Welcome to Canada.
Land of maple, igloos and funny accents. Or so seems to be the belief.
Changing? Probably not.
It’s a common fact of travel:
No matter where you end up in the world, someone will have a picture of you already nicely drawn up in their heads.
It just so happens for us, in the Great White North, that that drawing was likely sketched by the nice caricature artists at Canada’s Wonderland, placing ever-so-much focus on a grossly exaggerated feature and entirely out-of-proportion prop.
And while we’d surely all like to convince the rest of the world that we do not converse exclusively in variations of “eh” while nibbling on beaver jerky between hockey periods, it’s not happening any time soon.
So instead, please take note of the below tips to help you blend in when doing business in the Grand Green South (trademark it, stat).
You’ve already made your first impression.
DO: Be proud of where you’re from. You’re Canadian. People will probably love you by default. You’re cute, you’re quaint, you’re charming. Go with it.
DON’T: Share too many of our secrets. Canada is a wonderful place and frankly, a little mystique isn’t going to do us any harm. If someone really wants to believe that you get mountains of free prescription drugs at the snap of a finger, just let them.
Say goodbye to the comfort zone.
DO: Grow a pair. No, Miss Manners will not tattle to your mother and the etiquette book will not come slamming down on your little fingers. There is a surprisingly large difference between being assertive and being rude. A little decisiveness will go a long way, too.
DON’T: Apologize like your job depends on it, unless your job actually depends on it. It’s natural: someone bumps into you, you apologize. Someone gives you bad news, you apologize. Heck, you’d probably apologize for being in the way if a truck hit you while you were galavanting in your neon running gear. But honestly, stop. It’s not your fault? Don’t apologize.
About that pair you just grew.
DO: Be educational. If someone dismisses your idea in a meeting because Canada just got television “like five years ago”, be informative – not offended. Become a living library of random facts. You’ll be able to politely stomp idiotic remarks and offer a fun tip that will quickly divert attention from that awkward feeling that takes over a room when someone makes an asinine assumption.
Fun facts of note:
You need stereotypical facts, after all?
Need even more?
Good thing you’re not writing an essay. Check Wikipedia.
DON’T: Be a jerk. Asking someone about their White Castle addiction isn’t going to help the situation. Shocking stat: most Americans hate stereotypes, too (source: common sense). If you defend yourself by asking about rampant obesity and illiterate government leaders, you may soon find yourself right back in the igloo that you didn’t even know you had.
It’s all in the details.
DO: Accept defeat and forego the use of the letter u. Color, honor, labor – you’re crying on the inside right now. I know, I am, too. But this is reality. If you want to keep attention on the work and not the quirks, learn your new words. While you’re at it, figure out what a mile is.
DON’T: Wear a red, white and blue, stared and striped cowboy hat to your first meeting. Did you wear one when you visited Alberta? Of course not – it felt dumb. It’ll feel just as dumb south of the border. Unless of course you’re actually from Alberta, in which case, go for it. My cousins look dope in their best wide-brims.
Especially the big details.
DO: Learn the market. America is not just Big Canada. The same way we note differences between Vancouver and Halifax, our southern friends will note differences between the exact same coasts. You know, things like, those two Washingtons.
DON’T: Act like your foreigner status excuses you from anything. Despite many people’s best efforts (we love you CBC, we really do), you’ve likely had more American media streaming into your senses than Canadian. Don’t you ever – not even for a second – think of blaming anything on the fact that you’re Canadian.
Be proud. Be brave. And if all else fails, replay a Molson commercial to yourself when no one is watching.
We might be polite and we might like hockey too much, but we’re just as determined and well-educated as any Yankee cowboy – and gosh darn it if we can’t climb up someone else’s ladder too.
BONUS TIP: If your story starts with “this one time, in Cuba”, expect a combination wall of confused, scared or worried looks.