Welcome to my new series, the “Canadian List of Ten”! Ten weeks, ten posts, ten lists and one hundred new Canadian things for you, from food to language, from city to weather.
Wow, ten articles, already? To end this Canadian List of Ten series, I’d like to tackle ten myths people may have about Canada. And yes, I have personally heard each one of them, believe it or not! A new series will start soon — I hope you enjoyed that one!
- Canada has snow all year round: when you say you live in Canada, most people reply things like “oh, it must be cold”, or “how do you deal with all that snow?”. Sure, winters are notoriously harsh. But most of the population lives nearby the border with the USA so it’s not exactly the Great White North. Actually, a lot of U.S states experience similar winter weather conditions. There usually isn’t much snow before late October/ November and our summers are long and hot (in Ottawa, it’s not rare to have over 30C in the summer!).
- Canadians have a strong accent: eh? Sure, some Canadians do say “eh” a lot and there are some Canadianisms. But to most people, Canadian and American accents sound alike and the difference, if any, is subtle. There are some regional accents though… much like in the U.S.A.
- Everybody speaks English in Canada (or everybody speaks French in Québec): Canada has two official language, French and English. The majority of the population does speak English but there are sizable French minorities throughout the country. Québec, of course, of predominantly French speaking but it also has a sizable population who speak English as a first language. In addition, many Canadians speak a non-official language at home, such as Chinese, Punjabi, Spanish or Italian.
- Hockey is the national sport: although it is almost a national pastime, originally the national sport was Lacrosse. It’s only in 1994 that hockey became the national winter sport, and Lacrosse became the national summer sport.
- Canada has a socialized health care system: this is one of my favorite as well, and I still don’t really understand why being “socialist” is bad, but anyway… It is true that our system is very different from the U.S. Health is a provincial matters (and also a federal one) and permanent residents and citizens alike are covered by their provincial health plan. This is not “free” because it is financed through taxes but we do not pay for essential basic care. The system is not perfect (there is a health care practitioner’s shortage and sometimes long waiting lists) but health coverage is not affected by loss or change of jobs and there are no lifetime limits or exclusions for pre-existing conditions.
- Canada is a monarchy: well, not exactly, Canada is a constitutional monarchy. Canada does acknowledge the Queen, (who is represented by the Governor General) but we have our own constitution and the Queen is a figurehead. Canada makes its own laws and it is in no way dependent on Britain for laws or governing the country.
- There are two cities in Canada, Vancouver and Toronto: when I’m traveling and I say I live in Canada, I heard that several time. “Oh, which city do you live in? Toronto or Vancouver?”. I know that Canada has a relatively small population compared to the U.S, but we do have more than two cities! Ottawa, the capital, Montreal, Halifax, Winnipeg, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, St John… just to name a few.
- Canada is just like the U.S: true, there is less difference between Canada and the U.S.A than, let’s say, between China and Russia. Canada and the U.S share a very long border, some medias and love to fight each other in various sports events. Yet these are two different countries, two different political systems, cultures etc. People are different — not better, not worse, just different. And it’s more fun this way, isn’t it?
- Canada is expensive: I’ve heard that a lot in Europe and I’m not sure why people have this idea. Europeans often assume North America in general is very expensive, yet, I personally find life generally cheaper than in the old continent. To me, food, clothes, accommodation are quite affordable here and I’m shocked when I go to France because prices rose so much in the last ten years.
- Canadians live in the wild: I personally love this stereotype of Canadians canoeing to work and fighting moose and bison bare-handed. Sure, I have seen people skating to work (on the Rideau Canada) and even skiing (during the huge snow storms we had in 2007-08. But let’s face it, most densely populated part of the country is the Quebec City – Windsor Corridor and you are quite unlikely to find polar bears around there. Sorry, eh!