What Happens When Canadian and Israeli Cultures Meet
May 5, 2018
Being back to my home country for a long period of time has been quite an experience. When I moved to Canada, I was only 16.5 years old. I didn't know much about living an adult life in Israel. I knew how to get around and travel to different cities, but that summed up my experience. Needless to say, at that age, I soaked up everything around me. I was oblivious to the way I talked and the way I acted with other people. I exhibited the Israeli culture in almost every way possible. For me, that was a normal behaviour — the right one. Only when I moved to Canada I realized the true meaning of how different cultures around the world can be, and I found it fascinating.
Living in Canada as an Israeli
Sunrise over my city in Canada
Trying to integrate into the Canadian culture as an Israeli, and learning a new language at the same time, was not easy, to say the least. Many of my behaviours were considered 'rude' in the eyes of Canadians. I was taught to say "pardon me" whenever I didn't understand what someone had just said. It was a real challenge. But the most important two things that I learned in Canada were how to be patient and how to respect others. As a result, I developed a better awareness of my surroundings that translated in many forms such as holding the door for the person behind me, helping anyone in need at all times, letting people pass me in line at a coffee shop when I'm still deciding on what drink to get, waiting patiently in line until the person in front of me has left and I am signaled to come, and getting out of people's way when they try to pass me on the street or in an aisle at the grocery store. However, I still exhibited many behaviours that are more commonly seen in Israel such as being assertive, giving birthdays a very high importance & priority, and going above and beyond to help friends in need.
One of the things I struggled with was not being able to use physical touch as much, as a way of communicating emotions and greeting people. I learned that in Canada this behaviour is not as socially acceptable. Although I understand why this might be the case, I feel that it holds us back from experiencing the human experience to its fullest.
Visiting Israel as a Canadian
Sunset view from my hometown in Israel
As soon as I arrived to Israel, I started to implement the "not-taking-anything-personally" strategy. When people cut me in line, instead of yelling at them for doing that or even pointing it out to them, I just looked at them and smiled. This resulted in two things: either the person who cut me in line was completely oblivious to the whole situation, simply didn't care, and proceeded with his/her order OR the person realized his/her mistake and apologized before or after the act. Do you want to know the best part? This uncomfortable situation ended in a very civil and respectful manner. No yelling, swearing, pushing, and giving off bad vibes.
Your smile can go a very long way without you even realizing it. Not only that it will probably brighten someone's day, but you will also send off good vibes and good energy to the universe, and that's exactly what you will be attracting back.
Another thing I've been doing a lot ever since I got here was thanking people for everything they do and for their time. I noticed right away that after thanking them their behaviour changed from doing the bare minimum to putting more effort into their actions and even making exceptions for me. It's truly amazing what a simple "Thank You" can do.
Lastly, I found myself engaging in another behaviour that is very typical for Canadians - apologizing. I apologized for slightly touching someone, for wanting to pass someone when they were standing in the middle of the way, for having to answer the phone when I was with someone, and the list goes on. The reaction I observed was very positive and some people were even surprised for being talked to that way.
What Works in Both Cultures (and in Any Culture)
Showing appreciation for people's help - I always remember that no one owes me anything. No one has to help me, so I shouldn't expect that from people. When people do help me, I know that they do it from the bottom of their heart, so I do my best to show them my appreciation.
Smiling more - I try to smile more often, especially towards people who look grumpy/in a bad mood/tired/indifferent/serious. It might look like the smile didn't do anything, but it almost ALWAYS affects the other person in a positive way.
Being friendly and attentive - It's important to remember that everyone has a story. If someone chooses to share his/her story with me, ask me questions, or just ask for help, being friendly towards them, listening, and being attentive to their wishes can change their life and mine. It is a small step that goes a very long way.
I would love to hear your thoughts! Let me know if you have ever gone through a similar experience or know someone who did.