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.
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.
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.
My Ten Completely Anecdotal Observations About Canada and Canadians:
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Canadian mayors get to wear cool bling and at least one, may
or may nothave 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…..no 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.
- 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.
- Canadians are very fond of moose.
9. Canadians are
ridiculouslyextremely fond of ice hockey.
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.
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.)