Tag Archives: the United States

The Culture of Politeness

Canadians are known around the world for their politeness. So are Japanese. And the British (to some extent).

Americans are not known for politeness. Neither are Chinese. Or French.

320px-Flag_of_Canada.svgIt’s interesting to notice attitudes about these people. As a Canadian, I can confirm that Canadian society is polite, in general. There are rude people, as in any place you may visit. But Canadians are more likely to help a stranger who’s in distress. They’re more likely to run to the aid of a person who has fallen in the street. They’re more likely to smile at a stranger on the street and say hello. There’s a genuine warmth there. There’s a joke that if someone steps on another person’s foot accidentally, both people apologise. One apologises for being the one at fault, while the other apologises for the situation existing in the first place. Canada’s a society that says sorry whether it’s an actual apology or a way to relieve whatever tensions there may be.

320px-Flag_of_Japan.svgIn Japan, customer service is incredibly polite. The customer is always right. The customer is not always polite, though. I have witnessed outraged customers shouting at staff who are only following procedures, yet they continue to apologise for the inconvenience, even if they’re not at fault. Whenever there’s a problem, there’s always an apology. If there’s an accident, there’s an apology, repeatedly. Japan likes its efficient train system. If it’s disrupted even by thirty seconds, there’s an apology. Like Canada, Japan apologises, but it tends to be one way. People are generally polite to each other, but that’s to maintain harmony. It’s not because of genuine concern for one another. I have seen elderly people fall in the middle of the street while every single person walks past ignoring them. That’s to prevent the elderly person from being embarrassed. In Tokyo, people ignore each other. It’s crowded, and they just want to get where they’re going. Eye contact is not polite and avoided. But most people I have met are wonderful people. Very kind and friendly. But there’s one thing you’ll find about Japanese people. They’re not direct. They take a minute to say something that would normally take a North American ten seconds to say. Politeness is how they communicate, how they maintain the peace, not how they feel.

320px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svgThe British are a curious case. The image outside of the UK is of a country that is cultured and polite. But then speak with someone from the UK, and you’ll notice that they may be friendly, but many can swear like a sailor. And don’t get me started on hooliganism. I know people from both sides of the coin. There are those who are incredibly polite and friendly. And then there are those who are incredibly blunt and show a large amount of confidence.

320px-Flag_of_the_United_States.svgAmericans get a bad rap, mostly because of the foreign policy of the government. They’re viewed as the police of the world, and thanks to some bad apples, the tourists are viewed as boorish, loud, and self-centred. There’s a sense of self-entitlement. However, I find that it depends on where they’re from and their background. Most Americans I’ve met are pretty much just like Canadians. Friendly, open, and polite. But thanks to the image and some tourists, all the stories you hear about are of Americans who say, “I’m ‘murican! Why don’t you speak ‘murican? We saved your ass in the war. You should give us what we want. Why are there so many Mexican-speaking people in Spain? Go back to Mexico!” Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but there are some people who have that attitude. You can thank Donald Trump for making this stereotype even stronger. But really, if you go to the United States, you’re bound to be greeted by friendly, polite people who will go out of their way to help you if you’re lost. At least outside the big cities.

Flag_of_the_People's_Republic_of_China.svgThe Chinese are notorious for being bad tourists. But it’s not entirely the people’s fault. The government actively tried to get people to stop being polite because they view it as too western. From what I’ve heard, before the revolution, the Chinese were very polite, hardworking people. But when the revolution happened, things changed. There seems to be an attitude of defying everything that is not Chinese. There are territorial disputes with nearly every neighbouring country. They don’t back down, even if they really have no claim to the territory. There’s an image of Chinese people always being angry, speaking angrily, and always shouting. I’ve heard about how drivers will run over people on the road, then run back over them to make sure they’re dead so that they don’t get sued by an injured victim. Dead people don’t sue. I’m sure that’s not always the case, though. From what students have told me, they’ve met some wonderful, polite people in China. I have known very friendly and nice people from China. Again, you can’t assume a group of people isn’t polite based on a stereotype. There are genuinely good people in China.

Flag_of_France.svgThe French are very well-known for their food, the beautiful landscape, amazing cities, and an incredibly strong pride in their language and heritage. This pride can come across as being rude, especially if you try to speak English first while you’re in France. But from what I’ve been told, if you try to use French, they’ll appreciate it and then try to help you out in English. Doesn’t seem that bad, does it? But sometimes it goes too far. And this is actually a French Canadian example. This is an unconfirmed story about some French Canadians criticising French pilots of a French airline in France using English to speak to air traffic control. They said something along the lines of, “If they’re in France, they should speak French!” Sorry, my fellow Canadians, but it’s international aviation law that requires them to speak English. It’s to prevent unnecessary deaths and destruction. But to be honest, I haven’t met a French (or French Canadian) who was rude. They’ve all been polite, normal people.

