Research Blog 3: Train Talk

During the big snowstorm that hit Ontario and east a few weeks ago, I happened to be travelling by train between Toronto and Ottawa.  Standing in line before boarding and listening to the chatter among strangers, I could hear the default Canadian conversation starters – speculation about the weather, and the question “where you from?”

The second one caught my attention because I know that being asked that question often comes with the inference that you’ve somehow failed to appear as though you’re from “here.” Explaining yourself can get old pretty quickly, especially if you have the sense you’re always being singled out for the question.  Without that additional freight though, it’s a question that I think is often used in much the same way as talk about the weather.  It’s a way to make a connection.  As a nation of travellers and people “from-away,” most of us are from somewhere else, even if it’s just the other side of the province or territory, or the other end of the country.

I offer up this small observation to all those who get asked the question more often than they should.  In a strange way, perhaps it’s a badge of inclusion.  You’ve been asked the second most common Canadian question. A complaint about the weather can’t be far behind.

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