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Calling Canada Moms!


Alicia64
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Hi Canada Moms,

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​I'm writing an article on kids, manners and cultural norms in Canada. Are there any differences -- teeny or huge -- that are different between Canada and America in terms of manners/cultural norms?

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​Example (I'm making this up): "In Canada we always remove our shoes before entering a home and U.S. kids don't seem to know to do this." Or, "In Canada we don't do BLANK and American kids don't seem to know this."

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​I would love anything small to big that you've noticed through the years.

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​Here's an example from my own life of what I'm talking about: a friend from another country -- not Canada -- went w/ me, my kids and her kids to the library. Her 8-year-old was being loud in the library and even walking on the library couches. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and thought, "Maybe it's different in her country's libraries." But it was really inappropriate in the U.S. library we were in. I wanted to say something, but  I know she'd have been offended.

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​Another example: from having friends from India I wouldn't plan to go there without a bathing suit that showed very, very little skin. I certainly wouldn't wear a two piece.

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​Edited to add:  I'm hoping to get cultural norms/rules for restaurants, hotels, museums, tourist sites etc.

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​You know, where U.S. tourists would go in Canada.

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​Would love your thoughts!!

​

​Alley

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lol... well, i was a canada mom, and now i'm a usa mom.

 

things we had to learn to do when we moved here:

a) lock our house

b) lock our car

c) when the police stop you in the car, make sure the interior light is on, and put your hands on the steering wheel

d) "no" doesn't mean "no", it just means you haven't asked the right way yet.  when a canadian librarian, for example, says no that isn't possible, she means it.  when a california librarian says no that isn't possible, it just means that i haven't asked the right way, or haven't insisted or.... (ie. it typically means she'd rather not, rather than it isn't possible.  its a generalization, but i remember being astonished at my dh continuing to ask about something someone had just said no to.... until i realized it worked.)

 

things we had to unlearn:

a) walking

b) walking alone

c) teenage girls doing just about anything unaccompanied.

d) honking at someone who had just done something inappropriate, like cutting someone else off, or as a warning that they were about to change lanes into someone.  

e) taking public transportation

f) parenting other people's kids.  in ottawa, whichever adult was nearest would often deal with whatever needed doing (eg.  reminding a child to wait his turn at a playground).  here, not so much (really, not at all).

g) talking politics.  back in ottawa, we talked politics alllll the time, amongst friends with wildly diverse political leanings.  here, that is a recipe for disaster.

 

our oldest was in grade 9 when we moved here.  she was accustomed to going out to lunch with her friends from school one day a week during the school day.  hmmmm.... not here.

she was used to going to the movies on the bus at night with her friends.  hmmm... a) no bus, b) girls alone at night - ummm, no

 

not sure what you are looking for, but that is a beginning....

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I have never locked my door unless I'm gone for a month although that might just be where I'm living exactly and not a country wide thing.

Walking alone to get to someone's house when I was in Tennessee had everyone completely floored. I didn't realize that it just was not something that people do down there.

Honking at people is normal up here. I'll do it to catch someone's attention when they do something rude or dangerous, or sometimes just to make someone look so I can wave a hello.

Correcting someone elses child is relatively normal if you are the closest grown up around here.

Talking politics is normal on this side of Canada too.

 

Around here, kids wander around town during lunch break. Teens will often spend an evening running around to different places together. Seeing a group of teens running around the nearby city together, without adults, is pretty normal. In Edmonton there is one section of town that I would only allow older teens to walk through without an adult and NEVER alone, but most of the city is fine.

 

The 'write a letter' approach to problems is so common, that I see a lot of parents who have their kids write a letter to them if they are wanting to prove or argue something. They'll tell them to write it down and organize it thoughtfully and politely and then you can come to me with it.

 

I have chewed out teens that I don't know at all before and they have listened to me. I'm not sure I could do that in the US. They were using rough language around small children. I have actually chewed out adult men at the Tim Horton's for the same thing. They also responded well.

 

Being noisy in a Canadian library is not an acceptable thing either. In the library here you would end up being asked politely to leave.

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I'm a Canadian residing in the US.

