If you’ve ever encountered a Canadian, or at least heard of them, you will hear a variety of things. Apart from them growing enraged over games of ice hockey, and drowning their pancakes in maple syrup, you will be told something to the effect of “They’re a friendly and polite bunch of people.” Today I’ve decided to go on a little rant about the politeness of these snow-covered creatures. Coming from a country where the rules blend into guidelines more often than not, when I’m suddenly forced to follow procedures without question…it can feel like the proverbial nail is skating down the chalkboard. I’ll give you an example…
After first arriving in Canada I figured out where the nearest bottle store was from my house. Why? (Because without it life has fewer colors in it). The first time I visit I grab a six pack of stout, I get to the counter and the older gentlemen behind it grabs my beers and enquires “Do you happen to have I.D. on you?” I counter the question with a dumbstruck expression and say to the guy that I’m not a teenager. I’m told that regardless he needed to see my mug on something otherwise by law he couldn’t sell it to me.
I soon realize my arguments are as effective as walking the streets of Vancouver minus an umbrella. I decided to walk the two blocks back to my apartment, grumbling as I go, to sequester my beer ticket. I arrive home and I can’t find my PR card (i.e. permanent residence card). I rummage a little and decide my passport should suffice.
I return to the bottle store again, gripping my beer ticket like a weapon of the first world. I hand it to the same gentleman. He takes a good minute scrutinizing my picture and then comments “the photo is a little blurry.” I shrug and tell him, “You asked me for ID. That is all I have.” He nods and allows the purchase to continue.
You may wonder why did this ordeal drove me to write several paragraphs. The answer is in my home country from the legal drinking age of 18 and upwards, I never once was asked to present my ID before buying alcohol. Never. In fact it never crossed my mind to have my ID on me when buying beer. This is one example of the Canucks having a high regard for the law, now I’ll move on to illustration I have dubbed “the dance of gentlemen”.
I have explained a little earlier that one of the primary values of Canadians is to be considerate of others. One of my Canuck house-mate mentioned to me, “that is what makes a civil society”. Despite many of my rants I do agree with this principle for the most part, although it does seem rather weird at first. When first arriving here I would start to cross the road and a car would be approaching. Sometimes the car would go as far as reversing slightly to ensure that you had enough space. Yes, you heard me.
Automatically reversing cars is one example of Canadians being considerate and giving you your personal space, here’s another. After the first eight months or so I remember making friends with a great guy called Conrad. His parents were visiting from New Brunswick and the five of us (Conrad’s wife included) were off to go eat at a Chinese restaurant. We had all done at least 30 km cycling around the city that day. We’re walking on the side walk towards our chosen restaurant, the and dance of gentlemen was about to ignite.
For some reason I reach the door first and hold it open for the masses. Conrad’s parents and his wife accept my gesture and shuffle passed. When he gets towards the door he gestures for me to go first. I tilt my head slightly and do a similar no-after-you motion with my free hand. This is paying the price of chivalry. It is the dance of gentlemen. The reason you do it is because if you end up being the last person to enter the building, you win! If you’re lucky a small flicker of colonial pride may kindle in your eyes for a second.
It’s silly and stupid. Perhaps even pathetic. I’m sure if you’re a man you’ve found yourself doing the same dance. I’ve found myself doing this a lot more in Canada where manners, aren’t merely nice-to-have but are expected. You know what? I think I like it…especially if I’m the last guy with trundles into the pub with pride.