Monday, May 28, 2012

Canada vs America :)

Checking my blogger stats has been informative... one interesting point is that most of you peeps are not Canadian... (so sad!). :)

Weirdly, I grew up assuming that there was almost no difference between American culture and Canadian culture. Until I started bartending for mostly American tourists and until I spent a month in Florida during my 20th year (at which point I realized that after being asked if we get 'cable' in Canada, that Rick Mercer's 'Talking to Americans' on the CBC may actually have some relevance today... the best- at 5minutes his discussion with University students about how Canada leaves senior citizens on ice flows to perish. Oh and Saskatchewan is a province in Canada).

Despite our consumption of mostly American media, there are definite differences. Here are a few of my favs:

1. Ketchup chips: For some strange reason, ketchup flavoured chips are only available in Canada. I know- why?? I mean, they are fabulously delicious, Americans you have no idea what you are missing.

2. Taking off your shoes in the house. I know I've talked about this before, but after living in four different provinces across the country and having friends from all provinces and territories across Canada, 90% of Canadians consider it rude to leave your shoes on in the house. Taking your shoes off is cool and environmentally friendly. :)

3. We have a slightly softer accent. I know it's tricky for non North Americans to hear, but from a Canadian perspective I can pick out an American accent with about 90% accuracy. Seriously, even if you're from Chicago or Seattle. Canadians, for the most part, have a softer sounding accent. I think it's our stronger British attachment and influence.

4. University vs College. In Canada College= community college, University= university...

5. Celsius vs Fahrenheit. Canadians use Celsius... mostly because it's more accurate. :)

6. Smarties. I adore smarties, they are so much better than M&Ms. Yummy chocolate delicious goodness.

7. Equal marriage rights. Yep, I am so proud that my country supports same sex marriage. Woot!

8. More relaxed alcohol ages and regulations. I'm not sure why this really matters, but I've always found it puzzling how in the states drinking age is such a big deal. In all provinces (except Quebec  and Alberta where the legal drinking age is 18), your 19th birthday is a fun time.

9.  It's MUCH easier to figure out how much money you have in your wallet. From a quick look and colour count you can easily see if you have 5 or 20 dollars. Five bills in Canada means at least 25$ whereas in the states it could only be 5$... and you have to actually physically check each bill. Also, checking your coin section could reveal another 10$ in loonies and twonies. WOOT!

10. Canadians are more polite. Ok, although this isn't 100% true, I do think that the British influence has had an effect here. Also, I feel that this also applies a bit to Atlantic Canadians more so... that and the fact that it was commented on for the three years I bartended that I said "pardon me?" instead of "what?".

Incidentally, this is all on top of being a fan of our public health care system (although, there is room for improvements, I cannot imaging dealing with cancer drug costs without a health care insurance plan), culturally inclusive culture (relatively), dual official languages (woot le fran├žais!) and awesome beer.

Oh... and I found it really weird that while I was in New York everyone said "GOD bless you" when someone sneezed. It was so different I was consciously jolted every time I heard it. Ten years of living across Canada (and 20 years living in Atlantic Canada) and never once a person said the "God" in the "Bless you".

Of course, I'm well aware that there are definite fun parts of living in the USA, just like every other country :) Since I'm Canadian though, sometimes it's fun to share parts I enjoy about living here!

Canadians (or non-Canadians!), what do YOU find particular about Canadian culture? (and please don't say 'aboot'... no one actually talks that way). 

article copyright of EcoYogini at 


  1. As a Canadian who has also lived in Indiana and Britain, I love your list. As a resident of Alberta, I do feel the need to point out the fact that Quebec is not the only place where folks have fun on their 18th birthdays. :)

  2. @Anonymous: LOL thank you! I asked Andrew if he remembered that there was another province where 18yrs was the legal age... he didn't think so but I KNEW there was :)

    I'm glad you like my list :)

  3. It's funny how simple courtesy tags Canadians. In Florida at Christmas time, my son said excuse me to a woman as he passed her--her immediate response-"Y'all must be Canadian!". Incredible that a teenager dressed in American skateboard clothing, looking exactly like all the other teens we saw could be picked out because he has manners.

    I'm proud to be Canadian, and not only because we are such a polite people! Nice list :)

  4. Interesting. Aussies share British heritage, as well as some similarities with both Canadians and Americans.

    Shoes off in the house is not common in Australia but it is in my house!

    We call it University, too.

