Ottawans Could be More Polite
Growing up in Canada, you hear over and over how polite and friendly Canadians are. Canadians often say in condescending ways how Americans are rude and so on and so forth. If you never travelled outside Ottawa, you might actually believe this to be true. But during one of my first trips outside the country my eyes were opened to how insular this city really is. I was staying overnight in Washington D.C, and in the morning as I stepped out of my hotel room every single person I passed said "Good Morning" or some other greeting to me. Not just most, it was every single person. So different from Ottawa where people are more likely to stay inside their own bubble, often with the companionship of their Iphone or other electronic device. Later on that morning in Washington I discovered how politicians could better connect with their constituants in a friendler way too. I was sitting on a bench outside the Washington National Airport terminal and an old man stepped out of a car at the curb and came to sit down beside me. He said "How are you doing today young man?" and proceeded to strike up a conversation with me.
Later on inside the terminal, I passed by his group and overheard that he was a United States Senator! Isn't this the way our politicians should be too? How often has this happened to you near Parliament Hill? I've never met a Canadian Senator. The point is that Americans seem to be much friendlier than us in many situations. I had finally been shown that people do not have to live inside this imaginary bubble. You can talk to anyone anywhere and it really adds something good to your day.
And you especially should talk more if you are in the customer service industry. I hear older people complaining all too often that they walk into a business and get ignored by the staff. Could this be the result of a generation so addicted to texting that they no longer have the social skills to communicate verbally? I have heard people talk about this so many times that sometimes I think that is truly the case. Not only bad for business, it's bad for that untalkative person because those little interactions make life so much more enjoyable.
When I think of an example of this in Ottawa, Shawarma's King on Bank Street comes to mind immediately. I used to go here regularily and the food there was always very good. Delicious actually. But the staff there were so rude I would always leave with a slightly bitter feeling. No one ever said hello, how's it going, let alone engaged me in any conversation. In fact, sometimes you are lucky if they talk at all other than taking your order. After a while I just didn't go back there. But one night I happened to be passing by and decided to give them another chance. I walked in and they had a big Canadian flag up on the wall. I was impressed. Maybe I could expect a North American standard of service. The young man preparing the food got my order wrong, but I kept my mouth shut just hoping that I would just get friendly polite service when I paid. At the cash however, an older man silently rung in my order and looked at my with a scowling glint in his eye. No words just an outstretched hand to take my money. No thank you Sir either, of course. With customer service this bad a shop like this doesn't even deserve to be in business but it's all too common in Ottawa. So much so that I am actually thrilled when I go into a business and the service is friendly. You wouldn't think that a business owner would be angry at you for giving them money. In other places it goes the other way too with an unfriendly customer instead.
For example, on an OC Transpo bus most people just get on the bus and pay without saying a word. Some will say hi or thanks but most do not. Again it was a trip to the United States that opened my eyes. I was in New York City (which is thought of as a rude town by some) and on a bus ride from New Jersey to Manhatten almost every person who got on greeted the driver in a friendly way, and thanked him as they left. After living in Ottawa for so long you just get used to people using the minimum amount of social interaction. To boot in the NYC subway system someone came up to me out of the blue and offered their assistance giving me directions to where I wanted to go, and even escorting me in the right direction. How rare it is for this to happen in Ottawa and how much better life can be when people are friendly or more helpful to one another. Most of the time in this city people walk by a person in need without lifting a finger or taking action phoning for assistance. I have seen many in Ottawa look the way when they see someone slumped on the ground, yet in other cities people intervene or find appropriate authorities.
Of course there are some people here who would stop by to help boost a dead car battery in winter, or give some help to a fellow citizen in need, but I wouldn't be confident of it happening. I just wish the people with bubbles around them would realize that it's ok to step out of it sometimes.