Tag Archives: Canadian culture

Is it Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, or What?

Are you one of the people concerned that if you say the traditional holiday greeting “Merry Christmas” that people might feel you are not being inclusive or being politically correct?  But don’t you have the right to practice your own beliefs and follow your own traditions?

Stop fretting over this silly discussion.  Ignore what your parents taught you and actually have your cake and eat it too.  Say “Merry Christmas” if that ‘s your tradition or religion, and ALSO say “Happy Holidays” at the same time, to be inclusive with strangers and people you meet while out and about, especially in large, multicultural cities.  It’s not too difficult to add that phrase.  I personally grew up saying “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” so I’m just replacing the last phrase ‘New Year’ with ‘Holidays’, and then next week I’ll just tell everyone “Happy New Year” or “Happy 2016!”   I love simplicity.  🙂 

Negotiations Are Easier With the ‘3 Ls’ Technique

"Let's talk negotiations"

“Let’s talk negotiations”

On April 30th 2015 an organization I am proudly a part of, YEDI – York Entrepreneurship Development Institute, held its inaugural alumni meeting at York University (Toronto, Ontario). As a Program Advisor and Business Communications Specialist I was asked to partake in the Panel Discussion along with the other YEDI Program Advisors to share insights and tips with entrepreneurs on the very popular but somewhat mysterious and intimidating topic of “negotiations”.

I posted an article on LinkedIn, so please follow this link to read it – thank you.


If you like it and find the tips useful, please like and share.  🙂

Tips to Help You Enjoy St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

For those that may be new to the countries where this holiday is celebrated, or for those who would like to know a bit more about the beginnings of this day, please read on.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th in many countries, especially Ireland, England, Canada and the USA. It is a day that you can celebrate by yourself or preferably with friends by doing the following:

1.  Wear some green clothing

Young or old, you can add a bit of green to your ensemble or, if you are more daring, be obvious about your love of this day and dress head-to-toe in green!  Some like to wear a shirt with a shamrock on it, or better yet, attention-getting slogans like “Everybody’s Irish!” or “Kiss me I’m Irish!” 

2.  Drink green beer

It is not uncommon to drink green beer at the pub on this day, though traditionalists look down upon this gimmick.  Don’t worry – harmless green food dye is used.  So if old enough, you should drink at a pub, preferably Irish or British, and take part in their promotions. Most pubs and restaurants will have some promotional games or contests, perhaps sponsors like Guiness, Harp or Kilkenny (Irish beers) will offer freebies (giveaways at no cost).  If you do want to drink in a local pub be warned – Irish and British pubs fill up quickly on this day, well before the 5 pm whistle is blown.  It’s the place to be on St. Patty’s Day!

3.  See a St. Patrick’s Day parade

Today’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are all about having fun.  A number of years ago the parades were seriously Irish, but these days, you can see a lot of diverse floats, clubs, bands and costumes.  I remember when I was young seeing a cowboy at a St. Patrick’s Day parade and wondering “What’s he doing there?”  LOL

4.  Re-tell the original story of St. Patrick:

A young English boy was stolen from his home and brought back to then-wild Ireland and held as a slave. During these difficult years the young man turned to his Christian faith to keep him going. One night he dreamed that he would walk over a hill and discover a boat that would rescue him. Shortly thereafter he escaped and found such a boat. He finally made it back to his home in England.

Later, as a priest, he decided to return to Ireland, where he knew the language and customs, to convert them to Christianity. Other missionaries had been killed, but he was successful.

He added the circle to the cross which represented the sun, and created the “Celtic cross.”

He used the 3-leaf clover to explain the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) to the Irish people. That is why the clover or “shamrock” is a strong symbol not only on St. Patrick’s Day but of Ireland itself.

This is just a brief background description. If interested, please do more research to learn about this fun and interesting holiday, and don’t be shy to get into the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day!


