Reflections upon Re-entering Canada

I’m always very reflective when traveling. I always have been. I have an involuntary reflexive mechanism that seems to require that I use part of my holiday as an opportunity to step outside of my life and look back in, almost as a third party. Am I living the life I want to live? Am I living at a pace I want to live at? Am I missing opportunities that I’ll regret missing? What has changed? What should change? Have I grown? I touched on this in my blog on the way home.

Until you set back down in the place you came from, the changes in you might go unnoticed. It’s led to a lot of reflection on my part about struggle, challenge and growth. I’m thinking they go hand in hand and I’m trying to embrace the struggle as a friend and not treat it as a foe.

Here are some things about Canada that struck me right off the bat. Some moments of reverse culture shock that we encountered.

Honour and I were driving through Port Dalhousie (small beach town) on one of our first mornings back. There were a group of girls about her age walking down the street wearing cutoff shorts and bikini tops. Conversation in the car came to a dead stop. We were both speechless. I finally said, “I forgot…we walk around half naked here. What would your friends think of that sight?” “Mom! I’m shocked and I’ve only been away for 10 months! Do you really want to know what they’d say?”….no. I can guess.

The next thing was elderly people. I didn’t realize until I spotted the first little old lady peering up over her steering wheel that I hadn’t seen that in a year! Not many elderly people drive here in Qatar and I dare say I’ve never seen a grandma driving!

The next elderly person I saw in Canada was struggling alone with her shopping cart in the grocery store and one more carrying her bags to the car.

Super heroes shopping!

This is also an unusual sight for us. The elderly, especially the struggling and/or poor elderly, are not seen here and there are a few reasons for this. Since the vast majority of people in this country are expats brought here to do a job…well, the vast majority of the people in this country are in the working age demographic. For the Qatari people (the minority) I suspect that the tight family unit has something to do with why you never see the elderly alone or struggling. Also, housemaids and drivers are very common and their help is very affordable. I’m glad the elderly are not driving here in this aggressive unruly traffic.

There are many things to ponder about so much of what I just described…but I’m just going to drop it in your lap, as it’s been dropped in mine, and let you mull it over. The pros and cons. The just and the unjust. New rules and old rules. What would a perfect world be like to you? What would a better world be like? Prejudices. Classes. Family functions.

(I am not mentioning here the first time I saw a clearly mentally ill person on the street in Canada but I do wonder where they are here in Qatar and how the Qataris deal with that issue. I’ve never seen that here.)

And, on a lighter note, the driving. Oh boy. The first week we were home I made Honour squeal a couple of times while I was driving. “MOM!! I don’t think they do this here! MOM! Too FAST!!”  It took a bit to get back into the swing of driving politely and slowly…seriously slowly. In Canada, it seemed to me, even the young men drive like old ladies. Needless to say I’ve had to quickly adjust upon our return….adjust or get hit from behind!

This is one question that I came back with after observing our culture from a bit more of a distance.  We think we’re so polite, us Canadians. Our global reputation is ‘so polite!’  But upon reentering and reflecting on our uber-politeness I have been wondering….are we really polite? Or are we a people who are really easily offended and so we’ve become used to walking on eggshells around each other?

Chicken? Or Egg(shells)?


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10 responses to “Reflections upon Re-entering Canada

  1. I’m with you on the slow driving. We just returned from 2 weeks of driving Germany’s autobahns. In Germany they are very fast and very orderly. Drivers are alert unlike us Canadians who drive so slow we are bored.

    Nothing like signing off with a zinger question! If felt some sting of truth.

  2. Great post, I totally identify with the shock of immodest clothing and the frustrations on the road. My new Qatari driving habits are a major concern for my passengers when I’m back in the States. When I’m in Doha I long for the stress-free driving of my hometown but then when I have the chance to enjoy this, I’m the jerk who honks and drives too fast! I didn’t realize until I came home that the driving habits that irritate me in Qatar had become “normal” for me and that I needed an attitude adjustment!

  3. I am thinking its a bit of both. Easily offended egg shells: how is that for a description of a Canadian?

  4. Well, of course we don’t want to offend anyone. That’s one of the purposes for manners, isn’t it? That, and to keep us from all trying to rush through the front door at the same time. How are the Qtaris’ manners?

    • Hmmm yes. Maybe I’ll unpack that sometime. Basically, manners are a series of social cues made up by the society you live in. They don’t always translate cross culturally. And for the record, we’re seldom talking about Qataris. Remember, they’re the minority here. But they do have their own brand of manners. If I forget, remind me and I’ll address this in a post later.

  5. Very insightful and well articulated, as always Tracie. I do believe we need an attitude adjustment about our elderly, so that was a topic worth more observation. I for one, will be giving this more consideration. I’ve actually been wondering (lately) about the poor souls in nursing homes who have outlived their families and friends. I said to Terry, “Who visits? Who cares enough to have a conversation with them? Are they strapped into wheel chairs and left for hours on end?” Sad, really sad. Maybe I will look into that – there are no ‘accidents’ so you bringing this up now, is timely for me. Keep writing…

  6. Sonya

    Eggshells, for sure. Looking at Canadians from Newfoundland, and then at Newfoundlanders from Canada (25 years later…) it is apparent. It is also funny that people who are easily offended will swallow their own offended feelings so as not to offend the offender…. Ask me again in another 25 years, ha.

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