“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!
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?”
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.