The differences in culture are very subtle, IMO. They definitely exist but are hard to pinpoint in an A vs. B type situation. It's in the attitude and demeanor. I've been stateside for 12+ years now and I'm still trying to figure it out.

I do agree with PPs that "free-ranging children" still seem more acceptable, as does correcting a child (not your own) in Canada.

As for loud rude kids, shoes on or off, etc. That happens everywhere, varies by family and person and can not be attributed to any one citizenship or country of origin.

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Thanks everyone!
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​I should clarify: I'm hoping to get cultural norms/rules for restaurants, hotels, museums, tourist sites etc.
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​You know, where U.S. tourists would go in Canada.
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​Alley


In that case, expectations are not really different. Just be polite and use your manners. Please and Thank You. :)
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I think the differences are not as easy to pinpoint between Canadian and US unless it is things like "In Canada there is no police officers in the schools, no metal detectors (generally-perhaps in Vancouver or Toronto there are) in schools, etc" ; There is the whole apology thing, In canada we say sorry even if we were not officially to blame because it is the polite thing to do, for example, someone bumps into by accident, both you and them apologize for the bump.  SHoes off is more common here than in the usa but as threads here have shown it is not exclusive.  In Canada kids walk around in t-shirts and no jackets in March as soon as the temps hit about 4+C (aka 39F) which I am sure is not limited to just Canada, I bet the colder/snowy states are the same.  

Correcting, praising, helping other people's children is common here.  Regularily children come up to tell you about whatever new accomplishment they achieved even if they don't know you and instead of scolding for talking to parents, instead they beam with pride as you compliment and praise the child for whatever it was.  Or as you clap when they show off their new ability or whatever.  While some kids get the whole "you can't tell me what to do" attitude and some parents flip out if you scold their child or inform them of whatever their child did, the vast majority are happy that there is adults around that care about what their child is doing. (FTR by scold I mean remind children of appropriate actions/words, not berating etc).  If your child is acting up it is a reflection on you and so you are greatful that someone is correcting them so as to not make you look like a fool kwim.

Locking doors, that really depends on location.  In the city I never locked my doors unless going away overnight, or during the time that ds was running the most.  Here in small town I always lock whether we are home or not.  It all comes down to your community and if you can trust your neighbors to look out for your home/wellbeing.

If someone lets you in traffic you wave in the rear view mirror to them to say thank you.  And regardless of right of way, people most often do let you pull into traffic from the parking lots, switch lanes etc even if it means they have to slow down or fully stop to allow you to.  Generally speaking on your drive anywhere you will get far more waves than fingers :)  This may be true everywhere but I have not been other places to know for sure

 

People do not think through their actions in terms of liability concerns.  If someone needs help, you help etc.  There is not a fear of being sued or a desire to sue others.  Someone does ill towards you and you take it up with them (or through the police if it is due to illegal stuff) but you don't generally sue them.  There is getting to be more red tape and bs for things like selling baked goods at farmer's market, etc but on the whole people don't consider liability first when deciding to do something.

 

Here if a Cop signals you to pull over, they are fine with you waving that you see them and proceeding a safe spot to pull over (obviously not a far distance, but needing to switch lanes and get to a safe shoulder they are fine with).  As long as you don't act like an idiot they will talk to you a minute, and then decide if you are getting the ticket or a warning.  No worries about placement of hands, lights etc.  My interior light is burnt out, that would be interesting.  I have never put my hands on the wheel as they approach,  actually I usually have my license and registration already out the window waiting for them when they walk up :P  Along with an apology :)  

On the whole though I think life is pretty similar between both countries and differences are very subtle/slight

 

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Touristy things, eating out etc is likely the same.  Be as polite to the waitstaff as you would the owner.  Don't snap your fingers at the wait staff.  Wait your turn at attractions, don't be pushy, be mindful of those taking photos not to walk past just as they take the picture, pause and let them take it first.  Hotels, don't leave it a mess, most people I know that stay in hotels clean up their mess, make the bed etc before they leave even though they know the housekeeping staff is coming in to clean, to trash it and leave it would be an insult to how you were raised and disrespectful to the staff of the hotel.  Keep your volume down between the hours of 11pm-8 am whether you are in a hotel, camping, whatever, people are trying to sleep so keep it quiet.  Honestly I can't imagine those sorts of things would be different between the countries.

