Sunday, October 17, 2010

Interesting reading: Canadian travel advisory

I'm off to Las Vegas Monday morning for a work-related conference, and a travel advisory popped into my e-mail yesterday from the vendor organizing the conference. It's probably standard procedure for their employees travelling overseas, but it seems a little out of place for Canada. And it's kind of odd, as I'm going to the U.S. from Canada. Still, it has some amusing observations about Canada I thought I'd share.

For example, you'll be relieved to know our security and medical risk ratings are currently low:
Risks to travellers remain LOW. Stringent security measures at airports and land-border crossings into the US may cause occasional travel disruption. Most locally based Islamist militants are believed to confine their activities to fund-raising and logistical support, though there is evidence that both home-grown and foreign terrorists are willing to stage attacks in Canada. Other targets include official US or Israeli interests, as well as locations associated with the Jewish communities in Toronto and Montréal or infrastructure points such as major road bridges connecting Canada and the US. The crime risk is low, though petty street crime can be a problem, especially in low-income neighbourhoods of the major cities.
More on the terror front:
Canada’s military engagement in Afghanistan and its support for the US-led war on terrorism have made it a potential target for Islamist extremist attacks. The government has earmarked considerable funds to bolster its law-enforcement capacity to counter possible terrorist attacks. The additional financing allowed for the enhancement of policing activities at municipal and provincial levels and helped to increase the effectiveness of federal law enforcement and intelligence-gathering activities.

Domestic terrorism is not a major security threat. However, radical extremist groups such as animal rights and anti-abortion activists sometimes carry out small-scale terrorist acts.
Meanwhile, you'll be glad to know we're not at risk of contracting malaria in Canada, and that bribery in our police and judicial system is rare. There is a slight risk, however, of diarrhea.

Speaking of which, their perspective on our health care system is interesting:
Standard of Health Care

Canada's public healthcare system (Medicare) is available to all Canadians and offers an international standard of care; there are virtually no private facilities. Since healthcare is a free service for all Canadians, many smaller hospitals and providers are not set up to manage non-Canadians, who must be charged for medical services. Also, because the healthcare system is under significant strain from a resource perspective, appointments for specialists are on a first-come-first-serve basis. Thus waiting times for specialist appointments can be extremely long. Initial non-urgent medical care is provided by a primary care practitioner--see the "Outpatient Care" section. Most larger cities have a referral hospital where all specialties are available; many cities also have university teaching hospitals, with resident staff and sub-specialty consultation. Health care professionals in the province of Québec may only speak French. However, English-speaking physicians practice at the McGill University Teaching Hospitals in Montreal. All physicians are licensed by the Canadian provincial medical boards; many also have U.S. certification. Some helpful terminology used in Canada: "chemists" are referred to as "pharmacies", "casualty departments" are called "emergency rooms" and "surgery hours" are often called "office hours."
But I most enjoyed the general cultural tips:
*Canadians may feel uncomfortable if you stand too close to them during conversation. Stand approximately two feet away from people.
* If invited to a Canadian home, bring a gift of flowers, candy or a bottle of wine. Note that French Canadians may expect you to stay out of 'private' rooms - including the kitchen - unless they invite you to enter them.
* Some households consider it rude to wear shoes indoors. Observe your host's behavior and follow their lead.
* Pointing with your index finger at another person is considered impolite.
* Smoking has been banned in most public areas.
* People form lines pay for items in stores, buy theatre tickets, enter buildings and board public transportation. Even if the line is informal, or if no line is made, people rely on a "first come, first served" mindset. Do not jump or push ahead in line.
* To show approval, there are two common gestures: the "O.K." sign, formed by making a circle of the thumb and index finger, and the "thumbs up" sign, formed by making a fist and pointing the thumb upward.
No idea where they're coming from on the hand gestures thing, but I'm with them on the line-cutting thing. Line cutters piss me off.

Finally, I'll leave you with some business culltural tips:

*Canadian men and women shake hands during business introductions. A firm handshake is expected.
*When meeting for the first time, address the person by their professional title, followed by their surname. Many Canadians will immediately invite you to call them by their first names.
*Punctuality is important, as business appointments are expected to start at the time specified.
*Business meetings over lunch are more common than dinner meetings. When having dinner, it may be advisable to wait for your counterpart to initiate a business discussion.
*Business gifts should be modest and given after closing a deal. Canadians will open their gifts immediately upon receipt.
*Business dress is generally conservative. Suits are appropriate for both women and men. Women may also wear a dress or a skirt and blouse.
*Negotiations and business in general is usually done quickly, relative to the pace of most other cultures.
*Direct eye contact and a friendly manner are expected.

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Niles said...

This is an American advisory? The part about 'casualty department' being referred to as 'emergency rooms', 'surgery hours' etc. is British. If you talked to an American about popping off to the chemist, they'd think you were meth hunting.

Are the authours plagiarizing from some British template, or just...weird?

Jeff said...

I found those lines odd as well. I mean, I watched ER on American TV for years.

The company is a large multinational based in Germany, but with large US operations. While the audience for this is US, perhaps their European heritage came through here.