Societal cultural differences – where does the influence come from?

I took a trip to Canada during this summer vacation and even though I only spent a total of six days and only visited two cities (Montreal and Quebec city), I was struck just by how different two neighboring countries can be from each other.  A couple of examples:

  • In Canada whenever we bought anything we were asked if we want a bag.  In the US, no one asks you – they simply pile your purchases into as many bags as they can and sometimes you need to point out to them that you don’t need that many bags.
  • In Canada, when buying coffee in a café you are asked “for here” or “to go” and if it is “for here” you are served in a ceramic cup. In the US, it’s always a disposable sippy cup and if you want ceramic, you have to ask them yourself.
  • We drove through quite a few rural areas in the province of Quebec and hardly saw any churches.  The minute we crossed into the US, there were as many churches as there were fast food restaurants.

Now, I am not passing any judgments here, but it makes for a curious inquiry – how can two countries that are geographically and historically (we are not talking about Russia and Finland that are neighbors but have had a very different historical course in the past couple of centuries) so close be so different?  What are the major influences that create these differences in societal cultures?

Your thoughts?

8 responses to “Societal cultural differences – where does the influence come from?

  1. In the case of Canada and the USA there are 2 historical facts that have made a huge difference. The first is that the US was first colonized by those fleeing religious persecution and therefore religion has always played a big role in that society. Canada was colonized initially by traders. The second is that the US fought a war to free itself from its colonial rulers (Britain) and therefore its citizens have a deep suspicion of government and being ruled by anyone. This didn’t happen Canada which negotiated a peaceful independence from the UK. Not sure how this affects bags and coffee shops (lol) but it does explain many of the differences in outlook between the two countries.

    • GlobalCoachCenter

      Thanks, Judy, for this historical perspective.🙂 The bags and the coffee cups point to a higher sense of environmental consciousness — perhaps, more of a collective thinking, culturally speaking… me thinks.🙂

  2. I agree with Judy. That is basically the difference. But I love this website. Keep this up please. We all need to stay in touch with each other and pass on experiences.

  3. Regarding the first two points, I think that’s a little bit of a generalization – Or maybe (smiling) too much time spent at Starbucks and Walmart? I am frequently asked if I’d like a bag. When I can find a coffee shop in my semi-rural region, usually when I’m travelling on business, I reasonably expect to be served in a ‘real’ cup.

    • GlobalCoachCenter

      Thanks for your comment, Bevy. Do you mean you are asked when in the US or Canada?

      No🙂 no Starbucks or Walmart for me. Lots of different places for both coffee and shopping and never been asked in the US…😦

  4. Religion has been extreemly present in French Canadian culture and politics till late 50’s. Every little village has its church and by the size of it, you can tell how powerfull and linked were politics and religion. We have freed ourselves from religion oppression controlling birth amongst other things (not birth control). My grandmothers and their mothers since the begining of colonies had average 15 kids each… under the supervision of the priest. You had to be pregnant. I am surprised that churches didn’t stand out for you. Perhaps because there is only one per village (dominant religion Catholique) but the size of it vs the size of the village with the mansion next to it (the priest’s house) are not to be missed and if possible to be visited for their beauty. Lucie Houde (Montréal)

  5. I would like to note that while the province of Quebec is part of Canada, the Province of Quebec has a distinctive society, a distinctive culture and its official language is French.
    The other nine provinces and three territories have different cultures and their official language is mostly English.
    And there are significant/marked cultural differences between Atlantic Canada, the provinces of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia for example.

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