It doesn’t really matter where a person is from. I’ve heard people in Saudi Arabia are extremely generous and hospitable with guests. The idea that Germans are unsmiling robotic people is shattered by Oktoberfest. The lingering impression that the southern United States is racist is destroyed by stories of incredible hospitality. The opposite can be true for anywhere, as well. You find all kinds of people, rude or polite, friendly or angry, reserved or brash. Every place has every kind of person. I think we need to drop the stereotypes and actually meet people from other countries. Then we will know what the world is really like.

Have you had your stereotypes shattered? Or have they been confirmed? Share your stories in the comments below.

Happy Fourth of July!

320px-Flag_of_the_United_States.svgI’d like to give my American readers a big Happy Independence Day! You make up more than half of my readers, and your support is appreciated very much. I hope you have a wonderful day, a great barbecue, great beer, and great fireworks (if you do all of those).

I may be Canadian, but I do have a connection to the US. You see, my grandmother was born in the United States. North Dakota, to be exact. Yes, my grandmother was American, but immigrated to Canada when she was young. But being from North Dakota, she was Norwegian, as many Norwegians settled there.  Lots in Minnesota, too, right?

When I was a kid, my grandparents had an idea for one summer. They suggested that they take me on a road trip around the United States. They had given me some amazing maps of the US that were made in the 1980s, but incredibly high quality paper. Those were some of my favourite maps. All fifty states had their own map, and I looked at them a lot, being a geography geek as long as I can remember.  That trip never came to be, unfortunately, but it would have been incredible. We would have traveled around with their fifth wheel and stayed at campgrounds all over the country.

Now that I’m returning to Canada with my family, I’d love to take a few road trips around the States, as well as Canada.  Lots of places to see, and I think it would be incredible. So, this is your chance to convince me which places would be a must see in the US. Let me know in the comments.

How Much Did You Know About the United States?

320px-Flag_of_the_United_States.svgI did another quiz, this time about the United States. Well, here are the answers.

1. What’s the capital of the United States?

It’s Washington, D.C.

2. What are the three largest cities in the US by metropolitan area population?

According to the 2012 estimate, they are: New York City (23,462,099), Los Angeles (18,238,998), and Chicago (9,899,902).

3. What’s the population of the US?

The 2015 estimate is 321,163,157 people.

4. How many states are there?

There are 50, but I’m not going to list them all!

5. What is the largest state by area?

That would be Alaska with an area of 1,477,950 square kilometres.

6. Which state has the smallest population?

According to the 2013 estimate, that would be Wyoming with 582,658 people.

7. If you go directly south from Detroit, where do you end up?

I should’ve been a bit more clear with this question. I meant immediately south, like as soon as you leave Detroit, where are you? I will accept any of the following answers:

  • Canada
  • Windsor, Ontario
  • Ontario
  • Detroit River

So, how did you do? You’ll learn more when I begin Geography Quick Facts, including each state individually. Thanks for participating in the quiz!

Do You Know Anything About the United States?

320px-Flag_of_the_United_States.svgWith the successful response about Canada, I thought I’d ask about the United States. It seemed not many people were very knowledgeable about Canada, unless they lived there. Of course, most of my readers are Americans, so why not see what they know about their own country? And what do other people know about the USA? So, without looking up the information, I’d like you to answer the following questions. No cheating, please!

  1. What’s the capital of the United States?
  2. What are the three largest cities in the US by metropolitan area population?
  3. What’s the population of the US?
  4. How many states are there?
  5. What is the largest state by area?
  6. Which state has the smallest population?
  7. If you go directly south from Detroit, where do you end up?

I will be marking your answers, just like I’ll be marking the Canada answers. If you don’t do well, then you can learn a lot about the United States with Geography Quick Facts, coming soon!

What Is the United States?

Most of you are American.  I can safely say that, because more than 50% of the readers of this blog are American.  In 2014, Americans made up around 60% of the readers.  So, chances are you’re American.  If not, forgive me.  I’m not American, either.

This is the first post in a new series where I explore each country that my readers come from, starting with the biggest and going down to the smallest.  However, I need your help.  I’m going to provide the most basic information that you can find, but I want opinions from you.

Are you American?  Have you lived in the United States?  Or have you visited the United States?  Even if you aren’t, please read on.

320px-Flag_of_the_United_States.svgThe United States of America

It’s a big country.  With an area of 9,857,306 square kilometres, it’s the third largest country in the world.  It has a population of 320,061,700, which is also third in the world.  The capital city is Washington, D.C.  The largest city is New York City, with a population of 8,405,837 (metro 19,949,502).  English is the most common language, although not official.  The country became independent on July 4, 1776.  The leader of the country is the President (currently Barack Obama) and it’s a federal presidential constitutional republic.

The United States is so big, every region has many different things to see, do, and eat.  So, I’d like your help.  If you’re American, lived in the USA, or visited the USA, please answer the following questions in the comments below.

  1. What places would you say are the best to visit?
  2. What would you say is the truly American food?
  3. What is a truly American activity, sport, or pastime?
  4. For the readers out there, who is/was the greatest (or your favourite) American author?

Thank you very much.  If you can, please share this.  I’d like to get many great answers.  Also, as a stereotypically Canadian thing to do, I apologise for all of the British spelling.