Tag Archives: stereotypes

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”



You Have a Lovely Accent

18 Dec

Photo Credit: http://russianwomenblog.hotrussianbrides.com/post/10-Things-the-World-Knows-About-Ukraine.aspx

“Oh, you have a lovely accent.  Where are you from?”

I am from Ukraine and I love my accent.  Many people have told me they like my accent.  It gets me noticed and it makes me who I am.  But if I only had a penny for each time I was asked that question…

I had some interesting conversations that were triggered by my accent.  Many Canadians genuinely wanted to know more about the country, Ukrainian customs and Ukrainian people.

However, some of the questions or statements left me perpetually perplexed.  My sarcastic thoughts are in italic.

  • Are you from Ukraine? Welcome to Canada.  How do you like it here?  Thank you, I’ve been here for almost 20 years.  How do you like it here?
  • Ukraine?  That’s in Russia, right?  Ukraine is a completely separate country, we have a border to the east with Russia.
  • Are you from Kiev? Not all Ukrainian people who came to Canada are from Kiev. Ukraine is a big country (bigger than France!) and has more than one city. I am from Chernivtsy.
  • You don’t look Ukrainian… The person who said this to me had never been to Ukraine; I know this for a fact.  I am100% Ukranian but would like to find out from a non-Ukrainian person about how Ukrainian people should look like.
  • Are you from Ukraine?  Oh, wow… my wife and I just were in Prague last month??? That’s in Czech Republic. Approximate distance from Prague to my city (Chernivtsi) is 533 miles or 857.6 kilometers.  We speak completely different languages.
  • I had a Ukrainian co-worker once and she always ate pierogy.  Well… what do you say to that… hmmm… did she share?
  • You know, there are a lot of Ukrainian people out west in Saskatchewan and Alberta.  I do know that.  There are a lot of Canadian people there too.
  • How can you be cold?  You are Russian! Again, I am Ukrainian.  And Toronto is much, much colder than Chernivtsi.
  • Talk to me in Ukrainian / Say something in Ukrainian…  Why? Are you testing my knowledge of Ukrainian?  I am always happy to translate for people common phrases, i.e. “Hello”, “Thank you”, “Happy  Birthday”, etc.  But “Talk to me in Ukrainian” is a little creepy.
  • OMG, you are so pretty! Are you a mail order bride? Kind of rude, no? One day I will say that I am a mail order bride just to get a reaction.
  • Sorry, we don’t have any vodka.  We only have beer.  Not all Ukrainian people drink vodka. And not all Ukrainian people drink alcohol.

Do you have any personal experiences with stereotypes?

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