If there is one thing we Canadians are known for, it’s being polite.

Maybe that’s not the best attribute to be known for, but it’s far from the worst. I’d rather be known as a polite people than a rude people, like Australians. (No offence, Australia.) Our inbred politeness is one of the reasons Canadians are just so gosh-darned popular. C’mon, who DOESN’T like Canadians? Maybe the Swedes, but they don’t like anyone.

However, I’m worried that our legendary Canadian politeness is starting to fall out of favor. (Sorry, that should be ‘favour’.) I feel that we are getting ruder with each other. Now, most of you would agree that we’re not as polite in general as we used to be. But I have developed a pseudo-scientific way of measuring the declining standards of politeness in Canada. I call it the Open Door Thank You test, or ODTY (pronounced ‘oddity’.)

Here’s how it works. A hallmark of polite society is the social nicety of holding a door open for the person behind you, or a person about the walk into the building you are leaving. You walk through a door, and, seeing that there is a person who is no more than 2.5 seconds behind you (anything more than that is just uncomfortable for all involved), you hold the door open for them. They, in turn, say ‘thank you’. The social transaction is complete, and everybody walks away feeling slightly better about themselves.

But I fear this wonderful social grace (which, I understand, is nearly extinct in some countries, like Australia — again, sorry Australia) is slowly vanishing in Canada. On a couple of recent occasions, I have noticed a failure of the ODTY test on the part of the door-opening recipient.

As I was exiting a store a while back, I held the door open for a person to enter. The person walked through without the customary ‘thank you’ response. I’ve noticed this happening more and more frequently, but on this occasion, I was so riled by the rudeness that I barked out a fairly loud and sarcastic ‘YOU’RE WELCOME’ to the person. Startled, the person I held the door open for responded with a sheepish ‘thank you’ in belated return. I’ve since had exactly the same thing happen again.  To me, once is a fluke. Twice is a trend.

There are other examples, like the vanishing ‘thank you wave’. It is customary in Canadian driving that when you allow a person into your lane, or extend some other kind of road courtesy, that you wave a ‘thank you’ in response. Disturbingly, this sweet gesture seems to be going the way of the video rental business — still there, but very hard to find. This is a Canadian tragedy.

Politeness may seem like a wimpy national trait to be proud of, but it’s one of the things that separate us from the animals, or the Australians (again, I’m so sorry, Aussies).  Aside from hockey, maple syrup and peacekeeping (remember that?), Canada has little to distinguish itself from other countries. If we lose our politeness, we lose a bit of what it means to be Canadian.

Anyway, thank you for reading.

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One thought on “Are we losing our national politeness? Try the ODTY test and find out.

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