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Ten Observations About Canada and Canadians

Ten Things Americans Need to Know About Canada

Having Canada as our northern neighbor feels like having a 3,000+ mile, warm, fuzzy blanket draped over the United States.  I mean, sometimes it feels like having a an ice pack, but I’m speaking metaphorically. We share the longest undefended border in the world with our neighbors to the north. Here are ten things I think Americans need to know before planning a trip to Canada.What Americans need to know about Canada

All my visits to Canada have been positive experiences and the people have been lovely, so here are my top ten unscientific observations about Canada and Canadians.

Cannons outside the Hotel Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada

The U.S.-Canadian border wasn’t always so undefended. During what Americans call the War of 1812, Canadians pointed a bunch of cannons south because they were concerned the pesky Americans might decide to invade Canada, then a British colony. These are on display outside the Hotel Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City.

In June of 2013, I went on a 7 day trip to Ontario, Canada that started with a visit to Toronto for my first ever travel blogger conference; followed by my first ever two night press trip to Kingston, Ontario; followed by a visit to the Canadian capital, Ottawa, for my first ever overnight stay with a travel blogger I met on-line.

I admit my plan to spend the night with a travel blogger I met on-line seemed a little outrageous in retrospect. I didn’t tell my mother and it produced at least a raised eyebrow from my husband, Mr. Excitement.

The travel blogger is a 3.5 pound long haired chihuahua named Montecristo. His people are nice too. Even though we first met on line, fortunately, they weren’t ax murderers.  In fact, we became friends IRL (in real life) and in August of 2017, Mr. Excitement and I attended their wedding in Ottawa.

Alexander Bridge and Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

Montecristo and his muse, Sonja Lyshinski on the Alexander Bridge over the Ottawa River with Parliament Hill behind them.

My Ten Completely Anecdotal Observations About Canada and Canadians:

  1. Canadians really do say “oot”, and “aboot” (or maybe it’s “oat” and “aboat”) and follow rhetorical questions with “eh?”. However, to a person, they are surprised when you tell them you can identify them as Canadian from their speech. Canadians are somewhat sensitive about being mistaken for Americans (um, United Statesers) abroad. When I’m traveling internationally, I never ask someone if they’re from the United States until I hear them say “oot” or “aboot”. This sometimes requires asking them strange questions like, “Do you go on picnics inside or outside? During the Obama administration, one could also rely on the maple leaf patches Canadians sew onto their backpacks to differentiate them from Americans. However, during the G. W. Bush administration, too many U.S. citizens also sported maple leafs patches when traveling abroad to make this a reliable test. With the election of Donald Trump, history is repeating itself in that regard. So, you just have to depend on the “oot” or “aboot” test, eh?
  2. Consistent with their international reputation for niceness, Canadian drivers stop for pedestrians in cross-walks (zebra crossings) — even in a big city like Toronto. However, a tour guide in Quebec City warned me that the crosswalks there were treated as “merely suggestions” by motorists, so maybe it’s still safest to look both ways before stepping off the curb.
  3. Canada has really cool money that feels like plastic and looks like it would be really hard to counterfeit. Canadian $20 bills have see through windows, and holograms of the Queen — of England. They have also jettisoned the penny as legal tender, realizing it makes no sense to have a coin that costs more to manufacture than it is worth. (Are you listening U.S. Treasury?) However, they still have prices like “17 cents”, rounding up and down to the nearest 5 cents.
    Canadian money

    Canadian money has see through windows and holograms. I’ve written over it to discourage potential counterfeiters — not that I think anyone reading this would be a counterfeiter, eh?

    What Americans need to know about Canada

  4. Canada has two seasons — winter and construction. Sometimes they export some of their winter south of the border via the dreaded “polar vortex”. Then they make snide comments on Facebook when their U.S. Facebook friends complain how cold it is — because it’s pretty much always colder in most of Canada.

    Canadian construction sign

    In Canada, summer construction projects are omnipresent.

  5. When Canadians refer to “south of the border”, they mean the U.S. of A., but they are not looking to build a wall. They are not afraid that having two national languages will somehow dilute their Canadian-ess and many of them are conversant in at least English and French. Many Canadians actually speak three languages given that more than 50% of Toronto residents were not born in Canada. P.S.: Do not tell any of our Canadian neighbours that they spell incorrectly. As nice and polite as they are generally, they might use off colour language to point out that pretty much the rest of the English speaking world spells the way they do. The spelling outlier is the US of A.
  6. Canadian mayors get to wear cool bling and at least one, may or may not have used crack cocaine. On November 5, 2013 Toronto Mayor Rob Ford finally admitted he used crack cocaine while in office. In his defense, he claimed he did so in a drunken stupor. (Hey, man, in that case… problem.) While Mayor Rob Ford is resting in peace, the province of Ontario elected his brother, Doug Ford, as the provincial premier (governor). Several Canadians have described Doug Ford as the Canadian Donald Trump. No comment.

    Toronto Mayor Rob Ford accused crack cocaine, among other unbecoming things.

    Now deceased Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, decked out in his Chain of Office.
  7. Canadians have a British Royal Governor General and the British monarch is the titular head of the Canada’s constitutional monarchy, but they don’t drive on the “wrong” side.
  8. Canadians are very fond of moose.
Moose at Toronto Convention Centre

Moose statue at the Metro Convention Centre South, Toronto, Canada, next to the 5 feet, 3.5 inches tall author (if she stands up straight) for context.

 9. Canadians are ridiculously extremely fond of ice hockey.

Canadian hockey player statue Jacques Cartier Park, Gatineau, Canada

A Canadian hockey player statue at the entrance to Jacques Cartier Park, Gatineau, Canada

10. Much as many Americans seem to have a strong attachment to guns, Canadians have a “strong emotional attachment” to all things maple. Apparently, many share an “olfactory delusion” that their $100 bills smell like maple.

Canadian maple leaf

Canadians are into maple leaves and all things maple.

Canada is well worth visiting, especially at the moment when the Canadian dollar is weak against the US dollar. (This, of course, is subject to change, so make sure to look up the conversion rate before you plan your trip.)

Have you ever visited Canada? What were your impressions? If you are, in fact, Canadian, what do you think of my observations? What would you add or subtract?  

Suzanne Fluhr, Travel Editor

Suzanne Fluhr, Midlife Boulevard's travel editor, is a recovering Philadelphia lawyer, empty nester, wanderer, dog person and Zentangle® enthusiast. She also writes about Baby Boomer travels for the body and mind on her personal blog, Boomeresque. Instagram: Boomeresque2

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Jill Browne

Wednesday 27th of June 2018

Lovely, Suzanne. Glad you enjoyed your time here. Please come back anytime. We need to continue the indoctrination. ;-)

Suzanne Fluhr, Travel Editor

Thursday 28th of June 2018

Thank you. I'll be back. Just please don't try to feed me poutine!

Carole Barrette

Wednesday 27th of June 2018

We do have two seasons and you described them well! I also like the "United Statesiers" term you used as, if I remember well, America is a CONTINENT, not limited to the US...South and Central America are also part of our continent...Don't let 45 know ABOOT this...his mind might explode....

As far as I am concerned I'd rather have this "Maple" obsession than share yours...and will always be happy to welcome such a nice person in our "fuzzy blanket"

Great article Suzanne!


Wednesday 27th of June 2018

As always, your country reviews are refreshing and enticing. I’ve been to Toronto but would like to do some more exploring. I’ve always found the money from other countries somewhat like works of art. Canada’s is quite lovely. Maybe the US of A should take a hint. I’m curious. Are Canadians as superstitious/religious about moose as are Asian Indians about cows?

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