Avoid the Oops when in…Canada

Canada flag

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.

Not much bothers Sophie although she finds it frustrating when people don't book ahead

Not much bothers Sophie, but she finds it somewhat frustrating when people don’t book ahead.

“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.

welcome flag

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.”

Philip says people need to know their own country's history and they should know something about the country in which they're traveling as well.

Philip says people should know a bit of history about the country in which they’re traveling as well.

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)] 

Caroline says racism and homophobia do not work in Canada.

Caroline says racism and homophobia do not work in Canada.

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.

©  AirIntake at en.wikipedia

© AirIntake at en.wikipedia

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.

© T-shirtKing.com via AP This T-shirt, decal, pin and patch are part of a "Go Canadian" travel set to convince people you are a Canadian traveler.

© T-shirtKing.com via AP This T-shirt, decal, pin and patch are part of a “Go Canadian” travel set to convince people you are a Canadian traveler.

14 thoughts on “Avoid the Oops when in…Canada

    • I just visited Toronto (where I got much of this information) and it was a great place to go. The people I met were incredibly helpful and they want tourists to enjoy Canada. I definitely want to go back and see more of the country (I’m from the US). Thanks so much for the comment!

  1. In fact, it is good to look Canadian when you travel in Europe. My friends in the US have asked me to send them badges to sew on their backpack before they go to Europe. Canadian are better liked there. 🙂

    • Very true. No one has problems with Canadians! It’s been easier for Americans now that Barrack Obama is in office. The Bush years were bleak when traveling. I always felt like I needed to apologize to everyone. Thanks for the comment! Cheers.

    • Thanks, Terri! I have to say that I’ve always sort of overlooked Canada. I was in Toronto for a conference, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to learn from Canadians about their culture and country. It turned out to be a fun learning experience.

      The Caesar thing is funny since I definitely said, when someone explained to me what it was, “Oh, just like a Bloody Mary!” I was set straight — in a very polite way, I might add. Cheers!

  2. Thanks for setting it straight, Steph. Our friend Matt (an American) had a terrible time in Australia. Everyone thought he was Canadian. Once he divulged his real identity, they would rebuff him. We kept telling him to pretend he was one of us. At the end of his exchange, he had a small car accident with an ornery neighbour. When she heard his accent, she asked where he was from. Having learned his lesson well, Matt answered: “Canada!”. She was almost cordial after that. Yes, saved by the maple leaf.

    • I feel terrible for Matt — was he in Oz during the Bush years? Sounds like his neighbors were pretty uptight to begin with. I had such a great experience. My family and I were always treated very well by Australians, and they knew we were American. In fact, many people were very curious about the US and said they liked my accent. We were basically superstars in Bali since, of course, Barrack Obama grew up part of his life in Indonesia. Definitely during the Bush years I can understand why the Maple Leaf would save the day.

      This post was a great opportunity for me to get to know Canadians and share their insights. I had such an awesome experience during my recent visit to Toronto. I really loved visiting Canada — although I have to say that Canadian customs officials won’t crack a smile no matter how polite and friendly you are to them. One Jamaican-Canadian cab driver told me they are “trained to be mean.”

      • Well, I don’t know about the Customs officials. My mom used to just say: “Let me do the talking.” whenever we crossed the border coming home from the US. She liked to think she could sail through it all since her dad had been a cop.

        As for my buddy Matt – don’t misunderstand. He wasn’t treated poorly everywhere he went. He had a great year in Oz. It was just those funny little things. And I was often asked if I was American, even when I wore my Canada t-shirt to school. I would sigh and say, No, I am Canadian. One student asked why I didn’t like Americans, since I didn’t like being confused with them. I tried to compare it to people confusing Aussies with Kiwis. I don’t think they got it.

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