2009-02-01

MTM: We make a good impression


I happened to meet one of our new tenants the other day and we chatted for a few minutes. I wanted to make sure he was finding everything alright, because he is from out of town. He's from Pittsburgh, PA. and is here to inspect bridges for two years.

I would imagine that finding his way around our little city is somewhat easier than finding your way around Pittsburgh, but, every city has it tricky areas. He said he was doing wonderfully and that he "just loves it here, the people are so friendly!" He is so enthusiastic about being here and meeting new people. He said he finds it quite amazing that there are so many different cultures living and working together and getting along. He figures that the States could learn a lot from Canada.

I suspect that he is one of those kinds of people that will make friends wherever he goes. He said the people he bought some furniture from, talked his ear off, he was there for 6 hours and they even fed him dinner. He claims his new hobby is "just talking to people!" and yes, he speaks with exclamation points.

I think some of that blending he sees has to do with the west & Canada itself being much younger than the States and particularly the eastern states. We have gone through the stages of hiring quotas, but currently we are recruiting workers from anywhere to Alberta because of the big oil boom. (Sadly, that looks like it is coming to an end as all good things must.) We don't have the same kind of ingrained prejudices that are found in areas of the U.S. We have our own set of ingrained prejudices. Having closer ties to the British Empire, we have also taken that "British Reserve" to a new level. My British friend tells me "You Canadians are too f'ing polite. Always, saying sorry, or excuse me, thank you - it's just not right."

There is truth in how both of these outsiders see our country and my city though. We are very polite, sometimes to the detriment of the country and it's people. We are losing traditions before they can be firmly entrenched in the souls of our people.

On the other hand:

Religious diversity is a strong part of our local culture in Edmonton. For example, you may be surprised to learn that Edmonton is the site of Canada’s first mosque, built in 1938!

Places of worship for every major religion can be found in Edmonton. A great many Christian denominations (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant) hold services, some in heritage languages, and mosques, synagogues, Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist temples are also present in Edmonton.*

We have a festival (of course) in the summer to celebrate the different cultures in the city. Heritage days is well attended and you can sample wonderful food, music and dancing, arts & crafts from pretty much every corner of the world. It also serves to remind us that we are all immigrants to this country, whether we are 7th generation (on mom's side), 3rd (dad's side), or fresh off the plane.

Have a good day all - talk with exclamation points today!


My Town Monday comes to us from Travis Erwin. You can visit his site for links to more MTM posts to learn about other places around the world.


*from The Guide to Living & Working in Edmonton

23 comments:

Sepiru Chris said...

Hi Reb,

Glad see that all is well in the old stomping grounds.

The tapestry of heritages and all unique, joined together as a whole, what Trudeau tried to do for our country is different from the melting point where you arrive, forget your past and become subsumed into the new that is our southern cousin's approach.

Just a reminder, we are not an old country, but we have been populated by Western Europeans for a very long time.

We have the same East-West gradient of historicity as the Americans without the same extreme. T

he Southern East coast of the US was continuously populated longer than our eastern maritime region(s), but Oregon was actually part of the Hudson Bay Company's landholdings until the company factor in Oregon took up the offer to become governor a new state if he would defacto recognize his land as being American, not HBC land.

So are cousins are both older and younger.

We just have different values and different historical perspectives.

They had the civil war and slavery.

We had war of conquest with the French and a very different approach with the aboriginal populations.

They had manifest destiny, and any man could carve a home for himself out of the land.

They ended up with a residual constitutional legal power highlighting the individual (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) because the individual could 'make it' on their own.

We needed the help of our neighbours in our more difficult climates so we developed community values.

Our residual constitutional values are the famous (to law students) POGG (Peace, Order, and Good Government).

From such small things do great differences divide.

To quote a southern poet laureate:

"...Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

(Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken")

I should probably shut up. :)

I very much enjoyed your posting, and as you can see, it caused thoughts to arise. What more can a writer ask for, no?

Tschüss,
Chris

Barrie said...

I love boysenberry jam too. And boysenberry pie is one of the few pies I will eat. Very, very interesting about how the first mosque in Canada was built in Edmonton. I had no idea. Great post! And I shall sally forth into Exclamation Day Monday! :)

Hilary said...

I so totally agree with your summary as how we're all immigrant by virtue of a generation or several. I have to agree since it's how I ended a similar blog post (and repost) a while back.

