In a country which means ‘village’, where the population speak many languages and come from many places, where macaroni and cheese are consumed more than anywhere else in the world and where locals can ice skate on the ocean in winter – Canada truly is a colourful place. As an international student who wants to study abroad, it is of paramount importance to understand Canada a bit better before you embark on your trip. Here are some tips to guide you on how Tanzanians can culturally prepare to study in Canada.
The official languages spoken in Canada are English and French, although there are many more English speakers than French. There are more than 60 Aboriginal languages spoken across the country ranging from Algonquin Cree to Inuit. The languages of Canada include English, French, Punjabi, Italian, Spanish, German, Cantonese, Tagalog, Arabic, and others.
Meeting & Greeting
As a Tanzanian seeking to culturally adapt in Canada, it is important to note that last names and appropriate titles should be used until otherwise invited to be less formal. e.g Dr./Mr./Mrs./Miss. In Quebec, it is usual to kiss once on each cheek as they do in France. Some older men may even kiss a lady’s hand. You are also expected to shake hands with everyone upon arrival at and departure from a meeting; maintain eye contact while talking and shaking hands. Men may also offer their hand to a woman without waiting for her to extend hers first. Canadians appreciate politeness and expect others to adhere to the proper protocol for any given situation while in business circles, Canadian businesspeople often begin relationships in a reserved manner which may become less formal once people are more familiar with one another.
In general, communication is moderately indirect. Even though most Canadians can disagree openly when necessary, they prefer to do so with tact and diplomacy. Their communication style is essentially pragmatic and relies on common sense. Francophones are generally more indirect and exuberant than Anglophones. Canadians communicate more by the spoken word rather than non-verbal expressions and expect people to speak in a straightforward manner and to be able to back up their claims with examples without making exaggerated claims.
In general, Canadians give gifts for birthdays and Christmas. If you are invited to someone’s home for dinner, take a box of good chocolates, flowers or a bottle of wine. In Quebec, sending flowers in advance of the dinner party is the correct protocol and if you give wine, make sure it is of the highest quality you can afford. Do not give white lilies as they are used at funerals and do not give cash or money as a present.
Dining & Food
As an international student, you will be at the table for meals on a daily basis therefore, you should understand Canadian table etiquette. They include waiting to be shown to your seat; do not begin eating until the hostess starts and do not rest your elbows on the table. Table cutlery manners are generally continental. i.e. the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating. The tines of the fork should face down. Leaving a small amount at the end of the meal is generally acceptable. In formal situations, the host gives the first toast. An honoured guest which could be a woman should return the toast later in the meal.
When conversing with people, do not point at people. Do not confuse Canada with the US and it is best not to initiate discussions in respect to Quebec separatism, politics or religion.
In Canada, people are deemed equal. This is why hierarchy is not very evident as everyone is seen to be deserving of equal rights and opportunities in the society regardless of gender, age, race or beliefs.
Canadians are highly aware of their responsibility to the community. Despite being individualistic in terms of personal values (such as guarding personal space), contributing to the betterment of the community is a priority. Canadians get involved by volunteering, donating, and by generally maintaining pride and affinity for their community.
Multiculturalism and Diversity
Canada values the richness and diversity that various cultures contribute to society. She adapted multiculturalism as an official policy thus affirming people’s rights to maintain their unique cultural identity and promotes cross-cultural understanding and harmony.
This is often manifested through politeness, punctuality, tolerance and social order. It is considered harassment to talk disparagingly about a person’s looks, beliefs, age, gender and status in life. Nonetheless, you are expected to be clear and direct, not to “beat around the bush” and speak up for yourself.
There’s no doubt that with these tips, Tanzanians can culturally prepare to study in Canada without difficulty. Make the best of your experience.