Cultural differences in Canada
My boyfriend did his exchange studies in Montreal Canada, and I visited him there for three weeks. During my stay, we also travelled to Toronto, which is English speaking area and Montreal is French speaking area. It was fascinating to see how big difference there was between these two cities!
Toronto was practically like America. People were so much more talkative there, and strangers said “hi” to you in the streets. In Montreal people were more private and reserved, more like how people are in the Europe. In Toronto, people started to do small talking in the shops or cafés and the atmosphere were in general more open and social in Toronto. Sometimes it felt little bit pretentious, but very friendly though.
For example, we rented a basement room via AirBnB during our stay in Toronto and the owners of the house were living upstairs. When we arrived, they welcomed us to their house and asked, if we wanted to have some hot tea, because the weather was really cold and rainy. We were actually feeling really cold and a cup of a hot tea sounded a very good idea. But when we answered yes, the lady who offered the tea to us was little bit surprised and started to make the tea feeling slightly disappointed or something. It made us feel that maybe she was just polite when she offered the tea, and we actually should just have to said no thank you. But we drank the tea together and talked something about Toronto and asked some tips for the city. And it was really nice even thought it felt little bit uncomfortable at first. But later during our stay the owners did not talk us more than a “hello, how was your day”. Maybe they felt that they have done the obligatory courtesy.
The effect of the French culture is still strong in a Quebec area, where Montreal is. French is the official language of the city and there is only 22.8% of the people who speak English as their first language. Metro announcements are in French and especially older people don’t speak English at all. It is often said, that French people are little bit rude and selfish, but in Montreal I felt like they were some kind of a mix of the French attitude and Canadian politeness. For example, when you arrived some store or a café, you were greeted by saying “Bonjour Hi”. If you answered “Hi” you were served in English and if you said “Bonjour” they started to serve you in French. I think that was a really good way to deal with the language options.
In Montreal people speak more with their hands and they are more demonstrative when talking. Also, I noticed that they stood much closer than for example in Toronto people did. Personal space and body language were more like it is in France than in English speaking area of Canada. And of course, the kisses to the cheeks were exchanged when people met each other.
When you are doing business with Canadians, you need to remember few things. Canadians have really same style as we Finns do when we are doing business. We Finns want to be in time in the meetings, and so do Canadians. It is recommended that you are punctual for meetings and appointments. But in French areas time is more relaxed, they might be late a bit and that is not an end of the world. My boyfriend said, that this was really a thing in meetings with his school mates. English speaking Canadians and he as a Finn were always on time and maybe a few minutes early. French Canadians were almost always few minutes late and and the rest of the group always knew, that they need to wait for the French speaking students. When you are meeting French Canadians, you still shouldn’t be late. You will be expected to arrive at the appointed time, even if the French attending the meeting don’t. So just be on time and prepare to wait for the funny Frenchies.
It was interesting to see how much there was these differences in the same country and in a such small distance. Finland is also a bilingual country, so we also have these small differences between Finnish speaking folks and Finnish Swedish folks. We are all Finnish but with a small feature. I think same goes with the Canadians in the English speaking and the French speaking areas. Diversity is wealth, absolutely.