I think that's the key that so many forget when intolerance is shown to newer immigrants. Our ancestors endured the same attitudes somewhere along the line, yet their descendants are born Canadians. They're us! <-- (there's an exclamation point!)

Mississauga is much like Edmonton where many cultures converge and I'm glad for that. Great post, Reb!

Reb said...

Chris, I'm glad you enjoyed my post and expanded on my theme for me. I quite enjoy that Frost poem, btw.

Barrie, I didn't know about the mosque until I read that either.

Hilary, yes, I remember that. I think that some of the intolerance comes from the fact that the older immigrants tried a lot harder than it seems some of the new ones do to accept Canada as their new home and to learn English (or French) sometimes at the expense of their mother tongue. I know for a fact that a lot of the people in the complex are just here for the education for their children, or the money that can be made here and then the plan is to go back to where ever home is.

debra said...

Reb! I shall exclaim with exclamations, "what a great post!"

the Bag Lady said...

I shall try to remember to speak in exclamation points all day!!

Great post, sis! I actually knew that about the mosque, having read it somewhere else recently, but it is a sign of how progressive-thinking Edmonton was, even way back in the 1930's!

kcinnova said...

Exclamation Monday!!
I love your MTM's, Reb! They always make me want to pay a visit to Edmonton.
Lots of good discussion here in your comment section today.
While I thoroughly agree that a "tapestry of heritages" "unique and joined together as a whole" is a beautiful thing, I respectfully disagree with the comment about the U.S. melting pot, where Chris stated we are "the melting point where you arrive, forget your past and become subsumed into the new." My good friend from China came here as an adult and has certainly kept her own heritage alive and well, despite becoming assimilated into America. Her children eat (and prefer) Chinese food to traditional American fare. They speak both languages. When my family lived in El Paso, TX, I was not surprised that all school correspondence came home in both Spanish & English. I expected it, living on the border. I studied those bilingual papers to pick up some Spanish myself, because I wanted to be able to communicate with others. We met some wonderful, friendly, hospitable people; those who were bilingual helped those of us who weren't join in conversation with one another. Likewise, when we lived in Germany for 3 years, I dusted off my high school German and worked at communicating with those around me. Some of our neighbors did the same with their English, and soon we were enjoying one another's company, sharing our cultures with one another. If that is a melting pot experience, then the pot is a swirl of colors, not a dull brown or beige. It is a swirl of colors not unlike a tapestry.

Currently, I live in Virginia and am surprised when I see official papers written in both Spanish & English. We are not anywhere near a Spanish-speaking country. I am not seeing the desire of newcomers to assimilate into American culture. When we lived in Germany, I sometimes saw the same thing happen with American families there: a few people had no desire to learn the German language and make friends outside of their own little circle of transplanted Americans. I have trouble with both of these scenarios (the Latino enclosure here and the American enclosure in Germany): the people who don't get out and experience the world that surrounds them are depriving themselves and their families --and those around them, too-- of rich experiences. It is a bit like being patches of a quilt, sewn together but never mixing. While quilts are pretty, they are not as strong as a good tapestry.

If I am an immigrant (and we all have been at one time or another), I don't want to forget my past. I want to hand down my heritage to future generations. But I also want to learn the skills needed (esp. language!) to be successful in my adopted country.
On a smaller scale, I need to do the same as we move about to different regions within my own country. Different parts of our countries (I am now referring to both Canada and the U.S.) have different customs as well. The East is different from the West. I think ultimately it has to do with respecting those around you and having an interest in each other as fellow human beings.

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

and it is warm and sunny like in the picture year round!

Jay said...

I think diversity is a great thing. It's fun to live in a place where there are people from many different cultures. I enjoy learning about their cultures and where they came from and especially their foods. ;-)

Dianne said...

that's a fantastic panoramic shot

I love people who talk in exclamation points, and good on you for checking up on your new neighbor

us US'ers often need some looking after ;)

Sepiru Chris said...

Hi Reb,

I just wanted to come back and say sorry for writing such a long piece! And do in exclamation marks!

It was a pleasure reading your post!

Kcinova,

Quick point, the "melting pot" allusion is not meant as a perjorative, and it has long been considered as the description of US immigration policy.

It has also never been intended to designate a sum that is less than its parts, either. In fact, it has usually been seen to be either strictly assimilationist in character, where the "status quo" wins out with no dilution, or, originally as being almost Nietschean, and creating a 'better man'.

