Friday, April 8, 2011

Don't Sh*t On Canadians!

“Did you know that in Canada they’re so ugly they don’t have mirrors in their elevators?”

“Did you know that the word ‘HUMILITY’ doesn’t exist in Canadian English? They should include it!”

Who wrote these things on his Facebook status?
A childhood chum of a friend of mine in Madrid. This person is living in Toronto right now with his girlfriend, and a few days ago he sent me a friendly message asking if I wanted to hang out with him and his Spanish friends, because I’ve been looking for an opportunity to practise my Spanish.

I happily accepted, and we’ve been messaging back and forth for a few days, making tentative plans to hang out next weekend.

Lo and behold, yesterday, when I logged into Facebook, those two little gems I put at the top of this post were written on his status, in Spanish. Wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt, I asked if he was having a bad day – but he wasn’t. He stood by what he said.

He said that every single Canadian he’s spoken to so far has said that the word humility isn’t used to describe the quality of being humble, but to describe poor people/poverty. He also said that he’s been in 200 Canadian elevators so far making deliveries for his job, and he hasn’t seen a single mirror in them whereas every elevator in Spain has a mirror.

Now, if he really just misunderstood the use of an English word, I’d leave it at that, but in a subsequent message, he said, “Maybe it’s because I come from a small town and this is a big city, but I really haven’t seen much ‘real humility’ here.”

Really??? Here in Canada, where people are known for being down-to-earth (sometimes to the point of being shabby, admittedly), where we know how to laugh at ourselves in front of the whole world? (See Vancouver Olympics closing ceremony.)

I said I like to think that humility, as well as other positive human characteristics, exist all over the world, even if I may not have the luck to come across people who possess those qualities. For exmaple, the first two people I met in Spain were absolutely horrible human beings, but I didn’t automatically assume that all Spanish people were like that. And I was proven right when I met our mutual friend, as well as my boss, co-workers, and all my other friends in Spain.

With regards to the elevator thing (which, by the way, I didn’t understand why it even matters if they have mirrors or not - my problem is that he said that Canadians are ugly), I said that just because he hasn’t seen elevator mirrors doesn’t mean they don’t exist; I’ve seen my fair share. And the thing is – and I didn’t say this to him – how cocky and ignorant is it to assume something doesn’t exist just because you’ve never come into contact with it? I’ve never seen an actual hyena before, but I know they exist.

Thus, we began this sort of schizophrenic conversation privately over messages and publicly on his Facebook status, which all his friends can read. On the statuses, we maintained what could be construed as playful banter, I guess, and our private messages were more heated.

He said that what he wrote wasn’t meant for my eyes but for his friends back home, because he likes to share new and curious things he’s witnessed here with them. I can understand that, but did he have to say it in such an offensive and insulting way?

He also said after a while that I just don't understand his sense of humour, that my Spanish level isn't high enough to understand what he's saying, and that I just don't get Spanish sensibilities.  I replied that, after living in Spain for six and a half months, working in a Spanish company with mostly Spanish people and having scads of Spanish friends, I think I have a pretty good understanding of their culture and sensibilities.

After sending a message telling him that I’ll adjust my settings so that his Facebook statuses won’t show up in my news feed anymore, so he can write whatever he wants, I thought the matter was settled and went to take a shower. But when I returned, he sent me the following messages:

"I don't think i really want to exted this anymore. Think whatever you want to think. My humour goes with me and it's the way it is, i'm sorry if you don't like it.

To me it's always a pleasure to meet new people and try to learn new languajes and cultures, but i never forced no one to listen to me or be my friend, so if you feel that offended you can easily delete me from your friends in facebook, when i wrote you i was just trying to be nice.

have a great night!"


"Subject: It was a pleasure!

Thank you so much for trying Tina but I don't think i like to spend time with people that judge others the way you do. I'm sure you're a great person, but I don't like to be attacked in what i think it's my personal space that you wanted to be part of.

I don't wanna offend you with this as i didn't want to offend you with my wall post that are directed to my friends and not just to you.

Have a good night!"

1.) I'M being judgmental?  I'd refer him to his two Facebook statuses that started this whole mess in the first place.
2.) Surprise, buddy, the Internet is a public place.  Nothing is sacred, nothing is private, and things you put up will be up forever.  Learn that.
3.) In our entire conversation, I was very careful to only react to what was said instead of attacking him personally, out of respect for our mutual friend.  I can publish the whole transcript of our conversation to prove it.

So I replied:
"No, it wasn't a pleasure, but I can appreciate your politeness in saying so.

I'm sorry it didn't work out, because you really did seem like a nice person and I was genuinely interested in meeting you. I wanted to show you and your girlfriend around my hometown, meet your friends, show them around too...but things don't always work out, and that's okay.

But honestly, you must have known that if you say something like that someone could be offended, right? I mean, if I said something like, "Did you know that Spanish people are so vain/self-absorbed that they have mirrors in all of their elevators?" I'm sure not all my Spanish friends would find that funny. I wouldn't want to offend them, so I would never say that.

I still love Spain and I still have a ton of wonderful memories from there. I also still have lots of really good friends that are Spanish, but as we've learned tonight, you're not always going to get along with everyone you meet, and that's alright.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in Canada, despite our conversation, and if you ever need help for something, or advice from a local person if you have any problems, you can contact me. We don't agree on certain things but I will still help you if you need it, because we have a mutual friend and because I understand how hard it can be to live in a foreign country.

Good luck with everything!"

If he’s going to say/write something so rude and ignorant and mean it AND be proud of it, he can bet I’ll judge him for it. And I’ll be completely unapologetic about it too – at least I won’t be a hypocrite feigning graciousness, insisting I’m not judging him when I actually am (He asserted and re-asserted several times in a previous message that "i don't think it's my duty to judge canadian beauty, i'm happy with the way i am and i accept the rest of the people the way they are, don't try to change anybody."). He needs to understand that if he’s going to throw it out, he should be prepared and able to handle it being tossed back at him.

Ugh, this whole thing has been so uncomfortable.  I hate confrontation, I avoid conflict almost at all costs, but this I just couldn't ignore. :/  Would love to know what you guys think.

1 comment:

Melissa. C said...

Ugh. Spanish or not, I'm sure he was raised with manners. Unless spanish people have no filter between their mouth and their brain.

I would have done the same thing you have. How many people has he even spoken to in Canada and asked them about the word humility? Humility has nothing to do with small towns or big cities. And if anything, from what it seems, he is far far from comprehending anything about what humility stands for.

You should have thrown some stereotypes and mean judgements about spanish people back at him just to give him a taste of his own medicine and see how he likes it lol. But I'm glad you took the "humble" way out.