O Canada! The land of maple syrup, ice hockey and persistent apologising – if the stereotypes are true that is.
As is the case with nearly every destination around the world, we tend to have a few ideas about what to expect before travelling there. The Canadians certainly have one or two character traits we’ve come to associate with them, but how accurate is our image of the people and the country?
We spoke to Canadian bloggers ahead of the national Canada Day celebration, to dispel the myths and find out which rumours may be based in truth. Follow our guide to a few of the Canadian stereotypes we love to believe, and discover what to expect on your next holiday to Canada from the people that know best.
“It’s cold over here”
If you’re visiting Canada in the winter months, the weather and difference in temperature is bound to be one of the first things you notice stepping off the plane. It’s widely believed that Canada finds itself submerged in snow for much of the year and getting around requires a pair of skis rather than shoes.
Naturally, “Canadians all live in igloos” says Ricky Shetty, the father behind Daddy Blogger mocking this cliché. The Daddy Blogger offers friendly parenting advice about travelling with the family and being a father of three. No doubt Ricky has built a few snowmen in his time, but likely only during actual winter and not year round as this Canadian stereotype might imply.
It’s true that some regions of the country are colder – particularly when you get to Nunavut province and up into the Arctic climbs of Canada – but for the most part the country experiences seasons much like elsewhere in the world. Winters are chilly but in the summer, temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius – hardly freezing point!
The strength of this stereotype could be due to Canadians excelling in winter sports such as ice hockey and curling. Skiing in Canada is also a popular hobby and it’s not hard to see why, with ski resorts in provinces such as Alberta offering prime access to the scenic slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains or Banff National Park.
“Canadians are always apologising”
You would be forgiven for thinking that the national vocabulary seldom stretches beyond the word “sorry”, but in truth this myth has been perpetuated by sitcoms and comedians. Consideration for others, on the other hand, is important to the Canadian people as Theresa Yurkewich of the blog Living Life to a “T” explains: “I think one of the main stereotypes about Canadians is our personality and generosity, and this does have some truth to it. Canadians, as a whole, are much more passive and friendly – even to our adversaries – and we pride ourselves on the relationships we build.
“Canadians are always eager to help each other out (or individuals around the world) and I think our personalities make us well positioned for mediator roles or to facilitate compromise.”
Building relationships is part of what drives Theresa’s blog, which follows her young professional lifestyle and shares adventures, places to eat and things to do not only in Alberta’s Calgary (where she is based) but around the world too.
Likewise, Vancouver bloggers and sisters Tegan and Lindsay who run Treasures & Travels, say: “In terms of people, most would say Canadians are usually very polite. I think this is entirely true, and most Vancouverites are more than willing to help strangers and tourists.”
If you want to experience this welcome for yourself, grabbing a flight to Vancouver and visiting British Columbia’s vibrant city might be just the thing, as they continue: “Vancouverites are super laid back and yes, we love to talk about the ever-changing weather. Vancouver is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Canada, and every Vancouverite will stand their ground on that statement…AND THE MOUNTAINS! (We won’t shut up about the mountains)”
Discover more of the city’s must-see sights in our guide to the top attractions in Vancouver.
“Maple syrup is part of the staple diet”
We all know maple syrup comes from Canada and in particular Quebec province, which produces 91% of the country’s pancake accompaniment of choice, but travel across Eastern Canada and you’re likely to see people tapping the maple trees to collect syrup in Ontario, New Brunswick and as far as Prince Edward Island on the coast.
Asides from maple syrup, however, the country has a whole menu of other delectable treats to sample. Ricky says: “Make sure you try our maple syrup, poutine, and Nanaimo bars.”
Named after the west coast city Nanaimo in British Columbia, Nanaimo bars are chocolate-flavoured layered squares consisting of a biscuit crumb base, custard icing middle layer and topped with melted chocolate. This sweet treat is hugely popular across the county and you may even find flavour variations on the traditional recipe such as peanut butter or even a mocha layer.
Experience real Canadian culture on Canada Day
While we may always associate Canada with these affectionate stereotypes, in reality its culture is pretty diverse and “it’s more of a melting pot, combining many different cultures from around the world. In this sense, what you experience really depends on where you visit and what activities you enjoy”, suggests Theresa.
“Because we are such a large country, I do find that each province has its own culture – from laid back coast towns in the East, deeply entrenched French culture in Quebec, and a connection to nature in the west. It’s difficult to describe the vibe in each province, but overall, the people are friendly and they are eager to tell you their favourite spots or the best places to eat in town. First-time travellers can expect a feeling of safety and community, and shouldn’t be afraid of asking for directions from a stranger!”
Celebrating Canada Day
If you’re in Canada on July 1st this year, experience authentic Canadian culture and join in the Canada Day celebrations across the country.
Canada Day is a national day marking the anniversary of Canada’s confederation, or the day it officially became a nation in 1867. On this date, the Constitution Act brought the then three provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Canada province together as one country. Today, it is a patriotic celebration of all things Canadian.
The day is recognised in every province and people choose to enjoy the day in a number of ways depending on where they are in the country. For instance, Tegan and Lindsay say in Vancouver: “Everyone grabs some snacks, blankets and a friend and heads down to English Bay to watch the fireworks! There are tons of vendors and performers down on Granville Island for a family-friendly vibe, downtown will be flooded with food trucks and Canada Place will be lively with events and performers.”
Elsewhere in Canada, Theresa will be “staying in the country and enjoying the glorious weather we have been having in Calgary.”
If you’re planning on being in Alberta yourself, she advises people to “keep in mind that the holiday weekend can be fairly busy so make sure you leave lots of time to get anywhere you are going and drive safely.
“A lot of people from Calgary will head out into the mountains and traffic on the highway can be very busy and many camp sites will fill up fast. One tip if you are considering camping is to contact a few places in advance and see if you can secure a spot. This will save you the time and frustration if you do arrive somewhere and it is full.
“It’s quite a laid back holiday, and people here really just focus on being in good company.”
Canada Day is a day to come together and a number of special parades, community picnics or BBQs and firework displays will be organised around the country, offering you a chance to get involved, sing the national anthem and salute everything that makes Canada a great place to visit!