Michel Guillaume Jean de Crèvecœur (1735-1813) a Frenchman whom became a naturalised American (under the new name John Hector St. John--anglicized names are a feature of melting pot societies) was the first to coin the phrase, and he did it proudly as a new man, a new American, created through the melting pot crucible of the American immigration experience.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was the next to use the phrase, and it has become a fixture in the political economic literature and debates.

And the phrase does not mean that there are not people or states that do not value diversity.

Nonetheless, institutionally, and historically, assimilation has been the overriding tendency in the USA (in Canada too, prior to Prime Minister Trudeau).

That, for example, is an aspect of the "red scare"; people who had strange accents or strange names were obviously unAmerican.

Finally, I would note that the demographical changes, and resulting different state-provided services you note, are hotly contested in the public in popular media in the US.

As the social fabric of the US is shifting, so is concern, which was why, for example, every Republican candidate for Presidential candidate campaigned on immigration issues. And while some states are becoming bilingual, some communities have been trying to legislate demographic adherence to the old status quo...

Thats all. And I wrote way more than I intended to.

I just wanted to clarify, because I intended no offence.

(Sorry Reb!)

Lawyers! :)

Clare2e said...

YOU DO MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION, REB.

OH, WAIT. I THOUGHT IT WAS CAPS MONDAY. NEVER MIND.

Travis Erwin said...

Sounds like my kind of place. I love to talk to people.

Reb said...

Wow! What great conversations today!

Debra, thanks!

Sis, it was and still is. I love this city!

Kcinnova, thanks! I love the idea of both our country's being a beautiful tapestry. Chris explains the melting pot concept better on his second visit. I think it is marvellous that new people arriving are keeping their own traditions alive and passing them along to their children. I also agree that the best way to get along somewhere is to learn the language and try to adapt to the new culture.

Gary, we only wish!

Jay, you are right and that is a great attitude to have too!

Dianne, it is a wonderful shot! We have so many newcomers to the city here, I try to ask at least once if they are finding everything they need.

Chris, thanks for coming back. You can expand on points in my blog any time. You have a great way of clarifying what my muddled brain is trying to say ;)

Thanks Clare! THAT'S OKAY ;)

Travis, you are welcome to visit any time! We have pretty good lakes for fishing too.

kcinnova said...

Reb,
Thanks for hosting such an interesting forum today! *
Still using exlamations ;)

Sepiru Chris,
I think we (you & I) have misunderstood each other over semantics in our comments. The concept of a melting pot has never offended me; a good pot of soup or chili tastes better because of its varied ingredients. I think both Canada and the United States are stronger & "more flavorful" :) because of the variety of cultures within our populations.
I do believe that some assimilation is necessary. In the past, this *has* been carried too far; your example of anglicizing names highlighted one way assimilation was taken too far. (My grandmother's maiden name was terribly mispronounced.) This would be an example of what I refer to as "a dull brown or beige" sort of melting pot, rather than a swirl of beautiful colors or a rich tapestry.
The fear of others different from ourselves has resulted in awful & embarrassing parts of U.S. history, including Japanese internment camps during WWII. This is a tragic example of what a government can do to its citizens and those within its borders who are not citizens by law. Another example would be from the days of race segregation and "separate but equal." That way of thinking --which we know and recognize as false-- damaged everyone. When a culture keeps to itself within a larger society, the fear of the unknown grows on both sides of the fence that has been erected (whether to keep ourselves isolated or to keep others out). I feel that we all benefit when different cultures can share with one another.

All countries have borders, and yes, the borders are political. The immigration issues being politicized in our recent election are dual-pronged. There are lawful ways to enter the U.S. (and yes, there is probably reform work needed to make that less difficult for many); there are also many people who illegally enter the country. Because of the political arguments, I choose to refrain from discussing illegal immigration.

Thank you for an excellent discussion today!
~KC

pattinase (abbott) said...

The immigrant experience makes North Americans what they are.

Reb said...

Kcinnova, for an off the cuff, unplanned post, it sure prompted conversation...that is always good!

Pattie, yes & it is a wonderful thing.

Sepiru Chris said...

Cheers Reb,

Glad you are not ticked off at me.

Tschüss,
Chris

Reb said...

Not at all Chris, I am glad you dropped by and helped to make this a more interesting post.

Barbara Martin said...

I see Chris is expounding here as well.

Interesting post, Reb. Times do change.

Reb said...

Barbara, he is good at that ;)

lyzzydee said...

Great post, I think that the world over there is great diversity and its a good think for all cultures to be getting along together.

Reb said...

Lyzzydee you are so right about that.