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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: Newcomer learns a lesson in Canadian etiquette

It’s common among South Asians to pinch babies. As this may sound positively strange to non-South Asians reading this, I rush to explain that we do this with all the love and affection in our hearts.

There’s just something about chubby cheeks that makes us say, “Shonu-monu” or use some similar nonsensical (and usually rhyming!) words and pinch.
We pat babies’ bottoms much the same way.

We don’t pinch or pat hard, no babies are harmed – they seem to sense the affection in the gesture. 

I guess the broad smiles with which a pinch is delivered has something to do with it.

Anyway, it is something we do – think of it as a South Asian term of endearment.

I never stopped to think how peculiar this may look to people not actually used to the practice until we moved to Canada.

I met Heather while dropping my daughter off to school.

She was there, dropping her twins with the most adorable baby in a stroller.

We introduced ourselves and got talking and walked part of the way home together.

As she was leaving, I couldn’t resist. Leaning over, I pinched the little one’s cheek and made a kissing sound.

Heather may have walked away a little faster, but I didn’t think anything of it.

As we got to know each other better, we’d meet at the pool on weekends and sit and chat while our kids had their swimming lessons.

One day, she was there before me, holding her baby daughter in her arms. I walked up and patted the child on her bottom and greeted Heather enthusiastically.

She took a small step back and said, “Anita likes to pat you on the bumsie wumsie”.

I sensed something was not quite right. Though I couldn’t put my finger on it, it was obvious I had crossed some line.

Over the next few months, I was careful not to pinch or pat the kids. Heather’s as well as anyone else’s!

Heather and I went on to become good friends and baby-sat for each other often. But only after she confessed to being a little concerned about me at first and I explained that we are like that only!

– Anita Sharma

What’s your story? Every newcomer, no matter how savvy or where he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada. Do you want to share your story? E-mail it to us at canadaboundimmigrant@rogers.com.

Posted: Mar 30, 2015

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