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I was a bad Canadian today

Everyone knows the few stereotypes about Canadians, most of which are false:

  • We say “aboot” not “about” — This is false unless you go to certain cities or areas, much like how not everyone in the U.S. has a Southern accent
  • We ride polar bears and have pet baby seals — Partly true, depends on who you ask. MWAHAHA!
  • We live in igloos and it’s freezing cold all year the MINUTE you step over the border — Er.. no.
  • We all speak French and English (are bilingual) — Another lie. I didn’t really learn the language until I was forced to out of necessity and greed (for more money at work).
  • We say “eh” a lot — I do admit to doing this, but I don’t do it every other sentence. It just pops out once in a while, although I’ve caught plenty of Americans saying it too, so … this one is a toss-up.
  • We’re really.. really… REALLY nice and are always apologizing — This one is true for the most part.

When I am in Canada, I don’t know what happens, but I feel the need to apologize a lot.

When I step in front of someone in an aisle and I block their view temporarily, I apologize.

When I accidentally bump /  nudge / touch / tap someone, I apologize.

When I do ANYTHING out of the ordinary even by accident, I apologize.

(Like dropping something of mine on the ground “Oh sorry!” just comes out of my mouth, because I think it might be in the way of someone’s walking path and they could trip.)

It’s my instinct to apologize even though it isn’t necessarily my fault.

I will note that it comes and goes because this streak of apologizing was suppressed when I lived in the U.S. mostly because I didn’t get any verbal affirmations of constant apology from others around me. If no one else says “Sorry” either, my natural instinct to apologize disappears.

But there are days I am a bad Canadian. Like really bad.

Today was one of those days and I am not even sorry about it.


Picture this:

You walk into a store where everyone is busy with a customer except for a girl is on the phone chatting on the side at the cash register with her iPhone and the landline glued to her ear.

Good Canadian: *Thinks: Hmm she looks busy. Let’s not bother her, I’ll just wait until she’s finished with store business. No rush.*

2 minutes later, still chatting.

..all the while, she’s asking for prices and kind of ignoring me. We had ONE flash of eye contact, but she hurriedly looked the other way.

Good Canadian: Okay, this is getting kind of long, but I guess if she has to get it done, she has to get it done. I’m sure she’ll wrap it up soon.

1 minute later, STILL chatting, this time she’s laughing a lot.

Semi-Bad Canadian: *eavesdrops a little*

Turns out, she wasn’t on a business call doing STORE business, she’s planning a goddamn PARTY for herself and her parents, perhaps it could even be her WEDDING.

This is a PERSONAL call while working, and customers (myself) are being kept waiting for a PERSONAL. PARTY. CALL.

Semi-Bad Canadian: *says directly to the girl while she is on the phone*

“Wow it must be nice to be on a personal phone call planning a party or a wedding or whatever the hell you’re doing while you’re working. I wish my job let me do that.”

*no eye contact, and now she is now purposefully angling her body away from me so she doesn’t see me out of the corner of her eye*

*instant metamorphosis into a Bad Canadian*

I walked out to the middle of the store and says VERY loudly and angrily in the middle of all the customers and salespeople milling around helping them.

Bad Canadian: HELLO? Is anyone else available to help me at the cash? Apparently your employee is far too busy planning a personal party to handle customers, and I’m a little pissed off at waiting for so long.

*confused, kind of scared look from a salesperson*, who replies: “Umm there’s no one at cash?”

Bad Canadian: Oh no. Don’t get it wrong! There is someone at cash, but she’s too fricking busy planning some sort of goddamn personal party for herself, ordering DJs and salsa music right at the cash register WHILE WORKING, ignoring customers like me who have been waiting there for a while for some customer service.

*salesperson quickly scurries to the front to deal with me, and like magic or on cue, that rude salesgirl realizes she’s been outed, and disappears into the back like an embarrassed rat.*


This is just one of many stories of when I am not a nice Canadian.

I can’t say that I do this all the time but I am no passive-aggressive wallflower.

I’d call my behaviour above rude but I am one of those people who responds in the like to what I am being treated with.

If you’re rude, I’m rude too.

I did something like this once with a friend who was so shocked that her mouth was open for a good 2 minutes that I could be that direct and aggressive. Then she laughed her ass off and asked for lessons.

Have you ever done anything like this?


  • Lila

    We had a similar experience at a Texas Roadhouse, which is a steak place in the U.S. My bf went in to pick up our takeout food and there were 3 people at the counter and none of them were helping customers.

    Another customer, he asked the customer reps to help but they ignored him. My bf is normally very patient and nice, he used to work in customer service before he became a professional and was irritated.

    My bf complained to the manager. We got an apology and a coupon for a free entree and my bf stayed very diplomatic the entire time he was complaining.
    I don’t think you were a bad canadian but good people can be pushed to be “bad” when treated poorly by customer service.

    My bf has other things to do than complain to management. However I’ve decided that I will complain to management anytime I receive poor treatment.

    Yes actually if you are rude to a customer most managers will talk to that rep. I work in customer service while in college so that’s how I know about that. If a rep keeps being rude then they are eventually fired.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I’d definitely have complained if 3 people were standing around doing nothing. It’s ridiculous. I don’t mind if you finish the tail end of your conversation, but someone should break off and smile, asking how they can help.

