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Embarrassed at McDonald’s

Dear editor, I stopped by McDonald’s one morning on the way to work and went inside and bought a coffee. I felt shame and embarrassment.

Not for the shame some people try to give me when I order fast food, as I love McDonald’s and don’t care what they think. Everything in moderation; Big Macs are delightful.

But I felt shame and embarrassment to call myself a Newfoundlander and a Canadian.

We’ve all seen the news stories of foreign workers coming to the province. Many we see daily in the coffee shops and fast-food outlets of the service industry. What happened to me this morning has happened to me a couple times over the past year. I’ve heard similar stories from friends as well. Standing in line and watching the goings on around me, one of the employees was calling out orders. He had a thick Spanish accent.

As he was calling out orders I heard snickering around me. After placing my order, the manager called out another customer’s order.

The man came to the counter and was asked did he want something to go along with his order. The customer asked the man to repeat himself several times. When he left the counter his friend joined him and mimicked the manager’s accent under their breath. They looked at me and smiled as if to include me in their joke. I was gob-smacked.

Our culture is a mash of English, Irish, French and aboriginal cultures, with a splash of this and that from around the world. It has been that way since our ancestors came here centuries ago. People have been moving here from all around the world for centuries.

We are all new Canadians; some of us are just newer than others. We should be embracing the influx of people coming from other cultures and allow them to make this their home as our descendents were allowed before us.

We shouldn’t be mocking and mimicking something as small as accents. Newfoundlanders should be sympathetic to this base ignorance. I’ve been asked to talk “Newfie” several times when I’ve left the island.

After I’m long dead and gone and my descendants are roaming the earth, I would love to haunt them and hear traces of Spain, the Philippines or wherever in their local dialects, mixed with the Irish and English twangs we know today. I would love to see them sat down at Sunday dinner, and alongside the salt beef and pease pudding, a plate of kimchi or chicken biryani. We wouldn’t be losing our culture, but building it. Culture isn’t static; it should always be evolving.

I know this ignorance is only displayed and shared by a small number of people. But one person with this attitude is unacceptable and shameful.

We pride ourselves on being friendly and welcoming, but we need to stop giving lip service to this idea and actually practice it. It’s one thing to be friendly; it’s another to be welcoming. I’m a proud Newfoundlander and Canadian, but today I was embarrassed to call myself either.

 Greg Knott

                                                                                                            St. John’s

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