Canadian Culture: What You Need to Know

Canada is a huge country with a diverse culture. For instance, people in Montreal are more likely to give the French bijous—or cheek kisses—in greeting, while elsewhere in Canada people primarily use the standard handshake.  However, despite the differences across the provinces, there are a few things that the country can unite in calling uniquely Canadian.

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Two National Languages

Canada has two official languages: French and English. About 67% of the country speaks English at home while about 21% speaks French. Most of the native born francophones are concentrated in Quebec, where French is the majority language. However, school children all over the country are required to learn both languages.

Canadian English

As with every English speaking country, Canadians have their own unique nuances in the way they speak the language. For example, they use the word “eh” frequently at the end of sentences to connote everything from a question to an exclamation, or to just plain punctuate the end of the sentence. As with any large country, the accent varies from province to province and from city to countryside. In some places, for example, Canadians pronounce “about” more like “aboot” (to the endless amusement of their southern neighbors).

Diversity

While Canada only has two National languages, it is a vastly diverse country, with people from all over the world sharing this land and calling it home. In fact, almost 1 in 5 Canadians was born in another country—including the over 40 members of Parliament who were born abroad.

The most prominent culture is French and English, but there are also many First Nations people as well as new immigrants from around the world coming all the time. You will encounter many religions, cultures and languages while traveling Canada.

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Canadian Food!

Canadians are not known for having a rich local cuisine, since they are mainly an amalgamation of diets of settlers from all over Europe (and the world!). However, there are a few signature dishes that are truly unique to Canada.

For instance, cut a Canadian and they will bleed Maple syrup. This earthy, amber liquid really may be the lifeblood of this country—the people adore it.  And with good reason: it’s amazing! Canadians will incorporate maple syrup into more than just pancakes: cookies, fudge, root vegetables, coffee— even fish—to name a few.

Another popular dish is Poutine, which is now gaining in popularity throughout other parts of the world. Poutine is French fries that are swimming in gravy and cheese curds and is found at most diners across the country.

Canadians LOVE the Outdoors

The second biggest country in the world, Canada is not only enormous, but includes huge tracts of land that are largely unpopulated. This means that the wilderness is largely untouched and seriously spectacular—from the temperate rainforest of the west coast to the Canadian Rocky Mountains, from the great plains of Alberta, to the polar climate of the Arctic.

Canadians take great pride in their breathtakingly wild lands. They are an outdoorsy people who love to get out into nature—whether via hiking, camping, skiing or any other outdoor sport.  It is also quite common for Canadians to have vacation cottages on lakes and rivers where they go for weekends or summer holiday to really indulge in the great outdoors. In fact, saying you’re going “up north” in Canada is understood by all to mean you are going to spend time in nature, probably at a cottage.

Canadians are Super Nice

All the rumors about the nice Canadians are true. They are extremely friendly and warm, with easy smiles for every stranger they pass. Canadians make general chit chat a regular part of daily interactions and they are happy to help out a stranger in need. They’re also known for being super polite and for frequent, perhaps excessive, apologizing. Canadians also tend to be pretty tolerant and open to other cultures and religions, which makes for a pleasant society which you’ll surely come to appreciate.

See also: 7 reasons to move to Canada

Canadians Have Progressive Policies

Canadians have strong values such as equality, freedom and inclusion and their progressive policies reflect these values. Same sex marriage is legalized across the country and capital punishment has been abolished. Canada’s stupendous public health care is available for every citizen. And, in 2015, the prime minister’s cabinet became the first in the world to have an equal number of men to women (including a few First Nations and Sikh individuals).

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