Your Aunt From Canada Is Here! More on stereotypes and cultural differences.

23 Jan


Back in December I wrote about stereotypes and cultural differences that I’ve experienced living in Canada.  Click here for a refresher .

Stereotypes are never one-sided!  There are just as many misconceptions about Canada and Canadian people (or rather Canadian-Ukrainians) in Ukraine.

I am very excited about our upcoming trip to Ukraine.  My trips back home never feel like a vacation as we MUST visit all  family members or we run a chance of seriously offending them.  It always means that we have to eat 20 huge lunches and repeat the same stories 20 times 🙂  We always count on hearing this:

“Aren’t you lucky you are in Canada, it’s a second Ukraine” – while there are many Ukrainian-Canadians in Canada I still have to speak English almost all the time.
“Say something in English” – as if the person who’s asking me this speaks flawless English with an Oxford accent.  However I tremendously enjoy helping my little cousins with their English homework.
“You must be so proud your daughter graduated from the University of Toronto.  Btw, does she speak English?” – No,  she was speaking Japanese all this time (she came to Canada when she was 7) 😛
“So, how much money do you make?” – I am avoiding (very politely) answering that.  I know that it’s acceptable there to ask about finances but after almost 20 years of living in Canada this question makes me uncomfortable. Yet my family just won’t give up and somehow manages to get the number from me which leads to:
“And how much would that be in US dollars / Euros?” – I still don’t know why they need this info.  It’s not like I get paid in Canadian dollars but my local grocery store accepts Euros only.  Then it leads to another classic:
“So, if Canadian money is worth less than Euros than everything is much cheaper?” – Logical, right?  People are in disbelieve when I mention the prices on wine, beer, liquor, cigarettes and housing.
“How much did you pay for your flight?” – I am avoiding to respond for as long as I can.  If they do manage to pull an answer out of me, then expect the following:
“Both ways??? That’s way too much!” – Hmmm… Should I be swimming across the Atlantic ocean so I can save some money?

“You are too thin!– a blunt assessment from the family followed by some extra generous helping of salo at lunch.

 “Well, you don’t have good food in Canada.  Look at you!”  – count on “care packages” to be taken “Do Kanady” (to Canada) with some mandatory homemade smoked meats, sausages, cheese and pickled mushrooms.  My pleads of “Please don’t pack anything for me.  I can’t bring any animal or farm products to Canada!”  are falling on deaf ears.

During my last two trips I’ve experienced these situations that made me feel like now I am a stranger at home:

In a taxi:

The driver: “Welcome to Ukraine!  Where are you from?”
Me: “We are speaking Ukrainian.  How do you know I am not from here?”
The driver“You fastened your seat belt as soon as you got in the car” (local people don’t do this)

In a clothing store:

Me: “May I please see that yellow blouse on the very top shelf?”
The salesperson: (somewhat annoyed) “Are you going to buy it?”
Me: “Well, I’d like to see it first”
The salesperson (mumbling): “Foreigners… don’t touch the merchandise if you are not going to buy it”


26 Responses to “Your Aunt From Canada Is Here! More on stereotypes and cultural differences.”

  1. essentjewels January 23, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    Omg, I guess common sense is not that common.

  2. rebecca2000 January 23, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    LOL so how much do you make? Just kidding. I love how fascinated people are with other cultures.

  3. abrooke65 January 23, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    Hilarious! You can never win.

  4. Animalcouriers January 23, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    You must spend your time guessing what’s going to come next! You’ll have fun, come what may 😉

  5. petspeopleandlife January 24, 2013 at 1:13 am #

    Love this post. Very funny. Family- are they not the greatest? 🙂

  6. Boomdeeadda January 24, 2013 at 2:51 am #

    LOl Kat, so witty…I read this and think..yes yes, no matter how many times you try and so no…there is always a care package. The whole ‘how much do you make’ thing, I have had someone ask me that here, maybe they are european background but yes, very uncomfortable. I was planning an anniversary party for friends and I called this person to invite, she first had to know who else was invited and how much was everyone else chipping in for a gift…when I said “Oh, I don’t really want to say others contributions”, she asked “well how much are YOU giving”…I didn’t really know how to respond to this one LOL. Hope your weather there will be warmer!

    • The Kat and The Falling Leaves January 24, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

      LOL, that’s a typical Eastern-European response. They just have to know other people’s business.
      Generally, it always warmer there but the weather has been unpredictable lately.

  7. jgann22 January 27, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    I did the hair tutorial. And put a link back to your blog 🙂 I hope I can get you a little more traffic 🙂 Here is the link …

  8. Saajida January 28, 2013 at 3:06 am #

    lol! this is hilarious! Although I am South African Indian (3rd gen), I can still relate to some stereotypes here!

  9. jericho777 January 28, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    Reblogged this on Jericho777's Blog and commented:
    You’ll Love This My Canadian Friends!

  10. Performance and Cocktails January 31, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

    My favourite question is “Oh you’re from England. I met a guy called Dave from London once. Do you know him?”

    And BTW I get asked to say something in English all the time (by Americans!)

  11. redneckdixiewarrior February 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    My Ukrainian family here in Canada haven’t lost anything from the old country! The older generation still ask questions that are embarassing to answer! My older Aunties still harp on me about being to thin…their favorite saying is “Eat, Eat, You don’t love me if you don’t eat”! If I ate every piece of Capusta Rolls ( Cabbage Rolls, in Ukrainian) or Pedihai or bowl of Borscht….I’d explode! But…I love them all dearly ! Family reunions are such a kick!
    Have fun on your trip! LOL!

    • The Kat and The Falling Leaves February 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

      LOL, people do get offended if you do not eat their food. Everybody (and I mean everybody) back home is such a character.

  12. aoheda February 7, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    I love this post! In Russia, I experience similar things.
    1. I walk in front of cars at road crossings expecting them to either stop or fear facing a lawsuit for hitting me. My friends yank me back and remind me that pedestrians don’t really have the same rights as we do in the US. That means if I see a car coming from relatively far away, I still have to wait for it to pass before I can go.
    2. In the store, I always ask “Can I have X,Y,Z?” My friend quickly reminds me that “Of course you can. Stop saying that.”
    3. I always look especially startled when instead of “How can I help you?”, I either get a glace my way, or “NEXT!”, which means I can start “demanding” the things I need.
    4. I try to open the >locked< ice cream cooler. FAIL! I always forget that in the small stores in my town, the cashier has to open it for you.
    5. They always want to know my salary in monthly terms. Ummm… does anyone have a calculator? and don't forget to subtract taxes first.
    6. When I say I live an hour from New York, they ask "by what?" or "what does that mean?", but really prefer the answer in simple kilometers.

    • The Kat and The Falling Leaves February 8, 2013 at 12:25 am #

      1. Yes, you don’t cross a street at a slow pace… you have to run!
      2. They expect to hear “I need X,Y,Z”.
      3. Sometimes they’ll say “Я вас слушаю / I am listening” so start “demanding”.
      4. LOL, so true! My daughter tried to get some ice cream and got yelled at by the cashier.
      5. The salary is always tricky. My family members do not have mortgages, their houses / apartments have been privatized in the early 90s. To them, if you get paid X amount a month that’s the amount that you are able stash away. They scowl when I mention rent/car lease/insurance payments. They think . Well, I’d be very, very rich by now 😉
      6. An hour from NYC can mean many things – by car, by foot, by train, lol. I need to think sometimes how to time myself there if they tell me “it’s 500m from here”.

  13. wiolakk February 18, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Going to Poland is very similar as far as visiting all the familiy and eating and eating is concerned 😀 Great post.

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