As I spend more time in Canada, I get more used to Canadian culture. However, it is still true that there are several cultural differences between my motherland and Canada. It doesn’t mean that these differences apply to anyone or anywhere in Canada, but they are what me and my family felt different from Korean culture.
1. Institutions are slow, but people have great manners!
Back to Grade 13, I was trying to apply for university through OUAC (Ontario Universities’ Application Centre). Since I was taking a victory lap, it was my responsibility to send my transcript to OUAC. I sent my transcript to them as soon as the institution opened the application site. Guess what? My high school marks were updated 3 weeks after I sent. Since it was my last chance to get into university as a high school student, I was so anxious about the feeling of “What if I sent my transcript a wrong place?”
Institutions precede their responsibilities slowly, but most Canadians have great manners! For example, they hold the door open for me, even though I’m 10 metres far away from the door. In Seoul where people are busy, it is hard to see people holding the door for the next person. I was impressed how people wait for other people especially ladies to enter the door by holding it!
I think having good manners come from being slow because you need patience and solicitude in order to wait for other people. Being fast is what makes Korea a country of “service”, and people having more patience is what gives people from other countries a good impression about Canada.
2. Math is easy in Canada — Not a true idea!
Before I came to Canada, I heard math in North America is much easier than math in Korea. I would answer “Yes”, but the answer is because Canadian math focuses more on the concepts and the basics whereas Korean math focuses a lot more on applications and the complexity. Since many Korean students are more used to solve difficult and complex questions, Canadian math is considered easy. However, if you don’t put much effort and complete all your homework, high marks are impossible to obtain especially in senior math courses. For example, after I finished 3rd year math in Korean middle school, Gr. 10 math in Canada was a joke. Gr. 11 and 12 math courses, however, were challenging, and my marks drop by around 10% compared to the previous years. I had to do anything that the teacher asked me to do in order to boost my math mark. It is true that many Korean students in high school are still good at math, but it is because they work hard to get high marks (not because they are talented in math or they are allowed to use a calculator). Canadian math is about how to solve questions not about how to get questions right.
3. Open-minded school environments
I was very shocked when I first saw a couple hugging and kissing each other in school. I remember when I was in Grade 3 of middle school in Korea, a couple who kissed in school got a punishment for doing that. However, none of couples who kiss in school get punished in Canada, unless they do it inappropriately.
Also, sex education is much more open in Canada. Even in Grade 3 of Korean middle school, I wasn’t taught how to use birth controls. However, when I took Grade 11 Gym in Canada, the gym teacher taught us how to use protections in detail. Everyone in class was encouraged to ask any questions that they want to know about sexuality, and no one hesitated to ask any types of questions. This very open sex education was the most shocking thing that I experienced in Canada.
I’m used to cultural differences now, but I underwent many things that are so different in Korea. However, what I learned is that the ways Canadians think and feel are almost as the same as what I think as a Korean. So if anyone is planning on moving to Canada, be aware of some cultural differences, but be open-minded to them — you will be able to have more experiences and lessons that you cannot obtain in Korea!
Pictures are obtained from: