The memory of my first two or three days in Canada is still very vivid. It was late February of 2002 and we flew from Rio de Janeiro to Toronto through Houston. I remember how friendly the Canadian border officer was compared to his American counterpart who, hours ago, had questioned us upon arrival and was annoyed that my Texan English skills were lacking. I remember the giant Canadian flag hanging from the ceiling in the arrival hall. I remember the YHA and the gender-segregated dorms. I remember that faint smell of wood and smoke floating in the dry air. That restaurant where we had a burger (what else!) and where a hockey game was playing on TV. The Greyhound bus station where service was so efficient despite the long lineup. The ice-cold drinks sold everywhere for a toonie. Chapters, where you could browse books freely and even sit down and read (try that at the FNAC in France…!). The long stretches of road and the forest on both sides, tall trees that looked like giant matchsticks.
For a couple of years, I would often say “that’s so Canadian!” whenever I was confronted with something new, puzzling or different—and yes, sometimes I said it with a hint of annoyance and French superiority in my voice. This mysterious “Canada” was often surprising and I had yet to figure it out. Like a two-year-old, I constantly asked “… but why?”
Every now and then, whenever I stumbled upon a purely Canadian moment, I remember these days. So here are 7 awfully Canadian moments that happen daily in Canada!
You can spot at least three Canadian flags around you anytime
There is one in the header of this blog, for a start. The Maple Leaf could also be floating in front of a building, in a window, printed on a product, displayed on a shirt, etc.
But hey… why? Because Canadians decided that the flag was a cool symbol to display. It doesn’t scream “eh, we are about to bomb the shit out of you and bring democracy to your country!” or “all foreigners must leave this country now!” It’s just… you know, the Canadian flag. Inclusive, pretty and friendly.
You drink ice when you just wanted water
A typical scene at the restaurant: “What do you want to drink?” “Just water, please”. Waiter proceeds to dump half a pound of ice in a cup and to add three drops of water on top.
But hey… why? Honestly, I don’t have a clue. Canadians just like ice-cold drinks. You can argue that in the summer, it makes sense because you need to cool off… but in the winter? I always have to specify “no ice” and half of the time, I still get a cube or two as if the waitress couldn’t leave my glass ice free. Note that ice machines are also common in hotel lobbies and fast food restaurants, and that you can buy entire bags of ice in gas stations and at the supermarket. I don’t think I’ve ever seen ice in France.
You check the weather app compulsively
Sure, you could open a window or step out to see if it’s raining or if it feels hot or cold. But instead, you check The Weather Network app on your phone for more accuracy.
But hey… why? Because weather forecast matters. It’s so not about just “hot” or “cold”—it’s about the humidex, the UV index, the wind-chill factor, probability of precipitation, extreme weather warnings and record highs and lows. And for that, only The Weather Networks delivers the full hourly report Canadians expect.
You call the Bell hotline to cancel service and switch to Rogers (or the other way around)
Problem is, two minutes into the call and the retention speech, you realise that a year ago, you vowed never to use Bell/Rogers/Telus again. Unfortunately, you’re stuck because there are very few telco providers in Canada and they all suck.
But hey… why? Why do they suck? Because they can. They are an oligarchy. The market is closed and they can charge as much as they want for awful service. Guess what—this is exactly what they are doing.
You make shopping cart abandonment rate go up when you realise the US-based store charges an arm and a leg for shipping
Many American “deals” aren’t so great for Canadians. Between the low loonie and expensive shipping fees, you end up spending much more than your friends in New York. Some companies don’t even ship to Canada, even though we are waving at them, just across the border.
But hey… why? International shipping is expensive and this sucks. Shipping and handling fees are sometimes higher than the price of the product.
SUVs come in two versions: with a boat (summer version) or a snow plow (winter version)
— Juliette Giannesini (@Xiaozhuli) October 3, 2016
Long WE in Canada. The number of people driving around with a canoe strapped to the roof of their car increased by 300%. #CanadianProblems
— Juliette Giannesini (@Xiaozhuli) September 4, 2016
But hey… why? Because in the summer, Canadians love to go to that magical place called “the cottage”. I’ve never been to one, but if I believe the commercials, ads and various testimonies from Canadian acquaintances, they are usually located by a lake, hence the boat. And in the winter, most people would rather not 1) shovel their driveway by hand 2) sign up with one of the many unreliable and pricey snow shoveling companies. Canadian logic—never mind the parking headache.
Businesses were “proudly established” like, yesterday
Many businesses proudly display the year they were founded, as if it was a synonym of reliability and quality. It may be to North Americans, but to me, it’s funny when the date feels very recent.
But hey… why? Perception is shaped by our environment. In the new world, a hundred of years is “ancient”, a decade is “old” and a year is “a long time ago”. Note that things are reversed when it comes to distance: for most Europeans, 100 km is far while for North American, it’s considered a short drive.
Did you experience any of these Canadian moments?