Canadians, we are so Apologetic and Giving.

I was out with some international friends the other night.  We were: Two Brits doing a short working holidays in Canada, a Canadian and a Brit who live in Beijing and 3 Torontonians.  An interesting group with various life and travel experience.

Our Canadian friend who lives in Beijing start talking about how different people are here compared to China and how things have changed in Canada over the passed few years.  It was interesting what he brought up.

The most obvious and the one we all realize, the use of SORRY!  Do you ever stop to think about how many times you say sorry in a day?  Us Canadians use that as our go to response for just about everything.  My friend’s very recent example and experience was a funny one.  He was at the bottom of a staircase about to go up and a few people were at the top about to come down.  Now this should really happen with nothing more than a smile at each other (that is, at minimum, the reaction in Canada), but he said that he started up and they started down and he could already hear their ‘sorry’ before they were even near each other.  Nobody actually did anything that warranted a ‘sorry’. But that’s our go to for putting anyone out in the slightest.

As I heard the other day, ‘you step on some one’s foot in a bar and everyone around will say sorry’.  Why the heck do we do this?  It’s far better than ignoring or being rude, but how and when did we become the ‘Sorry’ Nation?

He also noticed that people in lines, give others so much space.  When we are at a Tim Hortons (Timmy’s) or the like we leave all kinds of room between us and the person ordering, similar to what we do when someone is using the ATM.  Why and when did this start happening?  What we don’t want people to hear us ordering our X-Large double double and sprinkle donut?  This does drive me crazy also, and I will happily close the gap when I’m up next.  As my friend point out, you do something like in China and 6 people will find a way to bud in front of you.

While on the topic of Timmy’s, my other Torontonian friend and I mentioned about how people are buying strangers their coffees.  Well, this stopped the conversation for all the internationals at the table.  They just didn’t get this.  Was this some Urban Myth we spoke of.  No, it’s true.

We explained to our friends that people will go through the drive thru and leave money to pay for the person behind them.  Usually just a few bucks for the strangers coffee.  We have a strong drive thru culture here that is not in many other countries.  And really there is no reason for these acts of kindness.  People just want to ‘pay it forward‘.

The Brits said that there was no way anyone would do this in the UK.  And my friends living in China agreed.  Now, the drive thru culture in Canada makes it possible to do this without any interaction or any uncomfortable situation. I’m sure that people do this in restaurant also. Why do we do it?  We just want to make someone happy.  We are definitely a giving bunch.  But, I’m sure that we would find a way to throw a ‘sorry’ in there some how.

What stories do you have about ‘sorry’ or giving that you can share with us? Would love to hear how you ‘pay it forward’.