10 Myths About Canada

Queuing For Beaver Tails In The Snow

Queuing For Beaver Tails In The Snow

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!

  1. 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!).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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?
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Even in the book I’m currently reading, Irreductibles Quebecois, written by a French woman who immigrated to Quebec, she mentions more than once that taxes & cost of living are higher and salaries are lower in Quebec than in France. I was like, ummm no, that’s completely backwards!!! Canada and the US are so insanely cheap to me now after having to deal with the stupid euro for years.
    .-= Jennie´s last blog ..French Dictionary for Non-Native Speakers of French =-.

  2. These are so funny! Of course in the US we tell a lot of these myths, especially the one about the snow and everyone living out in the wilderness. But Canada being more expensive than Europe? Please! One of the biggest shocks when I came back from France was how much cheaper everything is here!
    .-= Soleil´s last blog ..Epic Week =-.

  3. @Cynthia – And then people look at you and go “wow, really?” I hate shattering their dreams! 😆

    @Jennie – I totally agree with you. As for salaries, for some professions they could be lower in North America but it goes with the standard of living, doesn’t it? Seems logic to me…

    @Soleil – I know, this is one thing I truly don’t understand. One of the explanation I came up with, is that a lot of French visit Canada during a two-weeks holidays circuit, such as Toronto – Québec. Obviously, they spend a lot (flight + tours + extra stuffs because this is holidays etc). But life is much more affordable here, unless you hunt foreign products such as true French cheese, European perfume etc.

  4. You know what? I find it hard to tell Canadian and American apart?
    I have to say their accents sound very similar to me.
    Likewise, I cannot tell Australian and New Zealander apart!
    Ha ha… But I can, if you put a Yankee and an Aussie together!
    Regional English accents can differ a lot too!

    I guess, you have similar situation in Canada. Maybe it’s East/ West divide?
    England is rather North/ South divide.
    In the middle, we have Birmingham. It’s really “melodic”!
    .-= London Caller´s last blog ..Mr & Mrs Gold / 金夫妇 / Tuan Emas & Isteri / 金夫妻 =-.

  5. Nice list. It was interesting for me to complete yours with the one published in the magazine “L’express HS 16 juillet-août 2009” titled “S’installer au Canada” (Setup in Canada). According to them, there are also 10 Myths about this country:
    1°) It is cold (Il fait frette)
    Like you said, Canada is cold, but people ajusted quite well (clothes, activities, etc…). A French girl said in the interview : “It was more difficult to learn English than to face the cold” 😉
    2°) My cottage in Canada
    All Canadians live in a cottage next to the river.
    3°) Real-Wrong ecological paradise
    In France, Canada has the reputation to be a “green” land, but the facts are differents.
    4°) The Quebecois are the cousins of the French people
    Don’t go to Québec thinking that it will just be another departement of France.
    5°) Everybody is nice and friendly (Tout le monde il est beau, tout le monde il est gentil)
    In Canada the grumpy people are always wrong. Canadian are polite and friendly, but be aware that for them this behaviour does not involve a relationship.
    6°) Double language
    One country, two languages, but only one officially bilingual province.
    7°) United colors of Canada
    Numerous nationalities put together under the same flag.
    8°) Entrepreneurs, everything is possible
    Canadians have the “You can do it” atitude, but like everywhere else, the 3 first years will be difficult.
    9°) Invincible Québec (Irréductible Québec)
    Québecois are Noth American, but want to preserve their own national identity.
    10°) The bestest country of the world (Le plus meilleur pays du monde)
    Canada a model? Yes for others, but not yet for Canadians

  6. i like remy’s remark: “in Canada, grumpy people are always wrong.”
    because it’s wrong to be grumpy anywhere, not just in canada.
    (i’d be grumpy if i lived in an igloo)
    and why why why why do grumpy people take jobs in customer service?
    .-= Seraphine´s last blog ..Camel Assisted Therapy =-.

  7. I find that anglophone canadians enunciate their words more than Americans where I live (upstate NY). It is true they pronounce “about” (we say “a-bout”), while they say “aboot”! They deny it but you catch em every time!
    They do have different accents throughout though-my friend’s from Nova Scotia and his accent is WAY different from his wife from Kitchener Ontario. I don’t know about the prairie provinces or BC though. Any body have any ideas? Zhu?
    I don’t see these people ever.
    Accents are great. Everyone’s got one, it’s just about perspective and points of view. They make life interesting.

