Canadians are teaching Brits how to be polite

Jordana Divon
Contributing Writer
Daily Brew

Canadians are known for many things, but if there's one characteristic that tends to pop up more frequently than others it's our proclivity for being nice.

So while our city residents may disagree with that assessment (and the truth is far more nuanced than that simplistic view), most Canadians still consider politeness a serious business.

Perhaps that's why the Globe and Mail reports that members of the British service industry have been signing up in droves for a B.C. program that teaches everyone from hoteliers to restaurant managers how to treat customers like, well, Canadians.

And with London's Summer Games looming, thousands of Brits in search of some fine-tuning to their hospitality skills have signed up for the WorldHost Training Services program.

WorldHost was set up by the province in 1985 to offer customer service tips on tourism and hospitality for the EXPO '86.

In the 20-plus years since its inception, the program has been rebranded to embody an internationally recognized industry standard, instructing on fundamentals like attending to the needs of disabled clients, attentive listening and how to resolve customer ire in a constructive way.

Ricky Francis, who owns a Bed & Breakfast in Wales, told the Globe he's always been impressed by the service he receives when he visits the country.

"You do service so well in Canada," he said. "Americans are okay, but a tad insincere. People are arrogant in Britain — we think we do service well, but we really don't."

Francis' sentiments have been echoed by the mostly positive reception garnered by our own Olympic Games in 2010. Before Vancouver's hosting honours, 60,000 volunteers ran through the WorldHost program to what appeared to be good effect.

Global polls also buoy this notion. A 2010 international customer service survey ranked Canada first among 50 countries, while Maclean's ran a more comprehensive series about what the world thinks of us. And though our reputation has taken a recent hit thanks to the G20 and the Copenhagen climate change conference, we were still seen overall as great folks in a great country.

Though everyone will have a story about a horrible server in Montreal or some unspeakable rudeness they encountered on a Toronto street, it appears, at least by international reputation, that the good still far outweighs the bad.

So if you're lucky enough to be traveling around the U.K. this summer, be on the lookout for a little random homegrown hospitality in unexpected places.