Stuff Canadians Like (Part 1)

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Sunset on the Ottawa River

After living in Canada for almost 6 years now, this is my best shot at a sociology study: “Stuff Canadians Like.”

Extreme weather: For most immigrants, Canada’s two seasons can be illustrated by the following words—“fucking hot” and “fucking cold.” And Canadians loudly complain about it too. Too much snow to shovel in the morning, freeway buried under blizzard and ice storms in winter, drought and floods in the summer. But deep down, I know Canadians enjoy the extreme weather. Why else would I see people jogging during a blizzard? Canoe to work? Sure, a few might escape to Florida but most Canadians want to retain bragging rights over temperate countries. Therefore, they spend winter at home, anxiously watching The Weather Network just to make sure they—not the neighbouring province—get the most severe snowstorm. Wimps. They only got two meters of snow!

Tim Hortons: Do you know what the headline of the newspapers was the other day? Nope, not Burma. A story about a Tim Hortons employee who got fired after giving a timbit for free to a baby. The nation was in shock: the woman was fired unfairly, sure, but… a baby got a free timbit? That’s how addicted Canadians are. Even though Timmies coffee tastes like brownish hot water, even though their pastries are just fried dough with sugar, even though there’s always a line-up even at 2 a.m…. well, there’s always a line-up even at 2 a.m. Go figure.

Going into the wild: One can’t help noticing that Canada is a huge country with, all in all, a small population. One also can’t help noticing that Canadians spend a great deal of time avoiding each other by going “into the wild.” On one hand, you have families who move out of the city to the countryside. Even though cities have a very low crime rate (we’re not talking of Toronto here) and that cities cores are not exactly cramped (we’re not talking of Hong Kong either), families routinely move in the middle of nowhere to “escape from the city”. Of course, they happily drive every day to the city to work (have you ever tried to find a job in bumfuck nowhere?), drop the kids to school, shop, go to movies etc. The only time they are at home is basically when they sleep. But, who cares, when you have such a great quality of life outside the city! The second group of people addicted to life in the wild are the vacationists who, instead of going all-inclusive like everybody else, enjoy camping trips up North where they carry their canoe overland (Canadian even have a verb for the place where the carrying occurs: “portage”) and sleep outdoors. Whereas there are perfectly fine hotels around. Canadians…!

The Canadian Dollar: First of all, it’s pretty, unlike the US dollar. We have fun colourful banknotes (some feature kids playing hockey) that you can actually tell apart. We also have cool slang for our coins: there’s the “toonie” and the “loonie”. But the best part about the Canadian dollar is its current strength. After an all-time low in the 90s and early 2000s, the value has risen sharply in 2007, mostly thanks to Alberta cowboys’ oil. This can only mean one thing for Canadians: Americans are weak, we are strong. Doesn’t matter that we get ripped off every day by paying too much. See, even though the $CA is stronger than the $US, we keep on paying the Canadian price, not the American price (this is especially true for books, which are typically priced at CA$9.99 but US$7.99). Who cares, as long as we are better than Americans! Worth the price, doesn’t it?

Roots and Lululemon Stores: In case you’re wondering, both are extremely popular Canadian clothes retailers. Even though Roots isn’t the official Olympic outfitter anymore (used to be from 1998 to 2004), the company clothes and accessories are worn by millions of Canadian, either casually, either to actually exercise (er… in the wild??). Is it the cute beaver logo? The Lycra pants? The overprice leather bags? Lululemon athletic clothes are equally popular (but often even more overpriced). Its yoga-lovers customers are well known for lining up all night in sub-zero temperatures for the annual sale and the chance to buy $200 pants (it happened not that long ago in Ottawa). Woohoo. It’s not the clothes—it’s the lifestyle.

Warning: this post is not to be taken seriously. Please, don’t report me to Citizenship & Immigration. Otherwise, I won’t be able to write part 2.

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About Author

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

28 Comments

  1. Ha Ha.. I wont go to immigration dept …

    Zhu.. u really made me go over my memories of Toronto life….

    Yeah Timmis.. Ho come on I love them.. I’m another addicted person for them

    True.. I knw Canadians crave for snow storm…

    CM-Chaps last great read…Love Missive

  2. Canada’s an odd country. It’s so clean.
    You’d think with all the polar bear poop
    and melty snow (slush), everything would
    be grimy and sordid like I imagine other
    North American countries are. You must
    have one hell of a littering law. Or are
    you afraid discarded, drifing Horton’s
    wrappers will attract wild bear and moosi?

    Seraphines last great read…Mind Expansion

  3. Polar bear poop may be a daily annoyance in downtown Ottawa, but out here in Regina, you really have to watch for the killer Canada Geese. They tear your kneecaps right off, and when you’re on the ground they steal your cup of Timmies, and your Timbits too!

  4. Funny and informative. I’m with you on the Tim Hortons. Crappy coffee! Everytime I set foot in CA I am amazed at the lines. Actually, I’m amazed at the starbucks lines too, but that is another story. I’m coffee spoiled evidentally.

    Colleens last great read…Lexicon of Dorkery

  5. I forgot about geese!
    If a goose even looks at me funny,
    I back straight away.
    Geese must be nature’s thugs.
    (Wanna bet there’s a goose somewhere
    in Canada named Fiddy Scent?)

    Seraphines last great read…Mind Expansion

  6. Hi Zhu,

    Lovely commentary, and very entertaining and hilarious description of the social nuances of Canadians. I’d say they are an odd lot but all the Canadians I’ve met, (all 2 of them)were very well adjusted and I admired their being open and straight to the point.

    We met in Hong Kong, traveled through China in Guangzhou then settled for a while in Thailand. They were voracious eaters and loved the bland pastries, especially at night while watching television. They are better mannered than Americans are, and were a lot better to deal with than the Swiss. Given these choices of nationalities, I’ll go with the Canadians hands down. 🙂 –Durano, done!

    durano lawayans last great read…Replicating Russia’s Rout ?