    Fahrenheit went out of use here when I was a kid.

    We have smarties, but since I don't eat chocolate anymore, no dice. I liked M&Ms though, too.

    Sadly, we don't have equal marriage rights yet! We're working on it though...

    We have colourful money as well. And we got rid of 1 & 2 cent pieces several years ago. Now everything is rounded up or down to 5c increments.

    Aussies probably wouldn't say "pardon me" but we definitely go with the "bless you" instead of the "god bless you"!

  5. @Nicole: yep... honestly I feel that in Montreal and Toronto perhaps people are less likely to be polite, but I still got doors held open for me in such big cities... Weirdly, 'y'all' is my FAVOURITE American thing. It is SO useful and I wish it was socially appropriate to use that in Canada :)

    @svasti- I was thinking about you while I wrote this actually! re: shared british heritage. Canada just decided to abolish the penny, so everything will be rounded off to nickels too!
    I think the US is one of the last countries to use Farhenheit- although canada isn't perfect with the metric system (I should say 'ENGLISH' Canada, French Canada uses the metric system much more). A mixture of both are still used...

  6. Actually Canadians do pronounce the "a" and "ou" vowels a bit differently than Americans but it depends on age and region as to whether it's really noticeable or not.

    When I moved up from the States to Alberta, my husband told me that I'd not really notice a difference, but I was (still am sometimes even after five years) very aware that I live in a "foreign" country.

    It's so much more diverse compared to the Midwest where I lived. So many more languages spoken. The education system is different (I was a teacher in the States) and people where are much more likely to practice a holistic approach to health and medicine.

    Religion is not in the forefront at all. You'd never get a sense of someone's beliefs unless you asked, which is not true of the US where most people will tell you even when you'd rather not know.

    Politics here is far less contentious and there is much more choice.Strategic voting (casting a ballot for the lesser evil) is actually frowned upon here.

    There is a better work/life balance and not the "everything must be open 24/7" attitude that prevails down south. I've had family and friends come up and lament the fact that stores and malls can't be accessed near constantly.

    Oh, and you forgot Kinder Eggs on your list. They are illegal in the States. You can't buy them anywhere and it's actually illegal to bring them into the country, which I didn't know and have brought them for friend's kids and nephews but if you are found with them, US Customs/Border Patrol will take them.

  7. @Annie: yep- i agree, there is an accent difference, which would vary depending on what part of Canada you're from (if you ever visit the Atlantic provinces- it will be a definite change from Alberta!). We just don't say the stereotypical 'Bob Mackenzie'- aboot eh! accent...

    I would say a lot of your observations might be specific to Alberta as well. :) I know there was some definite strategic voting in the latest Albertan election (to keep the Wild Rose party out), but yes overall strategic voting isn't really encouraged. Maybe because we don't vote directly for our Prime Minister, but for parties provincially and federally.

    Interestingly, Sunday shopping has only recently been made legal in Nova Scotia within the past ten years... (to my relief, honestly sometimes Sunday is the only time you can go shopping!).

    Oh yeah! I just found out about Kinder Eggs being illegal in the states... kinda silly if you ask me...

  8. (also- Alberta is a beautiful province. I got to visit Edmonton and Jasper while we were living in BC. And there are so many maritimers who live in Alberta. Mountains, lakes and parks!)

  9. You are so wrong about smarties vs m&ms, but the ketchup chips sound interesting. Fun list. My Canadian knowledge is expanded.

  10. I actually have to go to a health food store or upscale grocery to get catsup/ketchup flavored potato sticks, here in the East Coast of the U.S. Nothing wrong with the flavor. Seems it's not a (relatively nearby) New England-influenced popular presence.

    Canadian cuisine is more prominent in places like theme parks here in the United States. Otherwise, American and Continental prevail among us middlebrow ...

    Smarties had been very popular in the 1960s and 1970s here.

    And I was eating plenty of candy in 1960. I'm that old.

  11. @Anonymous: ketchup flavoured sticks? interesting!

    I gotta say, I've had 'Canadian cuisine' at Disney World... and it was laughable.. sadly, my rule of thumb is that theme parks aren't really representative of that country's cuisine (for example, I'm fairly certain 'Southern US' cuisine at a theme park in Toronto wouldn't really be authentic :) ).

