Sorry: Canada’s Aloha


Sorry…what’s in a word? I use it at least five times a day. What is it that makes Canadians so apologetic, why are we constantly saying I’m sorry? Do we really feel that bad about ourselves? Is it about politeness? Or is it just a deep-seated national identity gone amok. I’ll break it down and fill in some blanks for you non-Canucks and maybe catch a few of you Canadians that just say it and don’t know why.

1. We are a Polite People: 

You’re walking down the street and you get in someone’s way, Sorry. You both go for the same spot in line at the same time, Sorry. You burp after a meal and get a few looks, Sorry. It’s just manners people, the manners you learned growing up. We Canadians are polite, it’s simple. It shows a respect for other human beings.

People think saying sorry is a weakness. I beg to differ. It takes a strong person to apologize. We don’t get walked on or shoved around, trust me, some of the toughest people I know are Canadians and they still say sorry if they spill your drink.

2. Used to Diffuse Conflict: 

Sometimes you’ll do something that will piss someone off or vice versa. Saying sorry is a splash of cold water on the situation. It lets both parties know that you are aware of what you did or what they did to you and you’re okay with it. I know it sounds complicated but it’s like saying “We cool?” Same effect. It’s the lubricant that keeps us civil and prevents us from escalating conflicts into guns and bullets.

3. Avatar/Aloha: 

Do you remember in Avatar when Neytiri says “I see you”? It’s kind of like that without the romantic involvement. I acknowledge you’re there and I did wrong “I see you”. I take accountability for my actions

It is also like aloha, which means hello and goodbye in Hawaiian. But sorry means neither hello nor goodbye, but something in between. It is a catch-all, you throw it out there so you can be done with the situation and be on your way. Or in passing as a casual response to knocking something over or interrupting. I’ve even said it to inanimate objects. I knocked over a salt shaker and apologized to it, patted it on its salt shaker head and felt better about myself for setting things right (don’t worry I threw some salt over my left shoulder or is it the right?!? Doh!). Sometimes we just say sorry to let ourselves feel better, it’s the “I’m such a nice guy” reaction, sitting there with your smug Canadian holier than thou smile.

4. Too Damn Cold: 

If you ever have been in the middle of a cold Canadian winter you know that the less time spent outside the better. So sometimes instead of sitting in the cold arguing, it’s a quick way to skirt the conflict, situation, conundrum and get inside where it’s warm. A self-preservation cheat if you will.

So next time you hear a Canadian say sorry, think of one of these reasons. We are a varied and interesting people with more to us than the word sorry, we also have hockey and maple syrup. We’re set.

But the last, and by far not the least important reason why we may say sorry is that we feel bad that you’re not a Canadian and for that I say, sorry.


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