I AM RUDE (or so I’ve been told)

This is a note I posted on Facebook on Friday, January 18, 2008 but I think it goes well with my first post here so I decided to import it to my brand new blog. So, there!


Being an immigrant is not easy! that is such a cliche and yet it is also such an understatement.

Even in a country like Canada where multiculturalism is regarded as a National value as stated in Section 27 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our cultural differences keep us apart from Canadian-born Citizens.

I am sure I am not the only immigrant who’s had problems with Canadian-born people due to nuances of the language. Sometimes I wonder if I ever gonna fully master the English Language. Sure I have an outstanding vocabulary, my spelling is almost impecable, I can buy groceries, read signs, go to school. Heck, I even have got A+s in graduate courses and yet Canadian-born people and I cannot understand each other. I say white and they hear black.

I think my German ancestry doesn’t help either. People in my family are very well known for their sterness. We are not sweet people. And we tell it like it is.

Hmmmm…… telling it like it is. This is what causes me grief the most. In my experience, people here don’t say what they think. Opinions are considered rude… or at least my opinions are… and those of a lot of other people as I have witnessed many a time. The funny thing is that in Colombia, you talk, they kill you. In Canada, you talk, they consider you rude and they ostracize you. Not much of a difference since human beings are social animals. You take away the community from us and we die. A killing is a killing even if it is a social one.

There are many things I just don’t understand. One of them is having to apologize when I speak up my mind. Or even more, why do Canadians are so easily offended (see quote from Page 29). Another one is having to to apologize when someone pushes me on the street or step on my toes the way Canadians do, just to give an example.

The first year I came here, I read this book by the Ferguson Brothers called “HOW TO BE A CANADIAN* *(even if you already are one)”

I though it was funny but only after six year of living here I am starting to fully understand it. My favourite Chapter is Chapter 16: Twelve ways to Say “I’am Sorry” How to be Canadian- in the worst way


1. The simple Sorry
The most basic use of “I’m sorry”. Can also be Shortened to the simpler “Sorry” or amended to the slightly more loquacious “Sorry about that”. Using primarily after making unwanted physical contact with another person in a public place.

2. The Essential Sorry
The most common variation of “I’m sorry” and the one you will most often use. Can also be shortened to the simpler “Sorry” but formal usage is preferred. Used primarily when someone makes unwanted physical contact with you in a public place.

Example: When someone steps on your foot as you get off an escalator.


When I first read this I thought “you’ve got to be kidding me” . Then I realized that people actually do that all the time.

And the book goes on with the other ten.

Another very illuminating chapter is Chapter 2

[quote, page 29)

Canadians are very easy to insult. Case in point: Ian (one of the Ferguson Brothers and co-author if the book) was once in an elevator in downtown TO, and the only other accupant was a dear old lady […] The elevator doors where about to close when a smartly dressed young woman came running up. The elderly lady immediately stopped the doors with her cane and called out, “Come in, Sweetie”. The younger woman got on and glared out at the older woman. “I think that was very rude” she said. True story. Ian was agog. What would this well-tailored, ill-mannered woman possibly have to be insulted about?[…] Well it turned out that she was of Swedish extraction, you see, and she thought the old woman was makin a racial slur. “Sweetie/Swedie”. Get it?. And no, we aren’t kidding.


It is a great book really. It has taught me so much about being Canadian!!!!

4 thoughts on “I AM RUDE (or so I’ve been told)

  1. Byron says:

    Your point about the difficulties of immigrating are quite justified, and it's definitely about a lot more than just language. In fact the difficulty is that the better you master the language, the *more* likely you are to have difficulties! If someone has very bad English, we're likely to assume that a) they might be saying the wrong thing by accident, and might not understand what we say; and b) that they might have different cultural ideas than us. But once your English is very good, the linguistic and cultural misunderstandings are so few and far between that they're much more unexpected.I think in terms of culture that there's a range of behaviour in every country, too. And so if you were already considered outspoken in a country of outspoken people like Colombia, in Canada you might go over the line a bit. I've met some fairly softspoken, shy Colombians too, just as there are brash Canadians.In a country of immigrants like Canada or the US, I think that society can go in either of two directions in order to deal with people with different cultural sensibilities coming together and trying to get along. Originally in the US, the culture became less interested in etiquette and sensitivity than in the countries of origin such as Britain, Germany and so on. After all, if you never know if you're going to insult people, you might as "why bother?"In Canada I think it went the other way: if you can't know what will insult people, avoid doing anything remotely impolite, and just in case, say sorry first anyways. The good news is that very few people shoot each other in this environment.

  2. Summer Solstice Girl says:

    heh! yeah, not shooting each other is a good thing!And you do have a point there, the fact that my English is relatively good doesn't make it any easier.I still love it here! I love the people and I love the land. And the longer I live here, the easier it gets. I do think though that some cultural barriers will never be removed just like I will never lose my accent either.Vive la différence, I guess :)

  3. Mark says:

    Most countries have these idealized perceptions of who they are. Canadians are "polite" and "peace keepers" and best of all "not American". Well, yes, in terms of shooting each other we're definitely not American. ;)But with this culture of politeness we become bland. While it may seem to be good that we don't call each other out on things we think to be wrong, we also tend not to celebrate that which is right either. But when things are wrong they need fixing, and when things are right we need to make note and encourage.I'll give people heck if I think it's needed, but I'll also be the first to praise. But doing either means sticking one's neck out, by not only having an opinion but having the "audacity" to voice it. But there's nothing wrong with being true to yourself. Let others deal with it, or not. ;)

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