It must really annoy Canadians when visitors say, “So, you’re Canadian, EH?” And if the eeehhhhh is drawn out, it definitely must send them over the edge.
“Actually, I sometimes up my “Ehs” to give people the Canadian experience,” says Sophie Gotschal who works the front desk at Hostelling International (HI) Toronto.
It turns out Canadians are quite aware that they say “eh” and that including this interjection in their casual conversation is part of their identity. Generally, Canadians seem to be a pretty polite and tolerant lot, but there are a few things you don’t want to do while visiting Canada.
Avoid: Being intolerant.
Canada is a multicultural, progressive country. In fact, according to the government agency, Citizen Immigration Canada, multiculturalism is the law of the land:
“In 1971, Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy. By so doing, Canada affirmed the value and dignity of all Canadian citizens regardless of their racial or ethnic origins, their language, or their religious affiliation.
The 1971 Multiculturalism Policy of Canada also confirmed the rights of Aboriginal peoples and the status of Canada’s two official languages.”
Avoid: Asking if Canadians live in igloos.
While a domed ice block house is a lasting image that many people associate with Canada, igloos, which were built primarily by indigenous people in Arctic areas and Greenland, haven’t been used as permanent homes for many years.
“We don’t live in igloos,” says Philip Frauts, a Toronto tattoo artist. He also advises tourists to watch it when consuming alcoholic beverages. “The beer here is very strong.”
Avoid: Not knowing who the prime minister is.
Teacher Nadia Greco says, “Don’t ask who our prime minister is.” (Especially if you are an American) “Come on. We’re neighbors,” she adds. “We know everything about Obama.” [Hint: The prime minister is Stephen Harper (2013)]
Avoid: Not tipping.
Tipping is customary in Canada when you eat in a restaurant, ride in a taxi, stay in a hotel or get your hair cut.
Caroline Karam, a cook and server at the The Cavern Cafe in Toronto, says, “Some [tourists] don’t tip. It sucks because they don’t even know [to tip],” She adds, “They don’t realize that we live off of tips.”
Avoid: Not trying French in Quebec and expecting French Canadians to speak English.
French is the official language in Quebec, but many residents are bilingual — especially in Montréal. In fact, across Canada, signs are in English and French. While French Canadians often will understand and speak English, they appreciate it when you attempt French in their province. After all, it is their language. Additionally, when you get into less populated areas of Quebec, English may not be spoken much at all.
Avoid: Comparing the Caesar to a Bloody Mary.
The Caesar is a classic Canadian cocktail. It was created by Walter Chell, a restaurant manager of the Calgary Inn in 1969. The drink includes vodka, Clamato juice (tomato and clam juices) hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Presented on ice in a celery salt-rimmed glass, the Caesar gets the final touch of a celery stalk and a lime garnish.
“Do not call a Caesar a Bloody Mary,” says Geoff Mathews who, along with his wife Katie, lives in Vancouver. Katie wrote a post about the Caesar, their favorite drink, for their travel blog Wander Tooth.
Avoid: Calling a Canadian an American.
This will make many Canadians bristle. Always assume when you are in Canada, you are talking to Canadians, which really, when in their country, you probably are. Generally, speaking, too, no one really thinks it’s an insult to be mistaken for a Canadian.