Adjust to a New Culture
While it's difficult to describe all Canadians, there are a few common values that Canadians tend to share as a whole:
- Freedom and individuality: Canadians tend to see themselves as individuals first, rather than as members of a group. Decisions about career, education, and social activities are often made based on personal interest.
- Politeness and fairness: Canadians value politeness, saying “please” and “thank you” in many social situations; they are often apologetic, and may even say “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry’” if someone else has bumped into them. Generally speaking, Canadians tend to feel uncomfortable in situations where another person is acting aggressively or rudely; they try to avoid conflict/confrontation.
Lining up for services is something that most Canadians feel strongly about, following the idea that the first person who arrived should be served first; Canadians tend to feel quite uncomfortable or frustrated when people “jump the queue” (jump ahead in line) or do not line up at all.
- Personal space/Privacy: Canadians value their personal space. When speaking to each other or lining up, they typically feel most comfortable allowing an arm’s length between people. Similarly, they prefer to respect each other’s privacy; polite conversation between strangers will typically be about something light, such as the weather, steering away from sensitive topics like money, politics, status, etc.
Canadians' need for personal space and privacy goes hand in hand with their sense of individuality, that everyone is entitled to personal space and privacy.
- Tolerance, sensitivity and political correctness: As Canada is a multicultural country with citizens with a variety of different beliefs, Canadians try to avoid expressions or actions that can be insulting to others. As a whole, Canadians take a more liberal approach to social and political issues.
- Eye contact is a sign of honesty/sincerity: While eye contact at all times isn’t required, Canadians appreciate a certain level of eye contact during conversation, as it implies a level of trust and honesty.
- Being on time: Canadians value their time, and expect others to be on schedule. Whether for a class, meeting, work or other scheduled event, it is best to arrive on time or even a few minutes early.
- Curiosity about other cultures: Many Canadians travel abroad, and tend to be curious about other countries. It is not uncommon to ask “Where are you from?” or “What is your background/heritage?” Canadians even ask each other these questions, as family heritage and community culture are a large part of what defines Canada’s multicultural society.
- Informality: Canadians tend to interact more informally with each other. In a university setting, some professors will ask you to refer to them by their first (given) name; they may also encourage you to ask questions or provide opinions in class, to create a more discussion-oriented lesson.