I’m looking at the 2014 Countries Rating Poll, a report from BBC and GlobeScan that measures how people from one country view the influence (mostly positive, mostly negative or “depends/neither-neutral/don’t know”) of other countries.
Canada and Japan are once again near the top – Canada coming second behind Germany (unchanged from the 2013 report) and Japan slipping one place to fifth. The interesting thing about the findings is that while Canadians have clear opinions about Japan (58% mainly positive, 30% mainly negative and 12% neutral or drawing a blank, only 45% of Japanese have a concrete opinion of Canada (44% mostly positive against 1% mostly negative), with 55% neutral or having no opinion. For the sake of comparison, 84% of South Koreans had a definite opinion about Canada.
Not that a neutral impression is something to be worried about – especially when the distinctly positive impression dwarfs the negative. I poked about a bit online to see if I could dig up more information and found two pieces of content that, if not exactly scientific in their methodology, are nevertheless intriguing.
The first is a video interview of 15 or so Japanese college students asking them their impressions of Canada. Most associated Canada with the usual suspects – maple syrup, the aurora, abundant nature, Niagara Falls and the cold. When asked to elaborate on their impressions – or to come up with a negative stereotype – several noted that Canada either didn’t have any or was simply not very eventful (relative to its southern neighbor). Those answers certainly jibe with the neutral score in the country rating poll.
The second is a post on Excite that poses the question, “Why aren’t Japanese interested in immigrating to Canada?” The post summarizes an entry by a Chinese blogger who quotes other Chinese musing about the comparative lack of Japanese expats in Canada. Oddly enough, given all of the tension between China and Japan, all of them seem to prefer Japan over Canada.
The first point made notes that while other Asian nations are represented in large numbers at Canadian universities, seeing a Japanese studying abroad in Canada is relatively rare.
A Chinese graduate student explains why they think this is the case: “That Japan is better than Canada is a given. Maybe Japan can’t compete in terms of the natural environment, but it’s much easier to find a job in Japan, and over there they don’t fire you for no reason. Japan also has more heart than Canada. Compared to Canadians, Japanese are kinder.”
Another Chinese who studied in Japan for seven years before moving to Canada had something similar to say: “Frankly, even though I came to Canada from Japan, I wasn’t able to settle in. That’s because Japanese are so much nicer than Canadians. In Japan, the bus driver says ‘Thank you!’ when you get off the bus, but in Canada you’re the one saying ‘Thank you’ to the bus driver.”
The final interviewee had this to say: “If your own country is considered better than Canada, you’re not going to move there. That’s just natural. If you can live comfortably at home why would you go someplace they don’t understand what you’re saying and have a horrible experience?”
Perhaps all three just weren’t cut out for a Western experience.
In the end, despite its strong academic environment, appealing natural environment and thriving high-tech and creative industries, for many Japanese thinking of moving abroad, Canada may never have the pull of a more adventurous destination such as the United States, Europe or China.
By D. Fath, Vice President, TOCS