Why Canadians are a Little Different
New to Canada? We’re kind of weird. There are some things about Canada that might throw you off a little, until you get used to it. Sorry.
- We apologize. A lot. Sorry. Canadians are generally known for their politeness, and one of the quirkier ways that shows is by our constant apologizing. “Sorry, but this is regular and I ordered diet.” “Sorry, but could I please get a straw?” Try bumping into someone on the street – they’ll probably apologize to you.
- “Eh” is a word. It generally follows a declarative statement, in the form of a confirmation. For example: “It sure is cold, eh?” This speech peculiarity is often mocked on American television, though they definitely exaggerate how often people say it.
- Poutine is very important to us. For whatever reason, this national dish of French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds is a staple in Canadian restaurants. There are entire restaurants devoted to variations on the theme. Some places even offer dessert poutine.
- We sell milk in bags. This is a regional oddity particular to eastern Canada, especially Ontario and Quebec. Along with offering cartons and jugs, grocery stores sell milk in plastic bags. These fit nicely into a purpose-made milk jug for easy pouring.
- The money is a little weird. Canadian bills are a rainbow of coloured plastic with see-through bars down one side and pictures of animals, hockey, trains, and the Queen plastered all over them. The coins are no less confusing – the $1 coin is known as a “loonie” because there is a loon on one side. The $2 coin is a “toonie” because, well, it’s worth two loonies. Also we don’t have pennies anymore, but purchase totals still come to uneven dollar amounts, so then there’s rounding involved. Just pay with Interac. (Oh wait, that’s a weird Canadian thing too…)
- Tim Hortons is omnipresent. Each morning, lines of cars will wait at the Tim Hortons drive-thru for their “double double” (that’s a coffee with two sugars and two creams) and a donut. Since there’s one on every corner that is open basically all the time, Tim’s also serves as the universal meeting place.
- We’re clinging to the letter U. Canadian spelling conforms to traditional British spelling, keeping the “u” in words like colour (not color), neighbour (not neighbor), and favourite (not favorite). We also pronounce the letter Z as “zed” not “zee.”
- Hockey is a pretty big deal. Canada claims hockey as a way of life. Canada is home to 6 NHL teams (including two of the original six teams) across the country, with fierce rivalries between them. It’s okay to not like hockey, but it’s not okay to like the Montreal Canadiens in a room full of Toronto Maple Leafs fans. Tread carefully.
- Sometimes it’s cold. But sometimes it’s not. And it really depends what part of Canada you call home. That said, Canadian winter, the more north you go, can be shockingly cold, particularly to new Canadians from warm climates. Learn what parkas and touques are, because you’re going to need them.
- Canada is one of the world’s most multicultural countries. Over 20% of our population wasn’t born in Canada – that’s more than any other developed country. Another 17% were born in Canada but their parents weren’t. Almost 20% of the population self-identifies as a visible minority, and Canadians represent more than 200 ethnic groups. This multiculturalism is what makes us so proud to call everyone who makes their life here – even the ones who don’t like poutine – Canadian.