Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Canada for Chinese

Sometimes while traveling the information in guidebooks and what you actually experience is woefully mismatched, especially when it comes to “cultural” advice. The following is a cultural guide to Canada intended for Chinese people that I happened to stumble across today. I have no idea where it originated, but a quick search on Google reveals several variations of it scattered around Chinese travel advice pages (for example, here, here, here, here, and here)—it seems to be one of those apocryphal Internet texts that sound authoritative to the ignorant. As these things always are, it’s fascinating for what it emphasizes and for what it gets wrong. Makes you wonder how accurate English guidebooks are.

As always, any translation tips would be appreciated!


Canadian clothing is similar to Americans’, but is not as casual. During informal situations they wear whatever they want, such as T-shirts [?夹衫], round-collar shirts, and everyday dress pants. During formal occasions—such as going to work, going to church, going to a concert or a play, or attending a dinner—they pay close attention to their clothing, making sure it is neat and tidy. Men wear suits and women wear dresses. Women are not too particular about the material of their clothes, but they value good taste and originality, coordinated colors, and comfort.

Canadians are simple and honest (朴实), amiable, friendly, and warmly hospitable. When they meet they shake hands, while close friends sometimes hug. When they part they shake hands again. During introductions, the men are [first] introduced to women, younger people are introduced to older people, and lower-status people are introduced to higher-status people. When friends meet they address each other informally. When shaking hands, women, older people, and higher-status people extend their hands first. When chatting, a topic is chosen that everybody is interested in, such as Canadian economic and cultural development, the weather, sports, traveling, and [cultural] customs. It’s not appropriate to inquire about one’s age, income, family situation, marital status, body weight (for women), and other personal topics. Canadians don’t like to compare Canada and the US. They don’t talk about politics, family ancestry (世族), religion, language, and, above all, such sensitive social issues as the [situation in the] French region of Quebec.

Canadians have a strong awareness of time. When a time for an appointment is set, one should be punctual. Usually business is conducted in restaurants or social clubs. One ought to have a specific reason to give somebody a present, and should not give presents for no reason. During birthdays, weddings, and when parting from one another [for a substantial period of time], one should give a present. Pay attention to the wrapping of the present. Usually it’s best to use paper with lots of colors, to attach ribbons or other decorations, and to sign your name on a card attached to the present. When receiving a present, one should open it immediately and thank the gift giver. During family dinners Canadians are commonly welcoming towards guests. Guests should not arrive early, and should bring a bottle of wine, a box of candy, or a bouquet of flowers as a present, or give small presents to the hostess and children. If you give a bottle of wine, it is appropriate to drink it during dinner. Family dinners are usually buffet style: the food and drink are placed on the table, and every person helps himself and finds his own seat. Everyone chats while eating. On the day after the dinner, the guest should write a thank you letter to the hostess. After the dinner is over the guest should not stay for too long; usually one should leave before 10:00 on weekdays and before 11:30 on weekends.

In Canada the number 13 and Friday are taboos [as they are bad luck]. They abide by the 10 commandments found in the Bible, and do not address holy figures with disrespect. When going down stairs, Canadians avoid smashing glass products, and avoid overturning saltshakers [?人从楼梯下走过,忌打破玻璃制品,忌打翻盐罐]. Avoid saying the word “old,” avoid calling an elderly people’s home a “nursing home” [保育院], and avoid calling an elderly person an “old citizen” (高龄公民). White lilies are used during funerals, so don’t use them as everyday gifts. When at home don’t blow a whistle, don’t talk about inauspicious things, and while eating food don’t talk about sad topics. Avoid eating the insides of an animal and its fatty meat. Canadians are used to eating cold food and they attach the most importance to dinner. When eating with Canadians don’t urge them to drink alcohol [if they refuse]. Most Canadians don’t like fatty meat and hate shrimp paste, fermented bean curd, and other stinky food. Canadians avoid eating the insides of animals, as well as their feet. Canadians prefer to have even numbers [of guests] at banquets and dinners, and especially avoid the number 13. Black and purple are unpopular colors in Canada. White lilies are used at funerals, so don’t give them to people [as gifts]. When swimming small children should always wear bathing suits. In the summertime women like to sunbathe in their bikinis, so don’t be too astounded.

4 comments:

JoYce said...

It's so funny. Americans can fit in these description too. For translation: T shirt=T恤、套頭棉衫;honest=誠實、樸實都可以;family ancestry=家庭背景(世族refers to aristocracy especially in feudal era.)nursing home=安養院. We don't say 高齡公民 in Taiwan, we usually call them 銀髮族 or 耆老、長者...we don't emphasize on citizen.

I learned a interesting terms called "silver crime".

Haley said...

Very interesting, and surprisingly solid advice. I love the part about how Canadians don't like stinky food. Asians might be alone on the planet in their tolerance for food that smells rotten.

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