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Umm sorry, but why do Canadians say sorry all the time?
Sorry we're open street sign

Umm sorry, but why do Canadians say sorry all the time?

Sorry guys, I would be saying too many sorries in this article. Oops..sorry! I moved to Canada a couple of years ago to study and trust me when I say that I was taken by surprise by the Canadian habit of apologizing. Um sorry, but can somebody tell me why do Canadians say sorry so much?! Canadians apologize for coming to work early, for squeezing past you in a crowded area, for asking for a napkin in a restaurant, for entering the elevator before you, for feeding you more than they should and sometimes to even themselves! Can you imagine being a Canadian and having to send back a wrong food order at a restaurant?!

Well, every culture has its own unsaid codes of conduct/ customs and it is safe to say if there’s a Canadian book of conduct somewhere, saying sorry would be the first thing and the last thing it talks about. That, and greeting absolute strangers with a smile. It is pretty obvious that to an international student, this might be a very new thing to get used to. However, when in Canada, do as Canadians do! After all, it does not hurt to be extra polite to your community, right?

Learn the Canadian Way!

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Saying sorry at every given opportunity may seem like a little too much but the fact cannot be denied that it makes people come across as less self-absorbed and community-oriented. While apologising every time you breathe might be a redundant practice, not apologising at all for your errors and oversights may make you come across as a colder person. Since Canada is a multicultural country striving to present different communities with a warm and welcoming forever home, a warmer image of its people is often paints a positive picture about the country. 

As an international student or a new immigrant, it would be wonderful for you to embrace the Canadian culture of saying sorry! Not only will it make your day when an absolute stranger smiles at you for saying sorry for asking for a fork to eat your food at a restaurant, it will also make you feel a part of a warm community.

Here are a few things that you should try to do the next time you step out of your house: 

  1. Politely smile at a passerby on the street walking their dog.
  2. Hold the door of an elevator or a building for the people coming in/going out immediately after you.
  3. Apologize for driving past a car when driving on a highway.
  4. Say sorry to the grocery bagger for buying too many groceries for yourself.
  5. When you reach out to somebody at work to ask for help, politely apologize for interrupting their flow of work momentarily.
  6. Try to throw an empty cup of coffee in the trash can, miss it, say sorry to the trash can and the cup.

Know the difference

As international students and new immigrants, as much as we would love to be a part of a new community and make it our home, we sometimes need to draw a line somewhere. While it is a given thing to feel like needing to go out on a limb to be seen as an integral part of society, there are definitely a few things that you should never feel the need to apologize for:

  1. For following your own cultural norms and customs
  2. For dressing up the way you want dress up
  3. For having an accent when you speak English/French
  4. For wanting to save a little money but budgeting your needs profusely
  5. For demanding to be treated equally
  6. For not knowing the country and its places and laws well enough

Canadians are human too you know!

Finally, did you know that Canadians are humans too??! That’s correct, no matter how strongly you believe in the fact that Canadians are bots that only understand words like sorry and thank you, they are human beings like you and me who get angry, frustrated, annoyed, and tired too. The only difference is that instead of conveying their disagreements directly, Canadians have their own ways of politely letting you know that you are in disagreement with them over an issue. Over time, you will understand how subtle changes in the tone and the manner of saying things can convey so many different things and emotions. The day you start catching the subtleties in tone, is the day you call home and boast to your mother how you’ve been officially anointed as a Canadian.
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