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An open letter to the Senior Management Team of Burger King
Like many Canadians, I was anxious when I heard the news about your merger with Tim Horton’s.
Having recently been to Timmy’s for my monthly loyalty visit—when PMS pushes me to the edge of madness and, after a good cry in my car, I need to self-medicate with an apple fritter—I wondered how this might impact my Tim Horton’s experience.
But now that the news is official, anything short of a warm reception would be very un-Canadian, so: Welcome to Canada! (Bienvenue au Canada! Bienvenidos a Canada!)
Welcome to a culturally-diverse, virtually tornado-free country, where you are far less likely to die from a gun-shot wound, where you can enjoy sane conversations with people who do not believe that big foot is real and where spare change can be a helluva lot of money.
First, it’s true that we say “sorry” a lot. The easiest way to remember when to say it is to say it all the time. I estimate that I say “sorry” approximately 142 times each week—and I work from home.
The faintest breath of a trespass into someone else's personal space is call for “sorry.” More grievous incidents such as the tumbling of your cereal box across the conveyor-belt barrier onto your neighbour’s groceries calls for the more emphatic, “so sorry.” To be truly Canadian, you must be relentless in apologizing for yourself.
Second, except for a few pockets of Xenophobes Canada is a happily multicultural nation. If you routinely use the word “Foreigner” to describe the non-Caucasian person sitting next to you, you will need to expunge this word from your vocabulary. We prefer “New Canadian” or, better still, “Canadian.” An exception is that you can say Foreigner when referring to the famous rock band. You can even sing out loud to Juke Box Hero and most Canadians will just politely look away.
Interpersonal relationships are going to be your biggest challenge. It’s worth remembering that while Americans have been creating favourable outcomes for centuries by harnessing good old-fashioned aggression, Canadians have mastered the passive kind. It’s complicated and nuanced, but it’s an effective way to get things done while never coming off as (gasp!) rude.
For example, you’re in a meeting and you want to close the window blinds because of glare. An American would action this simple task without a second thought. A Canadian, by contrast, would query, “Is anyone else bothered by this glare?” or, even more delicately, “Does anyone think I should close these blinds?”
The eagle flies alone, but beavers work together... although they are terribly anxious and are easily startled.
This next piece of advice may come as a shock, but if you like Celine Dion, Michael Buble, Nickelback or Justin Bieber, their CDs are considered the worst kind of cultural contraband and you might be publicly shamed if this music is found on your person.
Canadians are possessed of a puritanical streak that prevents us from celebrating our own countrymen, particularly if they shake booty for a living. JFK would have lived long and prospered here, Elvis, not so much. Artists who stay in this country learn that humbly submitting to The Canada Council for the Arts on a semi-annual basis is the only dignified way to make a living.
As for blending-in, yours is a dominant culture and we know it’s not your strong suit, but why not at least give it a try? It’s easy. All you need is to know something of our national pain: the big, fat thorn in the Canadian side. By this, of course, I mean The Toronto Maple Leafs or “The Leafs” for short.
If you see a dispirited Canuck wearing a blue or white maple leaf, and you want to bond with that person, just say “Leafs!” in a kind of guttural bark from deep down in your abdomen—think main course of agony with a parsley-like sprig of hope on the side. If, on the other hand, you want to rattle a leaf-lovers cage, just say, “Sens!” or “Habs!” with a smirk and that’ll do nicely.
These scarcely verbal exchanges about hockey are the fastest way to pretend to be one of us.
I assume your colleagues at Tim Horton’s will school you on the finer points of rolling up the rim and the slow and sensual apple fritter pull-apart. Make sure they don’t forget to show you the Timbit cubicle sneak-attack—that’s our coolest trick.
Americans have stealth bombers and drones, but Canadians can eat barrels of Timbits without anyone ever seeing a Timbit in someone’s mouth. Listen for the familiar chorus of, “None for me, thanks, I’m off carbs today!” and then watch as, one-by-one, all of the Timbits magically disappear.
We’re nice, and we’re always sorry for something, but don’t be fooled: there’s at least a little larceny in us, too.