Common Misconceptions About Canada

I have quite a few friends in the United States and a few days ago, one of them asked me if Canadians used different electrical outlets than Americans. Not sure why he asked this since I’ve brought my laptop over to his place a few times before, but it’s about time for me to clear up a few misconceptions on the “great white north.”

Does Canada have the same electrical outlets as the US?
Yes! We have the same outlets to accept any electrical appliance, running at 110 volts. Any device, such as a laptop computer, will charge when plugged in regardless if it’s British Columbia or Illinois. On a related note, Canada also sells electricity to the United States. Look further down for more details.

Speed Limit
Highway Speed Limit

Will I have to drive on the left side when I visit Canada?
Despite Canada’s lengthy historic ties to England, vehicles do not drive on the left side of the road. The vast majority of the street signs in Canada are similar to those in the States, with the only differences being how speed is measured. Since Canada uses the metric system, all posted speed signs are in kilometres instead of miles. Fortunately, most cars come with km/h and MPH on the speedometer.

Is there only one road in all of Canada?
If you’ve watched South Park, you might have heard that there is only one road in Canada. Perhaps it’s because of a certain paved ribbon running across the nation: the Trans-Canada Highway. Popularly known out west as the “number one” because of its designation as Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway connects all ten provinces, linking most of Canada’s major communities together.

Do you have McDonalds up north?
Just about every major company operate branches in Canada. McDonalds, Starbucks, eBay, Best Buy, Microsoft, Nintendo, Coca-Cola, and much, much more have offices or locations across the country.

Five Dollars
A five dollar bill

So I hear Canada uses the dollar?
Canada does indeed use the dollar as its currency, although it’s much different than the greenback. Canadian money is very advanced considering all the anti-counterfeiting technology in place from metallic strips, raised ink, to watermarks, not to mention being colourful. Also, Canada has coins that replaced the one and two dollar bills and are commonly referred to as loonies and toonies respectively.

Do all Canadians speak French?
Canada is a bilingual country with both English and French being national languages.
The French were the first explorers to set foot in what is Eastern Canada back in the 15th century, and brought their culture and language with them, which remains today.
French is predominantly spoken out east, primarily in Quebec, New Brunswick, and eastern portions of Ontario. All federal government offices have signs in English and French and people on hand who speak both languages. French immersion classes are also available at most, if not all schools. Because of our rich heritage and multiculturalism, there are many other languages spoken in our diversified communities. Bienvenue!

I’ve heard Canadians say “eh” before!
Yes, we do say “eh” but probably not on the scale as the stereotype that is perceived. And I don’t think I’ve really heard anyone says “aboot” either. I don’t know what’s up with that, eh?

National and provincial flags
National and provincial flags

There’s nothing big in Canada!
Quite contrary, Canada has a few large records to boast. The CN Tower is one of the tallest free-standing structures in the world at 533 metres (1,815 feet), while the Highway 401 in Toronto is one of the widest and busiest highways in the world. Canada is also the second largest country by land area (after Russia) and shares the longest unfortified border in the world (with the United States).

So? What’s Canada given us?
Because of Canada’s vast size, much of our contribution is natural resources. Everything from oil, lumber, uranium, zinc, grains and electricity is exported worldwide. The majority of Canadian exports are destined for our largest trading partner, the United States. Canada’s aerospace and automotive sector is also a big player in the international market, with the Canadarm on NASA’s space shuttles, to GM, Toyota, Chrysler and Ford having plants and manufacturing facilities across our land. Some of Hollywood’s talented actors are from Canada, with the familiar faces of Dan Aykroyd, Elisha Cuthbert, and Leslie Nielsen to name a few. How about the Phoenix Suns’ Steve Nash, or the New Jersey Devils’ Martin Brodeur? Canadian as well.
However, one of Canada’s biggest offerings to the world is our role in peace keeping. Canadian officers have visited some of the world’s most troubled areas to provide protection and assistance.
Canadians are also notorious for introducing RIM’s BlackBerry to the mobile community and Tim Hortons donuts to consumer’s stomachs.

