Happy Canada Day! On our nation’s birthday**, I thought it would be fun to look at a few stereotypes about Canadians.
Where we live
We live in igloos
It takes skill to build an igloo, especially if you don’t want the roof to collapse. It also takes snow, which we don’t have year-round. Inuit people in Canada’s north will sometimes build igloos on hunting expedition, but that’s pretty much the extent of the igloo-ing.
I must know your cousin’s former neighbour who lives in Toronto
I’ve actually encountered this when I’ve travelled. Lots of people seem to have relatives in Toronto or Montreal, and they think there’s a very good chance that I know them. Vancouver is 3364 km (2090 mi) from Toronto as the Canada goose flies. That’s a pretty big barrier.
How we talk
One of my favourite Canadian slang terms is “hoser”, meaning an unsophisticated person.
We say “aboot” instead of “about”
I don’t know why this stereotype exists, because I’ve never heard a single Canadian say aboot.
Every sentence ends with “eh?”
Use of “eh” for emphasis at the end of pretty much any sentence is regional, at least to some extent. In my neck of the woods, it’s not common, and I very rarely say it. I think it’s more of a rural thing than an urban thing.
We all speak French.
Most of us learn French in school, but very few people retain anything beyond bonjour, oui, non, or merci. We’ve got one primarily French-speaking province, Québec (which also seems to be our most racist province) and one bilingual province (New Brunswick).
Pass me the Kokanee
We’ve got a few alcohol-related terms. A two-four is a 24-pack of beer, a two-six is a 26-ounce bottle of hard liquor, and a mickey is a 13-ounce bottle of hard liquor.
Molson Canadian and Kokanee are your basic Canadian beers. Then you’ve got Unibroue, a Québec micro-brewery that makes high alcohol content beers like Maudite and La Fin due Monde.
We say “sorry” a lot
This is very true. If you bump into someone they will almost certainly apologize to you. Sorry is less an actual apology and more polite social lubricant.
There are assholes in Canada just like anywhere else, but on average we’re pretty polite. This is one of the main reasons Canadian travellers tend to have a much better reputation internationally than American travellers do.
And speaking of social lubricant, I found this tweet from a few years ago that illustrates this rather nicely. It may not be said by every Canadian, in every single grocery store, but it comes close.
We are mostly metric, except when it comes to people’s height and weight, and then we rock it old school with the Imperial system. I have no idea what 70ºF is, but I also haven’t a clue how many kilos I weigh.
Some Canadians buy milk in bags. Where I am, this hasn’t been around since I was a kid, but it’s still going strong in some parts of eastern Canada. Oh, and you just might choose homo milk, which is our term for whole milk, not milk with a sexual preference.
Tim Hortons is a Canadian institution best known for doughnuts and coffee. There was no Timmy’s in the little town where I grew up, so it wasn’t until I was older that I learned that a “double double” was the classic Canadian order of a coffee with two creamers and two sugar. There’s also a brilliant creation known as the Timbit – these are scrumptious doughnut holes.
We all love hockey
Hockey is Canada’s favourite sport, and with that comes hockey hair (mullets gone wild!) and puck bunnies (the hockey equivalent of groupies). I was a wannabe puck bunny as a teenager – not actually cool enough to hook up with a hockey player, but would have been ready and willing should the opportunity have spontaneously arisen.
What do we wear?
The Canadian tuxedo is a not-so-stylin’ outfit involving denim both top and bottom. When I was working at a community mental health team there was a dude who worked at a nearby shelter who always rocked the Canadian tuxedo. It was all very unattractive, but also the source of much curiosity. Did he wear denim underwear? Was he going to wear denim at his wedding? And who agrees to marry someone who lives in a Canadian tuxedo?
Canadians get creative when talking about men’s underwear. The classic tighty whities may be referred to as gotch, ginch, or gonch, with the preferred term varying regionally. My Dad grew up in a gotch area of the country, so that was the term used in our family home. Personally, I think it sounds gross, but my perception may be tainted by the fact that Dad always did like to wander around in his underwear (shudder).
We have sex in canoes
Very few people are talented enough to pull this off. I most certainly am not, and if I tried, I suspect it would result in me drowning in a lake. If you wish to know how to go about it, the New York Times gets the scoop from a Canadian expert.
We all have a polar bear/beaver/moose in the backyard.
Deer, quite possible. Coyote, sure. Bear, maybe. Polar bears don’t make it down south, and beavers aren’t interested in anyone’s backyard unless they’re on the hunt for dam-building materials. A moose is more of a possibility, but not a desirable one. According to Wikipedia, “Males (or “bulls”) normally weigh from 380 to 700 kg (838 to 1,543 lb) and females (or “cows”) typically weigh 200 to 490 kg (441 to 1,080 lb).” That’s one big-ass moose on the loose.
However, the odd moose does get on the loose, and a swimming pool is a great place to cool off.
Happy Canada Day!
Note **: While July 1, 1867 was the date Canada became a constitutional monarchy, it has been home to Indigenous peoples for millennia.