  7. I enjoy reading about Canadian life and comparing it with American and Norwegian, both of which I have experience. Although one can’t really say American life because it is so different from place to place, so let us say Upstate NY life then hehehe!! In Norway we are a lot more outdoorsie like you tell us about Canada. One would think the cold climate would keep us inside but oddly enough everyone wants to get out…Thans for sharing!

    DianeCAs last great read…Making a statement

  8. I like Canada but I’ve visited only the Maritime provinces. I almost immediately find the culture change when I cross into Canada from Maine. We were in Prince Edward Island for a couple weeks last year. Great place, as is Nova Scotia and New Brunswick which we’ve also visited. I think your post is very interesting and your entire blog is unusual and very creatively designed. Finally, thanks for posting a comment on my blog, which you stumbled upon as you say, and for being glad I won’t vote for McCain even if he’s my junior!

  9. @Saskboy – Eh, why notm they like weirder things! 😉

    @CM-Chap – Really? I could never get hooked on Timmies. And I’ve been there for a while and it’s still not happening. I have expensive tastes: I like Second Cup!

    @Seraphine – Indeed, lots of Timmies cups end up in the streets. But animals are wise enough not to drink the leftover coffee…

    @Saskboy – We also have crazy rabbits in Ottawa. They sex life is just sick, I’m telling you.

    @Colleen – The Starbucks lineups amaze me too, but at least the coffee is drinkable, even though it’s more expensive!

    @Seraphine – The only time I see geese is on the coins…

    @durano lawayan – Canadians are nice people, indeed. I find people here pretty open-minded, which fits with your travel stories. I like them… but I also like making fun of them!

    @Aiglee – I know! Chapters lowered the prices a bit though, but still not enough…

    @Celine – Thank you! Yeah, I guess it’s only funny if you know your basics about Canada!

    @DianeCA – I love comparing cultures, like you and Renny, so I really enjoyed writing this post. 😉

    @Mardé – Thank you! I’ll be back to your blog as well, interesting posts too. Canada and the USA (although I don’t know the country that well) are two distinct countries and Canada is far from being “America Junior”… there’s definitely a different way of live up North. I like both I guess.

  10. Haha! In Malaysia it’s either “fuckin’ hot” or “super fuckin’ hot!”. You get the drift. 😉

    Wud love to try Tim Hortons. Heck, I haven’t even tried Dunkin Donuts b4!

    I can see that in 10-20 years’ time the Canadian dollar would replace the US$ as the strongest and highest-valued currency on the continent!

    kyhs last great read…Francis Light’s footsteps: Penang’s colonial legacy

  11. Daniel Menzies on

    I’m a lifelong Vancouverite who just moved to Oakland, California about 4 months ago. After spending a bit more time observing Americans and reading STUFF WHITE PEOPLE LIKE I have some ideas to add to this list

    Kraft Dinner: Every Canadian household has at least one case of this stuff in their cupboard.

    Coronation Street: A soap opera about a bunch of unemployed alcoholics who spend all day taking the piss out of each other. Kind of like a British Trailer Park Boys.

    Crown Corporations: Sure, it sucks to pay twice as much money for liquor and cellphone service as the rest of the world, but at least it’s not as bad as having those pesky Americans selling it.

    Fist Fights: We have no guns and grow up watching hockey. Enough said.

    Toques: Often mistakenly called beanies or (ugh)knit caps by the rest of the world, Only a Canadian knows the true name of the warm headgear that never seems to quite cover your ears.

    Factoids: Once in the USA, every Canadian gets a sick thrill out of quoting little known, but useless facts like “Did you know Shania Twain is Canadian?” or “We burned down your white house in 1812.” Somehow nobody mentions Brian Adams.

    VIDEOFACT: A government grant that allows bands with a national presence (i.e. any band from Ontario) just enough money to crank out a shitty video that Much Music is legally forced to put on rotation.

    THINGS CANADIANS ARE THOUGHT TO LIKE BUT REALLY DON’T
    Roots clothing
    Moosehead Beer
    Brian Adams
    CFL Football
    The Royal Canadian Air Farce
    plaid
    Queen Elizabeth
    Being a bilingual nation

  12. This article was funny.. But the kick about Toronto is funny, as the per-capita crime rate in Toronto is lower than Vancouver and Calgary, and on-par with other urban centres! haha. I also don’t know any Canadian who actually wears roots anymore.. AND the reason for our prices being higher is quite simple: We have more tax and our minimum wage is higher than the US (ECON 101..)

  13. i think it’s pronounced “toonie”, eh. 😉
    i literally laughed out loud while reading. several times.
    extreme weather. heh, love it.

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  17. You dare insult the quality of Tim Hortons coffee?! I’m Canadian through and through, and you can bet that me and the rest of us Canadians live on that coffee. AND we think it’s way better then the stuff they sell at Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Sorry. 🙂

  18. As a Canadian I agree with you that Tim Horton’s is nasty low quality food that is terribly overrated and a bit embarrassing to be known for as a country. Canadians are cheap though, and we’re also suckers for patriotic things which is why I think it’s so popular. I personally can’t eat their food or drink their coffee no matter how cheap it is! The doughnuts were better when I was a kid though. Maybe because I was young and dumb, or it was that they used to bake them in the store instead of shipping them from a factory on trucks.

    • THank you for your insight! See, I don’t know if it’s me, but I kind of liked a few pastries from Tim Hortons, including cookies, back in the early 2000s. And then, at one point, they changed the price and–I think–the recipe. Now I’m not a huge fan, although if you are stuck on a rest stop it’s often the best option around.

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