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nora_samaran (Nora Samaran)
Montreal, QC
Member since April 2009

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Cultural theorist; PhD in Canadian Literature with a focus on race theory, nationalism, and newspapers; geeking out and/or organizing around all things speculative fiction, independent media, migrant justice & antiracism, radical mental health and social change since 1999. Blogs at norasamaran.com

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in my experience...

it's funny how my experiences can be so different from yours, since I come from the same background and am immersed in the same dominant culture (although with heavy doses of quebecois french too).

I think it goes to show how personality will trump culture any day when you get down to it. As someone who is reasonably unencombered by perceptions of how people perceive me, I feel perfectly at ease cutting people off and risking being seen as 'rude' - the personal feedback I get is that people enjoy my company and my input. But also as someone with a reasonable degree of emotional intelligence, I can sense if I'm really putting someone off (assuming that isn't my intent) and am happy to modify my style to make the person more comfortable in that interaction. What's missing for me is that feeling of judgment that my way is 'wrong' and the offended church-mouse's way is 'right'. I just am the way that I am, and so are they.

And another way that personality trumps culture: I grew up in the same environment of "go ahead, cut me off. I'll just argue louder and flap my hands around to get your attention", and often I work just fine that way. But when I fall silent I don't always perceive the other person's flood of words as encouraging me to speak. If anything when I'm really thinking about something, I often need a space of silence in which to formulate my thoughts. That's not a culture thing, it's a concentration thing, and when I'm in that space it annoys the living crap out of me if the person refuses to give me a little space to find out what I want to express. Of course being how I am, I have no problem saying "hey shut up for a second and let me think". Is that rude?

the same dominant culture

Hey,

I'd say that living in Montreal, you're not immersed in the same dominant culture. I'm describing a specifically Anglo-Canadian practice. Of course this is all just anecdotal, but I've heard Americans who move to English Canada express the same sense of uncertainty about how to be polite here, where there is so much space and indirectness expected in daily speech.

I think Montrealers - given the linguistic plurality of the city-state that is Montreal - grow up with an awareness of linguistic difference that is lacking in the rest of the country. Not to idealize or say there isn't enormous prejudice there as well, but it takes different forms that are specific to Quebec and specific yet again to Montreal.

That said, the best response to ignorance is not to shrink from it but to know your ways are perfectly good, and be yourself. That's a bit what this blog is about for me. People do respond better when you easily stand your ground and expect to be understood for who you are, than when you try to squeeze into a shape that's not your own. So I'm with you there. 

 

(flap, flap)

eh, shut up and me finish, why don't you. (oh, the freedom...)

 

 

 

 

 

 

extremes...

But Anglo-Canadian is not the most extreme I´ve experienced. Coming last week from a Vietnamese community in France where there are .......long........pauses (a breath or two, to be more exact) between speakers, where voices (of women particularly) are rarely raised above a loud whisper, to the hand-waving, loud voices (to Anglo-Canadian like me appears to be yelling) and talking over each other constantly in Madrid--extreme cultural difference. I feel more comfortable in the Vietnamese, I must admit. Not comfortable, but more comfortable. But maybe that´s partly due to having a bad sinus headache for a week, and loud annoys me much. Thanks for the posts, Nora! Tasha

 

 

thanks for posting :)

hey Tasha,thanks for writing! I definitely agree with you - speech styles are a continuum. I'm in one kind of relationship to the dominant culture that surrounds me - I've been more comfortable with Spanish speakers cuz closer to how my own family interacts - where it looks to an outsider like everyone's yelling and interrupting, but that's just normal conversation ;P
but at the same time, for instance, a lot of Indigenous people here are in a totally different relationship to dominant culture here, where the rules of politeness for people from many Indigenous cultures are to leave a lot *more* space between speaking than most white people here are accustomed to doing. And a lot more comfort with silence, I think.

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