The Canadian Way

By Carolyn Showell
British Columbia, Canada

The Canadian WayIt was a Monday night in December 2001 and I was desperately  unhappy. Two months earlier I had emigrated to Canada, looking for fun and adventure. Within a couple of weeks I knew I’d made a terrible mistake.

Everywhere I was told I shouldn’t use English terms such as lift, boot or biscuit. I was in Canada now so I had to speak the Canadian way. At work, comments were made about “strange foreigners” and everything that I said or I did that wasn’t “Canadian” was reported back to my boss. I took up various sports and activities and found myself being told, “We don’t do things that way here. Your way is English and it’s not good enough.”

My self-esteem and confidence plummeted. I felt like giving up and going home. But to go home was to admit failure — that I couldn’t cope, wasn’t good enough. I was miserable but I could see no other way out.

I left work on the Monday evening in tears. Enough was enough; I was going home.

Having packed my bags, I decided to make the best of my last night, and went to volunteer at the local branch of St. John Ambulance. That evening I was paired with someone I didn’t know — a young man named Larry. We had to practice turning someone on their side. I hadn’t seen the Canadian method so I turned the casualty the English way. Larry, experienced in first aid, watched me and I expected comments about English ways. I couldn’t bear that, so before he could start I said, “I’m sorry, it’s the only way I know.”

He paused for a moment, looked at me and said, “You know, what you did works. It’s just as good as the Canadian method and achieves exactly the same result. You must do it the way you feel comfortable with. Although you’ll need to learn the Canadian procedure for exams, in a real situation what you’ve been taught is just as effective, so don’t worry. Do what you know.”

In less than 30 seconds, Larry made me feel like a human being whose feelings matter. Unlike others, he didn’t make me feel like an ignorant foreigner who was there to be made fun of.

I was stunned. Then he smiled at me and said, “It’s OK,” and suddenly it was. I went home and unpacked my bags. I decided that where there was one kind and caring person, there must be others. I would find them and be like them.

It took that one person to give me hope. One person to give me back my faith in myself and just one person who showed kindness and compassion to bring sunshine back into my life.

Originally published as HeroicStories #301 on May 5, 2002

4 thoughts on “The Canadian Way”

  1. What! Where in Canada did this occur? My family immigrated here from Hong Kong when I was a small child so essentially I grew up Canadian. I have never, ever, experienced anything even remotely like this. I have never heard of the “Canadian Way”… which way would that be? We have so many cultures living here all mingled together that I have yet to find out what is, say, “Canadian food”. To be Canadian is to be open to all different beliefs, practices, living habits, etc., even if we are personally not so comfortable with them, so long as they do not harmfully encroach on the same rights for others, and they do not breach Canada’s charter of rights and freedoms. I feel bad that this author had such experiences and sincerely hope she went on to discover a much more welcoming Canada.

  2. As a Canadian, I apologize for the un-accepting comments you heard at work and in your recreational activities – THAT is not the Canadian way!

    Thank you for sharing your story. Despite my chagrin over your other experiences, I hope you regard Larry as the true Canadian and that you have met many more of us like him. I trust that you now consider yourself a Canadian and are showing others the real Canadian way. 🙂

  3. Although I’m an American, not a Canadian, I do have quite a few Canadian friends who spend winters here in sunny Florida. From years of knowing them, I can truthfully say that they are all very cordial, pleasant, kind, thoughtful, fun people, and it’s a pleasure to spend time with them. I’m so sorry that Carolyn had an unhappy experience when she first moved to Canada, but very glad that Larry’s nice comments changed her mindset. Look for good people everywhere you go, and you will find them.


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