#1: Canada is a HUGE country
If you’re planning to travel to Canada, you won’t be able to see the whole country in just a week or two — Canada is just too gigantic! After all, it’s the second largest country in the world, covering 9.9 million square kilometres of space. It is also surrounded by three oceans (the Atlantic, Pacific, and the Arctic) and contains the world’s longest coastline. To add, we have 10 provinces and 3 territories.
While it’s definitely possible to drive across the entire country, give yourself plenty of time to explore each region and province.
#2: Canada is a multicultural nation
We are a fairly new country in the broad scheme of things, and most of our citizens descended from immigrants
To give you some background, Canada was inhabited by aboriginal peoples until the British and French colonized the nation in the 17th century. Nowadays, almost 1 in 5 Canadians were born in another country, nearly 200 countries are represented in Canada, and 1 in 5 Canadians speak a language other than English or French as their first language.
That being said, it’s very common to walk around and hear many different languages being spoken, and in larger cities, you can find many neighbourhoods dedicated to different cultures, such as Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Portugal, Greektown, and so on. Many people have naturally immigrated to these pockets in the city, and you’ll find many shops, restaurants, and even cultural festivals celebrating their heritage there.
#3: Canada has two official languages
Our two official languages are English and French. About 67% of Canadians speak English and 21% speak French at home. In school, Canadians are required to take language classes for both English and French. I learned French from grade 4 up until my last year of high school (although we were only required to take it until grade 9).
Sadly, I was never close to being fluent and I mostly forget it all now — but I love languages (I’ve also taken classes for Japanese, Spanish, and even Latin!) so it would be great to pick it up again. Anyhow, many people in Canada speak multiple languages, especially if you were brought up learning two or more languages at home.
#4: Speaking “Canadian” English
Staying on the topic of languages, some people can tell right away that I’m Canadian from my “accent”. Of course, I don’t feel as though I have an accent, but the way that I pronounce words likely differs from some Americans. For the record, I don’t say “aboot”, I say “about”! With that said, the myth that Canadians say “eh” a lot is true. I don’t even notice that I say it until someone points it out. I say “eh” a lot at the end of a sentence, as an exclamation, or even to ask a question.
“The weather is really snowy outside, eh?”
“This maple syrup tastes delicious, eh.”
If you want to blend in with the locals when you visit Canada, start working the word “eh” into your vocabulary, and you’ll be fine. Also, if you visit Toronto, you have to say it properly. All of the locals don’t enunciate the second “T”. The “N” and the “T” blend together, as though you’re saying “Toronno”. It’s a dead giveaway that you’re not from around here when you say, “To-ron-to”.
P.S. There’s actually an entire article on Wikipedia devoted to Canadian English.
#5: The Great White North?
Even though we have vast areas of land in Canada, about three quarters of the population lives within 150km of the Canada/USA border in the southern regions of the country, and the major cities mostly all line this border. The weather is warmer in these areas too, which makes life easier in many ways.
#6: Canada has all four seasons
Canada has all four seasons. (I think there are some misconceptions that we all live in igloos and hang out with polar bears.) It can get quite cold, snowy, and icy during the winter, but it does get very hot in the summer. When people travel to Toronto in the middle of July, they’re often surprised at how hot and humid it can be.
But yes, Canada can ‘transform’ into a different place during every season of the year — meaning that you’ll have new experiences in the same places. We celebrate the winter with many activities like skiing and snowboarding. The spring, summer, and fall are ideal for hiking and exploring the outdoors. You can go to the beach in the summer, see many flowers in bloom during the spring, and watch the leaves change colour in the fall. And if you really want to live in an igloo, definitely check out the Ice Hotel in Quebec City during the winter!
#7: Canadians are polite
The rumours are true. For the most part, Canadians are very nice, friendly, helpful, and polite. We also say “sorry” a lot! Now, it doesn’t mean that we are apologizing for everything all of the time. It’s just most often a way of being polite.
With that said, we also like to swear, a lot. Not necessarily at anyone, but just in general.
#8: Canadians take pride in their nature
We love that Canada is such a beautiful country. We have mountains, lakes, forests, prairies, and tundra. It’s very common to go for hiking day trips close to home. We also do lots of camping in the summer.
In the Toronto area, we often say that we are planning a trip “up north” in the summer. This doesn’t mean that we are going to the extreme northern parts of Canada; we’re just travelling a couple of hours north to a lake or a cottage for a holiday. Many Canadians own or rent cottages during the summer to be closer to nature.
#9: Canadian food
We don’t really have very many national dishes. But sure, we love our maple syrup and pour it on whatever we can. Tim Horton’s coffee shops are on every street corner. Poutine comes close to being a national dish – a favourite in Quebec – French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds.
Though, I’m actually glad that we don’t have very many distinctly Canadian dishes because we are a multicultural nation. Especially in the bigger cities, we can dine at the restaurants of many countries from around the world. In many circumstances, immigrants from these countries brought their authentic recipes with them. Rather than going out for a “Canadian” meal, it’s a choice between dining at a restaurant that’s Thai, Italian, French, Japanese, Indian, Ethiopian, Mexican, Jamaican, and the list goes on.
#10: Canadians love freedom
I am so proud that Canada is such a free and accepting nation. I truly feel so fortunate that I was born here and I am free to live how I please and we are able to express our own opinions.
As a woman, I am treated as an equal. If we don’t like something, we can say it without feeling fearful. We celebrate our differences and take pride in our heritages. Did you know? Canada is one of the first countries to legalize same-sex marriage, and we have several annual pride parades in many cities.
Overall, Canadians may have their differences of opinion, but we are free to choose our own paths in life. We all find a way to live.