Frequently experienced situations
This ties into the politeness issue and a big thing here in North America.
Everyone has their own personal space and you need to respect it. Do not stand too close to a person, if you have to because of the crowding, be aware of what and who you are touching. Use 'Sorry' liberally and you'll be fine because saying sorry tells the other person - 'Look I am in your space, but its really crowded in here. I am going to step back as soon as I have some space'.
If you choose to not acknowledge your invasion of someone else's space that is considered rude.
When in a line, do not stand close to the person in front of you, leave a healthy distance, when fallowing a crowd out of a bus stop or railway station, don't step on the heels of the person ahead of you. If you do, apologise and step back. This conveys to the other person that you have social graces.
If you touch it, you eat it !!
When invited to a dinner or partaking in a buffet do not touch the food and leave it there. If you want to take a closer look at the underbelly of that slice of pineapple - use a fork or knife (not yours but a clean one) to inspect the object of your desire. Touching food and then leaving it there for others to take is rude and inappropriate, you will receive glances of shock & disbelief so you have been warned.
This is an important thing to teach our children, I have visitors who have been here for more than 5 or 6 years and yet their children will often touch the food and then put it back and the parents don't seem to care. Once again this depends on the type of setting you are in, however, if it becomes a habit it is easy to forget when the same thing becomes inappropriate.
What did you say??
Its easy to get frustrated when others are finding it hard to understand you when you are in fact speaking perfect english!!
Let me give you some bad news, what sounds like perfect english does not sound the same to someone who has lived in North America all their life. Really?? Yeah, really.
Its our accents, we need to be aware that we do have an accent no matter that you studied all your life in 'English medium school'.
In a place like Toronto where you can find people from all over the world, this may not be a huge issue yet it can be an issue. The terms we used 'back home' are not the same here. Let me give you an example -
It was the first year in the country and I was brand new at my job here at The Strategic Coach. Babs - the owner was speaking to me about someone whose family member has passed away. She asked me 'Why isn't she here today?' and I answered 'Oh! her uncle expired'. She looked at me and said 'He what??' ummm 'He expired'. She tried very hard to control her laughter and as she was doubling up she looked at me and said 'Ben, credit cards expire, not people, people pass away'. I was thinking 'hmmm people have been expiring in India for the longest time :-)'.
So here we go, I couldn't say that 'Her Uncle died' because to me that would have been impolite. I was giving dignity to her uncle by using 'expired' instead of 'died', but it has a totally different impact on Babs. I am still reminded about that even after 10 years - all in fun though, its all good.
Another time when she asked me for an analysis of the accounts I told her that I would bifurcate the expenses .... and she was literally on the floor laughing. She said 'You will what??' 'Bifurcate' I answered, with a rather puzzled look on my face ... Yeah, I don't use that word anymore either.
I can assure you if I was in India and I used bifurcate with a fellow accountant, they would totally get it. Now with credit cards being more common in India than they were ten years ago, I am sure that there is a problem with the word expired as well.
Sometimes people will tell you when you use a word wrongly, most of the time you are on your own. Have a friend who can help you with your accent, and language skills. Tell them that you would appreciate their help and they will come alongside you. People want you to succeed, yes they do. I had a friend at work who would point out things for me because I asked her to, even today I have a friend who will check my emails for me when I have a feeling that it may not necessarily convey the message I want. So give your pride a rest and get some help with your beautiful accent.
Excuse me ....BURP !!
Burping in public whether you are alone or among family and friends is not good. If you do want to burp - say 'Excuse me' and when you feel another one coming, just step away from the table or from the company. This shows that you are aware of the sounds eminating from your body and that you are being polite and considerate.
The reason I have this here is because in some cultures it is alright to burp in public. It is infact an appreciation of a good meal ...
Being polite is big, atleast here in Canada. Well, atleast the impression of being polite is huge. This is something that I was not used to. That is not to say that I am not polite, however there are some gestures that do not get interpreted as such. For example - when passing through a door, hold the door for the person following you. If you notice people glaring at you, you know why.
When someone holds the door for you, say 'Thank You'
When walking up or down a narrow stair case, wait at the top of the stairs if you see someone half way up. You will see that people will do the same for you.
Do not push or shove at all - never. No matter how crowded a train or bus may get, everyone has an individual space which needs to be respected. We are not used to this in India (atleast I wasn't). A bus that is full here is definitely not full by Delhi standards - I can assure you of that.
Wait your turn. If you find yourself in a line at a store or coffee shop and are not sure whether a person is in line - ask them. 'Butting in line' as it is referred to , is frowned upon and considered impolite. Keep in mind that your actions speak louder than words, we are polite people no matter where in the world we come from, however in another culture certain actions display politeness which we may not be used to ....
What's that smell?
I come from a land of sight and sound and smells - all sorts of smells and I do not have a problem with smells. Unfortunately due to the environment i.e. closed buildings sealed for heating and airconditioning, smells become very obvious here in North America. An out of place odour becomes very prominent.
Body Odour is the smell of sweat. You need to consider the use of deodorant and other extreme measures, if required - this is very important. Shower daily. It may sound silly to you but this is coming from someone who has been there and done that. I have had on one ocassion someone speak to me about 'BO'. You cannot even imagine my horror!! Anyway, I am grateful for my friend who talked to me about it and chances are, out of politeness, no one will ever tell you and believe me if it is a chronic problem then it can effect you negatively.
Bad breath is also something that you need to be 'actively' concious of. We all know about bad breath and I can tell you I never had a problem with it until I came to Canada. I don't know what it was maybe the food, all those cold cuts and hamburgers - I don't know. My wife started to remark that I had bad breath and I had to take active measures beyond just brushing my teeth. Using 'mouth wash' regularly, brushing my teeth twice a day and then I always take a gum or a mint when going to church , a social visit or a meeting.
I had a team member, whom I had appointed, she was a new immigrant from China. Her bad breath was 'out of this world' - I remember that when she came to me for signing cheques or to ask anything, it was a battle and I used to feel nauseous from the smell. It got to a stage where I was going to talk to her about it but before I could do that she did something stupid and I fired her.
What's cooking in your home is in your clothes. Because everything is closed and airtight your clothes take on the smell of the lovely curries and spices. While these are wonderful and comfortable smells for you they may not be for others.
During our first year here we learnt this quite by accident. A friend dropped by to give us a ride to some event. As soon as we sat in the car, I turned to my wife and whispered -'Smells like curry in here eh?' She said 'Yes it does' but the owner of the car was a Canadian who did not do any Indian cooking, we knew that. So we quickly sniffed our jackets and yes - that's where the smell was coming from.
Quite recently at our church a family sat down in the pew right in front of us and Boy that morning - we enjoyed the sermon wrapped in the smell of curry. I am not so sure about what the others thought of it.
The problem is what we cannot fix what we are not aware of and people are polite and other than your own family members, will never point this out to you. Yet, it does say something to the people you meet. in a social setting this may not have a great impact but in a professional setting this can be your doom. Can you imagine stepping into an interview and you are unaware that your clothes smell of curry? Not a good scenario - trust me.
Even today we do a check everytime we leave the house - we use 'Febreze' liberally in our closets and furniture and now that we own a house, we make sure to turn on the exhausts or open the windows and doors (except when its freezing) to clear the home of any 'smell'.
You might think - Why go into all this trouble? I don't care. That is your decision and I am sure that you will take the right one for your own special situation.