Swearing is, By Far, The Biggest Etiquette Faux Pas in Canada

More than half of Canadians say they saw children misbehaving in public while their parents looked the other way.

Vancouver, BC [March 28, 2019] – Canadians report several different incidents involving improper manners over the past month, a new Research Co. poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample, 64% of Canadians say they witnessed someone swearing in public—a proportion that climbs to 71% in Alberta.

“It would seem that the language of Canadians is getting more colourful,” says Mario Canseco, President of Research Co. “More than two thirds of women and residents aged 55 and over report hearing someone swearing in public over the past month.”

More than half of Canadians (56%) say they witnessed children behaving badly in public while their parents looked the other way, while just under half saw someone littering or leaving trash behind in a public place (49%), someone interrupting or talking over them while they were speaking (48%) or someone cutting them off the road while they were driving (47%).

Other behaviours reported by Canadians include a person checking their phone or texting during a meeting or social event (45%, including 50% among those aged 55 and over), someone spitting in public (43%, including 50% in British Columbia) and experiencing rude customer service at a store (also 43%, including 47% in Ontario).

Fewer Canadians reported seeing chewing with their mouth open (39%, and 44% in Alberta), someone cutting the line at a store or counter (also 39%, and 47% in Atlantic Canada), someone using a cell phone during a performance or movie (34%, and 44% in Atlantic Canada), or someone making an obscene gesture (33%, including 43% in Alberta), 

The two lowest ranked items on the list of behaviours are someone delivering important information via text or e-mail instead of face-to-face (31%) and someone ignoring, or not responding to an invitation (19%).

There were two positive behaviours that were included in the survey. More than three-in-five Canadians (63%, and 79% in Atlantic Canada) witnessed someone holding the door open for a stranger. Just over one-in-four (27%, and 32% in British Columbia) saw someone giving up their seat for a person who was disabled, pregnant or elderly.


Results are based on an online study conducted from March 22 to March 24, 2019, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.1 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.

Find our full data set here and download the press release here. 

For more information on this poll, please contact:

Mario Canseco, President, Research Co.
[e] mario.canseco@researchco.ca