The Toronto Star,
1 Yonge Street,
I am in complete sympathy with American residents of Bellingham, Washington who described Canadian shoppers who regularly descend upon their town to take advantage of cheaper prices and the strong loonie as the rudest people some of them have ever encountered ("Bargain-hungry Canadians told to back off U.S. Costco," August 15). That's almost exactly how I find my countrymen all the time.
Contrary to our reputation for courtesy and affability I have long experienced Canadians to be uniformly and predictably surly, provincial, narrow-minded and self-absorbed - and embarrassingly overweight - every time I return to visit my family in southwestern Ontario. And, some Canadian friends agree with this self-examination. Maybe I am the surly and self-absorbed one, etc., who is projecting my inward self onto my fellow citizens. It is true that the extremely high customer service standards in Japan probably have permanently spoiled all other standards and behaviour in the world for me, so I might be inexcusably biased.
This summer was a big shock to me and my Japanese wife during our special wedding anniversary trip to Canada. First impressions are important and as soon as we arrived at Toronto'sPearson International Airportand witnessed/suffered the abomination of its operation and staff I felt shame for and anger about my country. And it quickly got worse. Each visit home is like an anthropological expedition among borderline barbarians.
Naturally Canadians don't see themselves that way and my experience of my own culture doesn't match the national narrative. Maybe it never did, fueling my disposition tolive elsewhere. But I think there is value in acknowledging the artificiality of our national narrative and the shallow cosmetics of our self image.
But I could be wrong.
Published as “Our self-image needs improvement” on Sunday, August 19, 2012.
I had fun when I was writing this letter. But then when I read it in the paper I thought, “Holy geez, people are going to really hate this.”
I wanted to make two points very clear, with force:
1) Canadians are not as ‘nice’ was we like to think that we are; and,
2) Customer Service in Canada is really, REALLY bad. In fact, customers are really bad, too, from what I hear.