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I'm hoping to get cultural norms/rules for restaurants, hotels, museums, tourist sites etc.

I'm not sure how to answer, because I don't know what would be "different" because I don't know what's normal in the US.

 

I'll try...

 

In restaurants...

 

Kids usually stick close to their families, either 'standing and waiting' or at/around the table belonging to the family. A toddler or preschooler could walk around the table, going from lap to lap, or an adult could walk them around the restaurant quietly, holding the child by the hand, and not being intrusive towards other diners.

 

Kids are expected not to be boisterous, but most not-very-fancy places aren't expecting absolute 'indoor voices' from small kids. However, if your small child does become boisterous (either happily or fussily) they do expect to hear/see you doing something about it: either speaking to the child, or picking up the baby, or whatever. I guess age-appropriate misbehavior is OK, as long as it is being actively responded to.

 

Older kids could do grown up things like order their own food, and would be fine to leave the family table, say, to walk to the washroom alone.

 

Many restaurants have kids menus, but they are not mandatory. A child can order anything, and half-orders are sometimes OK. If you want a half-order, have another plan in mind just in case they don't do half orders. To be polite, first you say, "I'm wondering if you do half-orders here?" (If you've been before and know that they do, say something more like, "You guys do half-orders, right?" -- as if you are unsure, even if you are not.) Then proceed to say, "Oh, good, s/he will have a half-order of xyz..." You can also order one meal for two children (even a kids meal), or simply say that the adults will be sharing with the kids, and order nothing.

 

Hotels:

 

Quiteness matters. Kids/everyone are expected to whisper in hallways and not exceed normal speaking voices in rooms. (Again, if a child temporarily isn't doing well, that's OK, as long as people can see/hear that the situation is being attended to.) Try to leave the room neat-ish. Kids don't usually roam hotels alone until their teens. Kids (or families with kids) are expected to defer to adults (without kids, especially seniors) if a situation is crowded or limited in some way (ie: there are free breakfast doughnuts, but not enough, so you say, "Oh, our kids will share these two, and you can each have one." -- or, an elevator, "Oh,you two go ahead, we'll get the next one." -- or, a particularly small hot tub, kids get out when adults want to get in.) With the 'deferring' thing, most often the other party will counter-derfer to you. In that case, say thank you and go ahead, unless you really think it's not OK.

 

At the desk, you wait in line a little ways back, kind of like at a bank, so that you don't overhear others settling their bill.

 

Museums & Tourist sites:

 

Wait in line, or defer to others. Kids are considered spoiled if they have a "me first" attitude (unless the parent is seen to be actively parenting about it). Older kids should defer to younger kids for play areas and front row seats (not that they need to leave a seat, just if they arrive at the same moment).

 

Usually, people do not "cut" in between small kids and their parents, even if they are a little ways apart. Or if they need to, they make eye contact with the adult, smile slightly and step quickly. Normally, you would go around the family pair/group as if they were a single unit.

 

In some places (indoors, kids spaces) kids 8+ might roam freely, but most often kids are kept in sight. In non-kid-specific spaces, they are usually kept within arm's reach. If a child appears small and alone, sometimes a staff member or a well meaning parent will approach the child with a friendly demeanor and ask jovial questions like, "Hey, buddy! Who are you here with today? Is s/he around?" The kid would answer things like, "She took my sister to the washroom." or whatever, and it's no problem... Unless the child is causing a problem, or seems upset. If the child seems upset, adults will often observe from a distance, waiting for the responsible adult to return, ready to intervene again if things aren't settled soon-ish. If a solo child is causing a problem, a staff member might try informing the child of the rules, or a bystanding adult might try to get staff to intervene, or might take the child to a front desk, or customer service or something.