    But then- that just means that you should come up to Atlantic Canada and have some yummy local cuisine! :)

  12. I am one of your U.S. readers and a BIG fan of Canada. But just for fun (I am no flag-waving singer of God Bless America, a song I truly detest), I took a stab at your ten things:

    1. Ketchup chips are available in the U.S. I’ve seen them. The problem is that there are vast regional differences in cuisine across the country (much as there probably are across different provinces in Canada). For example, you are much more likely to find pork rinds in your average convenience store south of the “border” than north of it.
    2. This one may not be regional but maybe just the people you have met. I was raised to remove my shoes when entering the house. Coincidentally, so was my husband. Surprise, we have the same rule in our house. Sadly, some of our guests think we are rude to ask them to remove their shoes.
    3. Accents, like foods, vary a LOT. The Philadelphia accent would probably sound to you like fingernails being dragged across a blackboard (I’m assuming there are still a few blackboards around).
    4. This one I am not sure how to address. Many of our educational institutions that were once known as “colleges” have become “universities” – something to do with the number of separate departments or some such nonsense. So we mostly grew up with “colleges”, and a lot of them. My own school was called an “institute” when I attended, and it is now a university. So maybe we are so used to saying “college” because that’s what we had.
    5. I gotta agree with you on Celsius. We tried to change to metric system back when I was a kid, but we could not manage it. I will reserve further comment on why.
    6. I believe we do have Smartees – but I can’t say for sure. I know I’ve seen them somewhere. And I don’t’ like M&Ms so I can’t say whether I’d prefer Smartees. But we also have more natural, similar candies, without HFCS and artificial coloring. As I’m sure you do too.
    7. Kudos to Canada for this one. For us, where states’ rights are fairly strong, this goes state-by-state. Maybe someday we will have such rights recognized nationally but it is going to take some smart voting.
    8. I find the existence of any drinking age to be absurd. We’ve definitely regressed on this one. During the Vietnam war era, we managed to convince the Powers that someone old enough to die for a stupid cause was old enough to have a drink and cast a vote. We kept the latter but lost on the former. I think that if being “old enough” to drink weren’t such a bloody big deal, there would be less youthful binge drinking. But that’s just an opinion, no data.
    9. This one I disagree with. We have dollar coins and I, like most people I know, hate them. Maybe if they were REALLY different from the 25-cent piece, it would make sense. But I don’t understand your point about the “five bills”.
    10. Absolutely true.
    But the thing I envy most, aside from the cooler climate, is the health care. We are totally uncivilized in that respect.

  13. @Anonymous: fun!!
    Strangely I was under the impression that ketchup chips were difficult or impossible to find in the states- I'm happy for you that I'm mistaken! (I LOVE them :)).
    ah yes- this makes sense. I guess the difference in Canada (from living across the country) it's more a exception if some people leave their shoes on instead of regional. Too bad they think you're being rude if you don't want people bringing dirt all over your house!
    I was just listening to a new england accent the other day. The interesting thing about Canada is that we get SO much media from the US that I'm fairly familiar with a LOT of different American accents (which i find really neat as an SLP).
    Colleges- that would make complete sense- thank you! :)
    Celsius- weirdly Canada is also just halfway to the metric system. We still use pounds and miles (and kilometers and kilograms) litres and ounces... it's kinda a mix. which is weird.
    I think smarties in the states are another kind of candies. I think they're what we call 'rockets'- but someone else said that you can get smarties- so it may be like ketchup chips :)

    re: dollar coin. Honestly, you adjust to having a loonie (which is gold and quite a bit larger than a quarter) and twonie (which is silver around the edge and gold in the middle and still larger than the loonie).
    What I don't like is how heavy my purse can get... :S

    ah healthcare. Actually, I feel that Canada is sliding towards a two tiered system- although I don't worry about anything done IN hospital, if ever there are health concerns that require medications and prescriptions our medicare systems covers a minimal amount.

    My uncle died a lot sooner than he had to from cancer because he didn't have insurance and Nova Scotia medicare did NOT cover life-prolonging medications that were prescribed. It's scary honestly.

    Thanks for sharing! :)

  14. Farehnheit is more accurate than Celsius. only 100 divisions between freezing and boiling in C and 180 in F.

    Celsius is more convenient because of the nice 0 and 100 for freezing and boiling.

  15. After you post about the Ketchup chips only being sold in Canada...I bought a bag and made Diego's parents try them....they were not disappointed! :)

    Potential date...Saturday! :)

  16. Great post! I'm from Saskatchewan and went to university in the states so I've spent a lot of time contemplating differences


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