  • Lauren

    Yup I have to say I apologize even when it’s someone else’s fault and even when people bump into me. It’s some ingrained Canadian thing I guess. Also I think it’s fair that you called the cashier out, that was just bad service. Someone needed to.

  • MelD

    Oh, and the best policy when someone behind you in the line is getting impatient is to smile pityingly and generously offer them the place in front of you, saying loudly how rushed they must be – they get so embarrassed, you wouldn’t believe LOL.

  • MelD

    I would have said it’s the English coming through – always apologise and remember your Ps and Qs is drilled into us from a very young age!!
    Having said that, what is Canadian or not about (yes, that word is a give-away but it’s not aboot…!) complaining about bad service??
    I try and be pleasant, smile and be polite when I’m out and about, and it serves me very well on the whole (and surprises some). I apologise in a fairly English manner (unusual in Switzerland, though they are often non-assertive, too). But when service is bad, I’m not above a sarcastic comment or a direct complaint. I will happily point out that it is not my loss and if they want to lose a potential customer, so be it…

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      I can tell you many of my friends would not have said anything, and would have waited patiently until the end.

      They just don’t want to cause trouble, and may PASSIVE-aggressively, grumble under their breath but not actively do anything.

  • Michelle

    It’s the residual English genes. My English friends always say “sorry.” I always think…”are you really?” That being said, we are quite friendly in Colorado and even say “Thank you” to the bus driver when we get off the bus. Did you ever visit Colorado during your ill-fated time Stateside? If you do please let me know, I would be happy to show you around. I do think it’s good to assert yourself and you’re the customer…whose money is actually paying the salesperson’s check. Just saying.

  • Cassie

    I’ve pulled similar moves, but never that loudly. Good for you! I probably would have gotten load right at the cash register rather than walking out into the store personally.

    You are 100% right about us being apologetic though. I actually identified someone as a Canadian in Hawaii just based on when she was saying “sorry” rather than other phrases (we ended up chatting after).

  • anna

    I’m overly apologetic, as well (cultural thing, I think, that’s not from my American side lol). I haven’t encountered that situation, but I would have called that person out to a manager. I’ve done that at restaurants on the rare occasion that I receive horrible service. Employees like these unacceptable.

  • sherri

    I grew up in Georgia, lived there for 35 years, and now live in Florida. I was smiling to myself when you were talking about apologizing because I do that, too! (Is it a “Southern,” thing, perhaps here in the USA? And I’m amazed when someone bumps me who DOESN’T apologize….
    And then your story! Good for you! I’m the same way. I can get rude when someone is rude, much to my husband’s embarrassment. But he always admits that it needs to be done on occasion when people treat you that way.
    Thanks for a great story.

  • rasilla

    Oh yes I have. Well not completely like that one…
    I was at Dollarama. I was waiting in line, and there were 3 people ahead of me. Finally it was my turn, and this woman comes out of nowhere and starts paying.
    “wow, some people can be so rude cutting””
    “I was already here, I forgot something”
    “if you forget something for that long, then you should get back in line”
    (or notice that no one is behind me, and I have one thing to pay for, and let me pay)
    then she says to the cashier, “one day she will have kids and she will understand”
    she tried to blame her kids for her rudeness, which I called her out on, and then she called me a bitch, stating that I looked like a bitch so she shouldn’t be surprised. So I pulled a low blow of my own. Id rather be a bitch than a mother pathetic enough to blame her children for her rudeness. She tosses a bitch over her should and walks out.

    I walk out and see her get in to a car, a Jag, with her husband waiting for her at the curb…with an infant in the car. She blamed her rudeness on an infant… -___-

    My point is, once someone is rude, I think its fine to toss out the good old Canadian polite nature. I mean I apologize for having to ask people to keep it down in the library when I am trying to study. I shouldn’t have to, but its ingrained in us.

    Anyway, had I been at the store and the cashier had done that to me, it would have been game over. I’d have called a manager. Sucks that happened to it, but glad you did something about it. Wonder what happened to her afterwards…

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      I think the guy I got may have been the manager but if he wasn’t I was loud enough for the whole store to hear.

      I find that people who are REALLY into image with status items (cars, house, coiffed hair) tend to be a lot ruder than those who are not, because they feel superior with their image.

      If she was still within earshot I might have said: Driving a Jag but shopping at Dollarama? At least I am not pretending I have money to throw around instead of debt, but I guess that was already clear from your appalling manners.

      I don’t care what happens to her so much as I care for them I realize that they’re paying her for nothing and causing a negative reaction among customers.

  • eemusings

    Curious: Why do you think niceness is ingrained into Canadian culture? Speculate!

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      I have no clue but it is something we are all quite proud of. Politeness, manners, aw shucks about being known as friendly and apologetic. We’re a bit self-deprecating as a culture as well.

      My only other theory is perhaps it was a label placed on us which we embraced eagerly as a culture and to REALLY differentiate ourselves from the stereotypical image of an American who is not as nice and a bit brash/aggressive (like I am some times).

      (I don’t think Americans are all like that either but their cultural image around the world is not as accepted as the Canadian one).

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