When coming to Canada to study abroad, I had heard some of the stereotypes. The way people pronounce “probably” and “again.” The immense amount of maple syrup in food products. How cold it gets.
But the stereotype that stands out to me the most is how nice people are here. I can fully attest that local people here continually blow me away with their kindness. I see it in the simplest gestures just the compassion people have for each other. It seems to just come easily to them.
Want some examples? I was going on the bus one day expecting the price to be higher than one dollar, so I didn’t have the right change for the bus. As I worked things out and sat down, a woman a few seats in front of me approached and gave me change, just so I wouldn’t have to worry about holding up others and the bus driver with switching around change. She left at the next stop before I could give it back to her or do anything to repay her.
Another act of kindness was last night. I had very much enjoyed not having any late night fire drills or alarms like I had in the States, but of course, someone at least once while I’m here pulled the fire alarm. Three in the morning, everyone bundled up in winter coats over their pajamas. We were maybe outside for five minutes tops when campus security came and actually unlocked the nearby recreation center for us to sit and stay warm while we wait.
Of all the things I will miss about Canada, the kindness exuded is probably a top thing, besides the nearby nature. I guess that means the environmental nature and human nature here are both top notch.
In a fast-paced, action-packed world, this mentality might even seem boring to some Americans who prefer to boast more outspoken, bold personas. Although it’s easier to pick the flashier, louder option in life, doing so loses sight of subtle genuine values that provide balance. We need the gentler voices just as much as the powerful ones.
I relate to Canada. We’re the quieter types, not about to raise a ruckus or speak over everybody else, but we might not always want to rise to the occasion to lead. We’re great for providing support, but we might feel too passive or inferior to those who can easily take advantage of a reserved personality.
As you can see, this is quickly becoming a metaphor for all personalities, no matter the nationality. For men and women, we have come to recognize at least two distinct types of personalities: alpha and beta. According to Psychology Today, alphas are the ones who are outwardly very driven and dominant, taking charge of the situation. Betas don’t mind taking the backseat. Alphas are seen as more confident and masculine, while betas are more emotional and feminine.
The preference toward alpha tendencies can really come down to the genders we associated with each personality. We expect men to be direct and honest, and women should be more timid and passive. When feminism comes into the picture, these obscure terms are personified into what it means to be a man or woman. One Stanford study found that that gender — or what it is to be a woman or a man — is still very much a live issue, and feminists have not entirely given up the view that gender is about social factors and that it is distinct from biological sex.
Everybody has a mix of both of these traits, as these terms reflect opposite ends of a spectrum. However, society often criticizes “beta” men and “alpha” women, as both groups seem to challenge the traditional gender norms. The process is not an easy one, either. A 2014 survey depicted on UK news outlet Express found that despite greater diversity, people continue to strongly stereotype men and women on personality traits. Men should be more competitive, and women should be kinder. Many people still feel uncomfortable seeing a woman as a main character or the CEO of a business, or seeing a man as only a supporting role or not the primary breadwinner in a family.
America has very kind people, just as Canada has some brasher people. Stereotypes regarding America as the strongest world leader and Canada as the northern country with nice people end up devaluing Canada’s own tenacity and any American humility. This argument translates itself into everyday life, too. Fitting people into strict gender roles of how to act only sets back aspirations for gender equality. Especially in a time when women are more outspoken and people become more fluent with their gender identity, fitting certain people into specific boxes of expectations does more harm than good.
South Dakota signing the first anti-LGBTQ law in the country seems like a setback to all forms of equality and acceptance. Even inside and outside the LGBTQ community, people still rely on traditional gender roles to understand seemingly foreign relationships, assigning an alpha-masculine and beta-feminine role within same-sex couples. Again, making assumptions holds society back. Rather than grieving over this statewide loss, let’s instead use it as a catalyst for both louder voices speaking for gender and sexual equality as well as gentler pushes toward more kindness, generosity, and respect.
Probably didn’t expect a post about kind Canadians to turn into gender equality, huh? Me neither. What seems like a complimentary observation of Canadian culture, coming from a country who claims to be “the best in the world,” can easily turn into questions about the origin and intention of such a stereotype. Canadians are so much more than nice, just as men and women are so much more than what society assumes them to be. Alpha and beta traits should not compete, but balance each other out, a yin-yang of personalities. Any gender, male, female, both or neither, should not feel confined within either assumed role based on their biological sex. We should all be kind. We should all be unapologetically ourselves.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie