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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How you know I’m still Canadian after all these (almost 4) years…

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How do I know I’m still Canadian, even after almost 4 years in Israel?

Well, for one thing, the big Canadian flag in my front window – genuine, no doubt made in China, purchased last week at Dollarama.  (Full disclosure: I bought the JUMBO size, not SUPER JUMBO, so it’s smaller than the Israeli flag we just took down after Yom Yerushalayim…)

(This is my actual flag pictured above – not some cheesy stock photo.  You can tell it’s my flag because it’s held up with a clothespin – see top-left of photo.)

For another thing, the small Canadian flag in one of the front planters.

For a third thing, we’re flying to Canada at some unspecified point this summer, iy”h.  (Or, as everyone says here, be”h.)

For a fourth thing… well, we just are.  It’s just our culture.

In what way?  Well, here are two examples.

Canadian in the mall

Last summer (or maybe the summer before), we went out back-to-school backpack shopping at the mall.  I hate shopping at malls in Israel.  I’ve said before that I adore shopping online in Israel, and that’s because you don’t have the pressure from pushy salespeople. 

Whereas in a store, everywhere you turn, it seems like you’re tripping over someone desperate to help you (unless you NEED help, in which case, there’s nobody in sight).

I know there are pushy salespeople everywhere, even in Canada.  But seriously – not like this.  They’re like gnats.

The worst – or at least, it felt like the worst at the time – was last year at back-to-school time, when we were shopping for school backpacks for the kids.  These are a Major Purchase and must be given Weighty Consideration.  It’s not a hasty thing, choosing a backpack – at least, not for us, it isn’t.

And the salespeople were all over us, buzz buzz buzz around our heads and every other part of us they could find.  No doubt they were on some kind of commission arrangement that requires them to personally hand us over to the cashier so they can scrape through the day with a little more than minimum wage.

Anyway, finally, after the third or fourth one attacked us to find out if she could help with anything, I said, “Please don’t ask any more.  We’re not used to it.  It’s not in our culture.” (זה לא בתרבות שלנו/zeh lo be’tarbut shelanu)

She stopped, looked thoughtful, and said, “Where are you from?”

“Canada.”

And… she nodded.  She got a very understanding look and then – wonder of wonders – left us blissfully alone until we were ready to pay for our purchases.  At which point, I went to the cashier myself and pointed out which salesperson had helped us – by NOT helping!

Canadian freelancer in Israel

The other time this line has worked – many times so far, actually! – is when I’m negotiating timing and money with potential new clients. 

Now, the Israeli response, whenever you hear a number being offered, is to automatically try to make the offer “better.”  Either by tightening the timing or lowering the price, or in some other way.  More שווה/shavei = worthwhile or משתלם/mishtalem = profitable.

It doesn’t fly with me.

When I estimate a job for a client, my estimate is based on word count, it’s based on how much work is involved, it’s based on how long the thing will take.  I calculate the work honestly, based on experience.  I pick numbers that make the work worth my while, and I am very proud of the fact that in 20 years of freelancing, I have NEVER missed a deadline.  Certainly not in the 3 years that I’ve been at it full-time. 

My prices are reasonable.  My timing is perfect – I’m not the fastest, but I am, as far as I’m concerned, reliable and honest about how long a job will take.

All of which is to say – don’t try to dicker.

  • DON’T tell me we can compromise and have me do more work for the same price…
  • DON’T ask me to circumvent my own best guess and deliver the work earlier…
  • DON’T suggest that I bring the price down because you’ll be sending lots of work my way (which, by the way, is a hilarious line, if you think about it – if you’re paying me less, why would I want MORE of your business???).

Israelis are shocked when they hear this.  Literally shocked.

But you know what I tell them that convinces them every time?  “I know everybody does it here – but I guess I’m still just a little Canadian.”

It’s not in my culture.  Zeh lo be’tarbut sheli.  זה לא בתרבות שלי.

Yup, I’m still Canadian, and proud of it.  Canadians don’t always take time to brag about just being Canadian, about their shared Canadian culture.  But in honour (yes, honour – with an o and a u and take THAT, world!) of her 150th birthday coming up next week… I’ll sing it loud, I’ll sing it proud:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Okay, actually, I’m singing it to the tune of Hatikvah.  And yes, it really does work, if you force it a bit (and frankly, Hatikvah is already a little forced).  There’s a lesson in that somewhere, maybe a metaphor for something.  Singing the anthem, switching the tune.

Whatever it may be, happy Canada Day from the TRUE NORTH of Haifa, Israel!!!


Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


2 comments:

  1. There are certain things ingrained in some of us. I'm in Israel from NY almost 47 years (Sept 5, 1970) and like my awful accent in Hebrew, some things can't be changed. That makes it Israel, like the Ketoret which had all different "herbs" to make it holy.

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  2. Fully understand your position. This Kiwi is working on making Aliyah from the USA late this year and a New Zealand flag will be in our lift.

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