Dictionary of Demeanour

In Canada do as the Canadians do …..

Canada of Dictionary reference: “Canadians are a mostly friendly, unpretentious people who value honesty, sensitivity, empathy and humility in their relationships with friends and strangers, as well as respect for the privacy and individualism of others”.…An extremely polite nation with ‘sorry’ at drop of pin. 

True…Canada is a land of polite people but what about new immigrants streaming into the country every day. They come from different walks of life and different circumstances loaded with bundled baggages to exhume.

A Toronto friend, here since the 1970s has a ‘grouse’ list of changes. The standout was driving habits. How till early 1990s it was ‘relaxed’ driving on Toronto GTA roads. Now the irritating honk and errant speedsters demand attention.

We have been visiting Toronto/Calgary since 2012, so by 2023 the stereotypical polite mannersims were ‘Nothing to worry about’. Secondly I was coming from the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh were “Pehle Aap” or “After You” was the norm.

Armoured with the word ‘Sorry’ and ‘After You’ I stepped onto Canada soil. Few days on, my ears on alert, ‘Sorry’ seemed to be missing. It was ‘Awesome’ ruling the roost. At the dentist, while waiting my turn, I overhead this conversation… “Here is your billed amount sir”. “Awesome” and I wondered why receiving the bill was awesome. I would have been “what the hell’ on seeing the numbers. Few days on I learn that the ubiquitous ‘Awesome’ is the to-be-used word for anything…pretty, good, great, cool, excellent, fine, exciting, interesting, quite interesting, terrible, not terrible, any feeling…. but mouthed with the right inflexion.

2. I was not particularly fazzled by the Canadian accent, especially ‘ou’…out, about, house, sounding something like’oot’ as in ‘boot’. Accents and pronounciations are people specific and you never know what to expect the next moment. Communication is important and I continue with my Indian English.

3. ’Don’t be too loud, no political/religious discussions, respect seniors”. So far so good as we are thankful to be away from the volatile India political scene. In short political Canada was too new to us even though Justin Trudeau had Bhangra-red (Punjabi folk dance) his way into Indian hearts (February 2018 India trip).

4. One must develop patience, wait to be connected or as we say back home ‘You are in the queue”. In short Change our attitude as ‘we are in land of polite people’ and wait to be addressed or asked. No cutting corners or brandishing parental and spouse connections. 

5. Weekends and holidays are sacrosant and so is going uninvited to someones house, even your neighbours. “No one calls in Canada. Message or Whatsapp”. A habit I will have to cultivate as I am used to just picking up the instrument rather than flipping my fingers.

6. Along with voice control is added gesture control.. no pointing fingers, staring, scrunchy scowly faces…. be ready with smiling faces and words ‘How are you doing today’, ‘have a good day’…etc Awesome😊

7. Do not be too inquisitive, a trademark of Asian sub-continent where first time meeting starts with ‘husbands job, salary, residence, children’s school, jobs etc. A difficult learn. So what do you start your conversation with. Someone suggested opening lines such as ‘Where are you from?” “how is your dog”, or …

8. Follow the clock…I forget that Vancouver is trailing by three hours and call up relatives when they are still in dream world. Another muddle I am learning to handle is Daylight Saving Scheme perpretated to preserve light. As someone explained ‘It is simple..“spring forward, fall back.” Confusing isn’t it and not discounting loosing that precious One hour. To quote Victor Borge…”I don’t mind going back to daylight saving time. With inflation, the hour will be the only thing I’ve saved all year.” For more information check out….https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daylight_saving_time

9. Time is followed by Weather…another bane for a new comer. Coming from a tropical region the minus sign is a camouflaged cold bomb. Visiting a country is different from settling in a country as we remained jacketed for a few weeks knowing that soon warmer climes will be waiting. Now it is all inclusive…heated homes, parkas, fleece lined jackets, snowpants, gloves, mufflers, beanies/torque, snow boots. Homes are smug but then one needs to step out in this ‘-30 feels like 40 syndrome’. The Chinook is the ‘friendly’ wind (Alberta) and snowflakes ‘confetti’ and 0 or -1 are temps to be ‘enjoyed’ to walk the icy pathways or streak down the ski ramp. The oft repeated sentence come Winter is “We are spending a week/month/months in the sun…region depends on proclivity and ownership.

How could I stay away from joining the weather cheating queue. As starters booked a weeks luxury stay at Cancun and patted my self.

10. Another hegemonizing alphabet is ‘C’ as in Cuisine. ‘Poutine is a must’ and it was till ‘Poutine is Beef’. I am not a diehard Hindu but draw the line where ‘Cows’ are concerned. Or maybe as someone pointed out ‘eat as long as it is not an Indian cow’. Chicken gravy is a substitute and now I make it a point to ask first.

I try Canadian delicacies in different cities and centers. Butter Tarts, Lobsters, Montreal Bagels, Beaver Tails (I thought literally.. Beaver tails, till I tasted one..a delicious, deep-fried crispy dough pastry covered in a variety of toppings), Maple syrup and taffy, chips in different flavours, Ketchup Chips, Crispy Crunch etc…a bonanza compared to simple salt, pepper, onion Lays Chips.

Another must try… The Ceaser, the Canadian version of Bloody Mary with vodka, clamato juice, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce, celery sticks. Not to be left behind are burgers, hot dogs, sliders, onion rings and more. I was asked to try Tourtière. I did, a pork one. Game meat is a big no-no especially the majestic Moose and venison, caribou etc. Still discovering the dessert and ice cream medley, as I am not a sugar person.

Cuisine is followed by ‘Clothes’…..sartorial choices.. the list is long and I am listening and learning and verifying

….More to follow later.

4 thoughts on “Dictionary of Demeanour”

  1. Interesting to hear someone else’s perspective. Maybe it’s just my friends, but I don’t hear awesome replacing sorry, at least I hope if it has it’s a passing fad. Maggie

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