 

Generally:

 

If you correct your child's behaviour towards an adult, even gently, the adult will usually insist that it was 'fine' or 'no problem' -- and encourage you not to worry about it. This is because the adult views themself as a cause of distress, and wants no one to be upset. In this case, you can say very cheerfully, "Oh, I know s/he's just learning. I just want her to do better next time." Which communicates that you are only taking the opportunity to teach good manners, not that you are correcting the child for the adults' sake.

 

Speaking of correcting children: people will not be impressed if they see you getting steamed with a child in public. They may try to intervene, or try to commiserate, or they might just look unimpressed and try to make you feel bad. It's best to be able to correct a child in a 'politically correct' way... the way a lovely kindergarten teacher would speak.

 

Kids too should apologize a lot. It doesn't mean,"I'm at fault here." it means, "Gee this is unfortunate, and I want to acknowledge that." -- For adults apologies are also a way to open a conversation, especially if there is something you need. (ie, "I'm sorry, but could you help me find the breakfast cereal.") Or just a way to approach a stranger (ie, "I'm sorry, but I think you dropped these sunglasses?") You can also use 'thank you' as a way to close an unwanted conversation, ("The walmart rewards mastercard has lots of rewa..." -- "Thank you. How much is the bill?")

 

If you need/want to involve yourself with someone else's child, it needs to be done in that really PC way (as above) and any correction would need to be clearly necessary (for safety, or for someone else's discomfort). You wouldn't correct another child's manners. You would correct them if they were splashing wildly in a pool and bothering bystanders. You might say, "Hey, everybody, let's settle down a bit with the splashing. I can see that the splashes are getting in those people's faces. You need to splash small enough that only the people who are playing are getting wet." It's usually welcome if you just make positive conversation with other people's children, as long as it is very light, and not creepy.

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​

 

Kids usually stick close to their families, either 'standing and waiting' or at/around the table belonging to the family. A toddler or preschooler could walk around the table, going from lap to lap, or an adult could walk them around the restaurant quietly, holding the child by the hand, and not being intrusive towards other diners.

 

Kids are expected not to be boisterous, but most not-very-fancy places aren't expecting absolute 'indoor voices' from small kids. However, if your small child does become boisterous (either happily or fussily) they do expect to hear/see you doing something about it: either speaking to the child, or picking up the baby, or whatever. I guess age-appropriate misbehavior is OK, as long as it is being actively responded to.

 

Is Canada the same as the U.S. in that most every restaurant has a kids' menu?

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​Thanks for all this great info!

​

​Alley

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Having been from both sides of the border, I'd say that general manners issues vary more based on geographic region (West Coast vs. Midwest vs. East Coast).  Or socio-economic class.  

 

Although you can never go wrong in Canada by saying "I'm sorry". :)

 

FWIW, some of the things above that have been detailed were true where I lived in the US and are not true where I live in Canada.

 

Canadians brag about being polite as a people.  FWIW on that topic, moving from the Midwest to the West Coast I found people here to ask extremely intrusive questions upon first meeting - whereas for them it was being welcoming and polite.  Oh, and people who knew us would honk when they'd see us as they drove by - I think that is a small town vs. bigger city thing.

 

 

 

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Is Canada the same as the U.S. in that most every restaurant has a kids' menu?

​Not really.

 

If it's "western" food, and has tables, waiters/esses and laminated menus that have more than one page, or is part of a 'chain' it probably has a kids menu. Probably paper, and comes with crayons.

 

If it's small, ethnic, home-owned, take-out-or-eat-in style, or in a strip mall, it probably doesn't have a kids menu.

 

If it's posh, with cloth table cloths, paper menus in leather sheathes, and has a wine list... it probably doesn't have a kids menu.

 

...

 

Oh, that reminds me: kids and liquor-serving establishments... it varies by province.

 

In my province, a *restaurant* may be licensed and serve alcoholic drinks with meals. Many 'family restaurants' do. You can bring kids/minors in those, and the adults are free to eat, drink and be merry. However a "pub and grill" or a "lounge" or other thing that is functioning as a "bar with food" -- even though it's almost identical, will not permit children on the premises. Some restaurants have a "lounge" as well as a dining room... kids are only allowed in the dining room. It matters what it is called, so read the sign.

 

In my province the legal drinking age is 18.

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