Mind your manners: integrating into Canadian society

Canadians are known around the world for their politeness. As a newcomer in Canada, I have been exposed to this Canadian trait and I’ve found it to be welcoming. Being in Canada means people need to learn the customs and manners that are acceptable in this country. I find this is a very important aspect that helps newcomers integrate into Canadian society more easily. It helps in every aspect of your life: from simply going out to buy groceries to feeling comfortable at work around your colleagues.

I have to admit that there are certain behaviours which are considered normal in Mexico but in Canada they would be less than polite. That’s why I made it a point to learn manners that would help me better socialize with my Canadian peers.

Among the Mexican behaviours that wouldn’t be well-liked in Canada are: talking about your salary (we don’t think that’s a big deal), kissing someone’s cheek as you’re introduced to that person (weird, I know, but accepted), not saying “sorry” or “excuse me” when you mistakenly walk into someone on the street, among others.

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Minding your manners can help you go a long way

I have encountered several examples of newcomers not following some important gestures of politeness. Among the behaviours that I have commonly found are not saying “thank you” when someone opens a door for you, groups of people walking together and taking up the whole sidewalk and cutting in line. I understand that it takes time and exposure to learn Canadian customs and manners. I encourage all newcomers to make an extra effort to be polite as per Canadian standards. It will make a big difference in your life. It makes it easier for everyone to live together in this great multicultural country.

If you are a newcomer, what have been some of the changes you‘ve had to make in terms of manners in your new country?

If you are Canadian, what are some suggestions you would make to newcomers so they can be exposed to and adopt Canadian manners faster?

All comments are welcome and appreciated!

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About Diana Massimi

As a newcomer in Canada, I've had some really great experiences. Every day, I continue to learn and adapt to my new country. As I've just passed the three year mark as a permanent resident, I'll soon be applying for citizenship. It's an exciting step to take and I'm looking forward to being "officially" Canadian. This blog is to share what I've learned so far and my everyday experiences and feelings being a newcomer to this country. More than anything I'll be looking forward to hearing from other newcomers and exchanging impressions and anecdotes about our new life in Canada. Feel free to share and ask questions, I'm also always happy to help a fellow newcomer!
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12 Responses to Mind your manners: integrating into Canadian society

  1. Evans, Jayne says:

    Welcome back, Diana! I am delighted that you are blogging again and I am enjoying reading your posts. I particularly like your piece about politeness and I agree with your observations about what Canadians consider polite. I came to Canada from the U.K. ten years ago and one of the first things I noticed was how nice everyone was to each other! It took a while to get used to constantly being asked how I was or to be told to ‘have a nice day’ by everyone I met! However, I now find myself saying exactly the same things! So, I think that over time, we unconsciously take on the language ‘style’ of our adopted country and I think that learning Canadian customs about politeness is an important part of the integration process

    Jayne Evans B.A (Hons), T.E.S.L. Canada Professor, Enhanced Language Training (E.L.T.) Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology Telephone: 905 575 1212 ext. 3482

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    • Thank you Jayne! It’s great to be back and a pleasure to read your comments.

      I agree with you on how it takes some time to adjust to being asked how you are all the time. I also find I am now used to greeting people that way. It’s a process that takes time but it pays off. I think it’s almost as important as learning English or French. It helps Canadians and new Canadians coexist in harmony.

  2. Mark Darovny says:

    Not sure I have anything to suggest – making an effort is the important thing, and I think many people do recognize when someone does that.

    And unfortunately there are plenty of Canadians (born and raised here) who could/should be making an effort too.

    • That’s very true. Making an effort is a great start and it’s what truly helps a newcomer get there.
      It’s also true some Canadians could do better at being polite. I guess it’s more a matter of being human and showing respect than anything else.

  3. ahorton says:

    It’s very interesting to read your perspective on us over apologetic Canadians, ’cause it is true we certainly are a little too apologetic. I wonder sometimes though, maybe we should give it a rest! I’d like to hear more of what some differences are between our manners and what they are like in Mexico!

    • Thanks Anastasia. Among the differences I’ve found are:

      Personal space – in Mexico, people will stand really close to you while you wait in line for example. We are also “touchy”, we don’t have a problem making physical contact when talking to someone; for example, if you’re chatting with someone they may touch your arm once in a while.

      At supermarkets people won’t really greet you they way they do it in Canada. You will typically just get the question “Did you find everything you were looking for?” and that’s it.

      In Mexico you need to be prepared to shake hands and give a kiss cheeks when a friend or family member introduces you to someone. That only applies to men/women, women/women, never man to man; men just shake hands.

      We don’t say “excuse me” after we sneeze but people do say “bless you” and we respond with a polite “thank you”.

      It’s also normal to talk about how much you make and money in general. People also ask personal questions such as ” are you married?” when they first meet you and that’s just them being friendly and showing interest in you.

      Line jumping is very common (and a pet-peeve of mine!) and people don’t typically complain when someone does it.

      These are the ones I can think of right now…If I remember any other, I will make sure to share!

  4. People also smile at strangers when they are walking the dog. In general, Canada is just a politer place. One of the things I had to learn as a immigrant kid was not to stare. People in India will openly stare at people as it is not considered rude but it is very disrespectful here. Now, I feel awkward if someone stares at me. Your blog reminds me of my immigrant experience 🙂

    • That’s true, people are friendly, especially when you’re walking your pet. You know what else I find here? People will make small talk in elevators; I don’t think it’s like that in my country.

    • punrun says:

      They would also say hello or ask how are you doing. Back home, people don’t ask or greet a stranger unless you have a purpose or need something. Staring is very disrespectful and I try hard to also not stare. I don’t want to offend anybody so I just throw a quick glance if I notice something.

  5. punrun says:

    I’m from Philippines, a Southeast Asian country. Filipinos are known for hospitality and staring is not one of the ways to welcome and befriend a visitor. Regardless of nationality, the best way to break the ice is to just smile just what centristcanuck said.

    To avoid staring at people I spend my time reading via cellphone or book if I’m not carrying heavy load. No more staring while spending time wisely.

    • Thanks for the comment Punrun. I agree that a smile is a great way to break the ice no matter the country you’re in. Is it normal to stare at people in the Philippines? I know in Mexico some people sometimes do it without realizing it can be uncomfortable for the other person; however, I guess that happens everywhere.

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