I had to change the topic. But thinking back on it, I can definitely see why people from South America might think that Canadians are a little cold.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the stereotype that Canadians are nice comes from our neighbours the Americans. Compared to our rowdy, freedom and ‘MURICA loving counterparts, we do tend to be a tad more polite and well-spoken. I’ve heard Americans who, coming to Canada, are surprised that customer service representatives will actually greet them with, “Hello, how are you doing today?” If you’re basing “nice”-ness on that, then for sure, we are the nicest country there ever was.

But we definitely don’t become as chummy with strangers as South Americans do. Despite Brazil being dangerous, I’ve always. If public transportation is crowded, strangers sitting on the bus will offer to hold my bag on their lap for me while I stand, because they know how much our bags can sometimes weigh. When I couldn’t understand how to get to my destination, everyone on the bus rallied to convey the message to me with body language. Everybody greets each other and says goodbye with hugs and kisses, even strangers, and when they laugh, they always touch you and lean their head on your shoulder. These are just some of the many customs here. If you compare this to the Canadian way – saying hello with small smiles, politely shaking hands – it is worlds apart.

Maybe Canadians aren’t that nice… maybe we just think we are.

Canadian World Map
Even if we aren’t the nicest, at least we like everyone.

2 thoughts on “Canadians aren’t nice, we just think we are

  1. Your comparison between Canada and America is completely inaccurate. I’m an American, and I’ve been in Canada for the past year. (Wife is here for work which ends soon, thank god.) I’ve had the worst experiences of my life here, second only to serving in Afghanistan. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t witness some sort of grand altercation in public by either a homeless person, or a drug addict. Just today, on a single subway ride home I witnessed a physical domestic dispute between a man and a woman, and several people having drug-induced meltdowns on the train. The best part; though, had to be the tear gas suffocating the station I got off at. The entire station was coughing and choking while another brawl between two drunk Canadians happened down the stairs. I honestly wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. Typical Saturday night in The Great White North. About a week before this incident, my wife’s family came to visit her from Japan. I had to sit with horror and disappointment everyday they were here as I watched their vacation and illusions of Canada be tarnished. Apart from her sister getting pick-pocketed, it was the usual occurrence for Vancouver: Crazy people starting fights with strangers and spouting off random sentences. One such example would be the woman on a bus near Commercial-Broadway. She repeatedly screamed on the bus, got in peoples faces, and cursed everyone with a “Cow on their lawn.” Instances such as this happen to me every time I step out of our apartment.

    Stop patting yourself on the back. The American’s who were amazed that the clerk at whatever store threw some half-hearted greeting of the day to them are blinding themselves by the Canadian stereotype of being nice. If I get told Canadians are nice day in and day out, I’m obviously going to hype up any remotely cordial encounter I’ve had here and say: “Man, it’s SO true!” Coming here on a weekend trip is entirely different than living among the community for a year. I’ve NEVER had to deal with the rude experiences I’ve dealt with in this country back in my hometown. I don’t even like showing my American I.D at a restaurant because I’m guaranteed to get horrible service or completely ignored after. Has happened more than once. So much for Canadians liking everyone. They don’t even like themselves. If it’s not anti-American conversations, it’s “Anti-Caker” or against First Nations, or against French Canadians, or against the immigrants. Maybe it’s just British Columbia, but I highly doubt it.

    I’m a shy, polite person. I don’t go out of my way to talk to people, and I’ve still had dozens of rude experiences on a personal level. Being in this country has actually put a strain on my marriage because I’m stressed every single day of the week. Yet, everyday I see more Canadians congratulating themselves and furthering the notion that they are God’s gift to the Earth. For what? Tim Hortons?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s