A Little Thoughtfulness Goes a Long Way for a Hockey Fan

I’ve got a quick story to tell you about some really nice, thoughtful customer service.
I was having lunch today at one of my favourite spots, The Pilot, in Toronto.  If you don’t know this place, it’s one of the oldest pubs in Toronto, opening in 1944, although in a different location.  It honours the WW2 air force pilots. 
I like it because this place always seems to have a great atmosphere to it, and the food is better than your average pub fare for sure, which is important to me.  BTW have you tried their fries?  Outstanding!
Anyway so I’m sitting in the upper dining area by myself, watching boxing on TV while I wait for my burger and fries.  (Don’t worry, I did have my beer already!)  After a quick TKO I think to myself  Is Canada playing today in the World Juniors (IIHF)?” 
I make a mental note to myself to ask to waitress when she comes back. 
I didn’t get the chance because my food was brought out to me by a guy from the kitchen.  So since I had already NLP-programmed myself to ask my question, I did, even though he was not my server.  He said he wasn’t sure if Team Canada was playing but he would check for me and if it was, change the channel on ‘my’ TV. 
I felt a little guilty after he left because I was sure he had other responsibilities to handle, and after all, he wasn’t my server.  I also told myself not to be upset if he indeed does not come back.
Imagine my pleasant surprise when he came back and informed me that Team Canada wasn’t playing until 8pm in the evening.  I thought that was great he came back, and thanked him.
Then 2 minutes later he returns and says “The other Team Canada is playing, the international league – do you want me to put that on the TV for ya?”  I understood he was referring to the Spengler Cup tourney and immediately said “Sure!”
So I had the pleasure of watching the first period of the game while I ate and relaxed.  I thought that was really considerate and cool of him to come back twice, and it showed empathy and a care for his work environment.  No wonder it is a really popular pub!  Little things make the difference, and little things go a long way in customer satisfaction and loyalty.  I will be going back, of course!
Last thought on this:  Go Team Canada Go!  Both of you!

Buy a Poppy, Wear a Poppy – Remember

wear a poppy over your heart!

You will see many people wearing a plastic Poppy (red flower) on their lapel (collar) these days, in Canada, the UK and maybe some parts of the U.S.A.

November 11th is Remembrance Day (Veteran’s Day in the US) and it is time to remember the fallen soldiers who have died in battle in our various wars in history.  The tradition started after the end of World War 1.

If you are not sure what wearing the poppy symbolizes, I can help.

1 – it is a symbol to remember the fallen soldiers who have fought for your/our country/freedom
2 – you wear it on your left lapel/collar, over your heart, but not on your right side
3 – it is not a symbol supporting war
4 – it is not a peace symbol
5 – it is not a fashion piece
6 – money raised goes to help veterans (returned soldiers) live a little more comfortably
7 – You do not have to be from Canada, UK or USA to wear one.  You can wear one to honour your own country’s losses in previous war.  It is about remembering soldiers, but not only the soldiers from Canada, UK and USA.
8 – It is a personal decision, but not a political or religious one.

I wear a poppy every year, without fail.  My grandfather, Harold Phillips, fought in WW II, and survived.  His brother was not so lucky.  I wear a poppy to honour them and their comrades.

More info can be found here on the Poppy and the history:  http://www.legion.ca/Poppy/campaign_e.cfm 

A famous poem was written by a Canadian Medic in WWI named John McCrae.  The poem is about poppies growing in Flanders Fields.  It is called ‘In Flanders Fields’.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Jack-O-Lantern

Halloween is almost upon us!

I would like to take this opportunity to remind all the ESL readers of this blog that even though we focus on speaking English better the blogs’ focus is also on learning and understanding culture.  Why?  Because as I have said many times as an ESL teacher, business English trainer and Communication Coach – English language cannot be used solely as a tool of grammar and spelling.  To truly ‘speak English better’ you must understand the history and culture of English-speaking lands, especially if you are living in one now, permanently or temporarily.

I love Halloween.  As kids we got to make our own costumes (with the help of Mom and Dad of course) and go out ‘trick or treating’ to get a bag full of candy!  What more could a North American kid want?  (All that sugar is soooo bad for you though….but we didn’t care!)

Now as adults we might dress up in costume and go to bars or house parties to drink instead, or we might stay at home and give out candy to little trick-or-treaters who visit our homes.  It’s still fun!  And we MUST watch scary horror movies as well!

In the olden days, the costumes were ‘evil’ creatures, like devils, goblins, vampires, ghosts, and any of the other Silver Screen Matinee classic monsters.  In the olden-olden days, when Halloween was first being ‘developed’ as a practice, the idea was to dress yourself up as an evil spirit in order to fool the real evil spirits around, so that they would leave you alone.  In fact, did you know that one of the reasons why we have the custom of covering our mouths while we yawn is not just out of politeness, but to avoid ‘spirits’ entering our bodies?  Yes, we humans were very superstitious many years ago!

Anyway, if you would like to learn more about the history of Halloween, including the name, the colours, the costumes, the religious influences and the jack-O-lantern (carved pumpkin) please do a little more reading at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween or start asking folks around you about their experience with Halloween.

Enjoy this rather odd but fun celebration, and do not get sick on too much candy! (or ‘sweets’ as my British friends would say!)

Happy Halloween!!!