  8. An interesting list, a few of which I thought were true until a few years ago!

    I can’t tell the difference between American and Canadian accents for the most part (similarly SO MANY people can’t tell the difference between NZ and Australian accents which I find pretty easy to pick, being a NZer). I had a friend from Newfoundland though and I couldn’t tell what country he came from!! I thought his accent sounded somewhat Irish. And his wife was French-Canadian and when she spoke English I couldn’t figure out which country she was from either. But he definitely did the “eh” thing and saying “about” like “aboot”.

    I assumed that Canadians spoke English and then in the French speaking parts the people would be bilingual. I found out through my Canadian friends that her parents didn’t really speak English at all and he had to learn French when they started seeing each other.

    Silly me also, I didn’t really think about Canada being part of the commonwealth – I’m sure I “knew” about it but it didn’t really register until I went to Canada (for the day :)! – I was staying in Buffalo for a few weeks) and saw the coins with the queen and was like “hey, they’re just like at home!”
    .-= Kim´s last blog ..What I’m watching at the moment… =-.

  9. What people think of as a Canadian accent is also apparently what they think of as a Minnesotan accent. If people in the southern U.S. don’t guess that I’m from Minnesota, they guess Canada!
    .-= Tanya´s last blog ..Good Morning, Paris =-.

  10. @khengsiong – I’m pretty sure it’s a myth. Spring is super short because you go from snow to snow melting to summer in a very short time. But summer is still long.

    @London Caller – You would spot some accents, like the Maritims. But I find the English very “neutral” in Ontario. I can always recognize true English (UK) accent though!

    @Seraphine – Shhhht…. it’s a secret…

    @Nigel Babu -No kidding, a couple of my former students did in 2007 because we had so much snow and it was quicker than taking the bus. But it was mostly for fun!

    @Rémy – Very interesting! I think I read this Express, it was a “hors serie”, right? I usually read French magazines at Chapter (Chapter is like the FNAC but better – they all have a Starbucks coffee inside and chairs and you can spend hours sipping coffee and reading magazine without buying anything!).

    The list makes a lot of sense to me and tackles myths a lot of French have about Québec (who are definitely NOT our cousins!).

    @Seraphine – 😆 This is so true! Must be a requirement in some customer service job. Under skills: must be grumpy.

    @Rich B – I can only speak for Winnipeg and I found the accent pretty similar to Ontario. Now folks in the country tend to say “eh” a lot more from my experience, that’s about it.

    I really can’t pick the different but I can usually tell Canadians and Americans apart. Just the attitude I guess (and I don’t mean to be sarcastic!).

    @Sidney – Glad you learned something!

    @Kim – 😆 I had a similar experience going to NZ (that was before I settled in Canada). When I arrived in Auckland after a 36 hours flight I was like “oh, it’s so British”! Er… yeah…? 😆

    I can tell the difference between OZ and NZ accents. Not sure why but they don’t sound the same to me. I mean, “kia ora” vs. “g’day mate”, you can tell, right? 😆

    @Yogi – Hi and thanks for visiting! I think you are right, we don’t really understand each other’s systems. And as a French, I can tell you a lot of people love or hate French health system without really knowing it!

    @Rich B – Thanks Rick for the reference, I’m interested too! NPR has great program, I always listen to it.

    @Tanya – Really? Well, I can usually tell US Southern accents!

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – The weather definitely sucks in Buffalo, I can testify – I felt like I was still in Canada!!

  11. I’ve always thought that say, outside of the major city like Toronto, Canada wouldn’t be too expensive. Same goes for the US, your dollar can go a lot further in some places than others, mostly rural areas your money goes further.
    .-= Seb´s last blog ..New Tshirts for Sale! =-.

  12. It’s wonderful knowing more about my neighbors up north. As you pointed out, there’s a lot of misconceptions. I could only wish the US have a better health care system for the uninsured.

  13. I don’t know what are you paying for your food in Ontario, but I definitely find food expensive in Quebec. I was in Germany last December and I was shocked by the low food prices! After that, I really feel ripped off every time I shop. Imagine, in Qc I have to pay 6$ for the package of “real” Mozzarella cheese and in Germany you can find it starting at 0,49 Euro! And vine prices,it hurts! Almost everything in food department costs five to ten times more here…
    .-= Yasmine´s last blog ..Living as a couple in foreign country =-.

  14. Pingback: Happy Canada Day - Daily Dish with Foodie Friends Friday~Daily Dish with Foodie Friends Friday

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