Canadians are boring!
While media perceptions see us a polite and bland, we are far from boring. Canadians host lively events and are noted for their contributions to popular culture. Recently, Vancouver hosted the XXI Olympic Winter Games and threw one hell of a party. Montreal invites the world with their renowned comedy festival, Just for Laughs while Calgary has their stampede. And these are just the surface of what many of us enjoy. Canadians love a good party, and it can be seen when a local hockey or football team (see below) make the playoffs.

You Canadians love your hockey.
Yes we do! Ice hockey is our national winter sport, however it’s not the only sport we play. There is football, under the Canadian Football League (CFL), which is similar to what’s played in the United States — notable differences include the size of the field, number of downs and even the shape of the ball. Baseball and and basketball are popular as well, with the Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) and Toronto Raptors (NBA) as the only teams of their respective league up north. There are smaller leagues for those who want to play for fun or competitively.
In the winter, aside from hockey, Canadians can be found playing curling and ringette – although they can be played year round on indoor ice rinks. Lacrosse, rugby, and soccer are also prominent, especially during the warmer months.

Does Canada celebrate Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving in Canada differs from the American holiday as it is observed on the second Monday of October as opposed to the fourth Thursday of November. And yes, we do serve turkey with all the traditional fixings too.
The background of Thanksgiving is the same — to give thanks and to celebrate the end of the harvest.

What about Black Friday?
In general, Canada doesn’t officially have a “Black Friday” due to the date of our Thanksgiving (see above). Major retailers may opt to offer sales and discounts that coincide with Black Friday in the United States to keep customers from spending money across the border. That being said, Boxing Day is the Canadian equivalent of Black Friday — except that it falls on the day after Christmas, December 26th. It’s a similar experience to Black Friday with clearance prices and specials on all sorts of items, complete with early openings (except in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador due to provincial laws regulating major business hours).

I want to call Canada, but I don’t want to dial 20 digits!
No need to fret over the horrors of international dialing, Canada is part of the North American Numbering Plan. This means that when calling someone in Canada, it will be just like a long distance call within the United States.
Canadian phone numbers comprise of the same three digit area code and then a seven digit local number. For example, a number in Vancouver, British Columbia would be (604) 555-1234, just like a number in Chicago, Illinois could appear as (312) 555-0123. Remember, when dialing, press 1 (the country code for Canada and the United States) before entering the rest of the number, otherwise the call won’t go anywhere.

So what about your health care?
One of Canada’s most defining points is our health care system. Health care is publicly funded by the federal and provincial government for the most part, although larger corporations and agencies contribute some support. Canadians enjoy the ability to walk into a clinic for a checkup and walk out afterwards without ever receiving a bill.
Canadians who are employed, may receive additional benefits through their employer which include extended coverage on pharmaceuticals, dental and eye care.
Additionally, some private companies provide health care services, such as elective surgery, for a fee.

Do you guys make our Canadian Bacon?
Canadian bacon is a name popularized in the United States – up here, it’s called back bacon. Back bacon can be identified by its size and that the meat is sometimes rolled in cornmeal or ground yellow peas which provide a distinctive edge.

Does the Queen of England run Canada?
Canada is setup as a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state. While the Queen does not physically reside in Canada, she retains the title of Queen of Canada and is represented by the Governor General in her place. The Prime Minister, the political leader of Canada, is the head of the elected party that is voted in with the most seats in the House of Commons. The leader of the elected party must first be approved by the Governor General before becoming Prime Minister. The current Prime Minister of Canada is Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party, while the Queen is represented by Governor General David Johnston.

Summer in British Columbia
Summer Temperatures

Do you live in an igloo?
Despite popular belief, Canadians do not live in igloos. Much of Canada is not frozen and igloos wouldn’t be an acceptable home, especially in the summer where the temperatures of inland British Columbia (and many other provinces) can reach up to 40° Celsius (which is roughly 104° Fahrenheit).

Okay, is it Canada or Canadia?
It’s actually Canada, not Canadia or Canandana. Canadians is the term used to describe to those who reside in Canada, so it’s easy to see the confusion.

Canada is in the UK!
Actually no. Despite England’s influence, Canada is situated in North America with the United States bordering on the south and north-west. It’s almost impossible to miss us — we are the second largest country in the world in terms of area.

I think that’s about all on the top of my head for now. If I remember more or if someone asks me, I’ll be sure to post it. Want to learn more about Canada? Visit the official Government of Canada web site to see how our government works, get information on tourism and read up on our colourful history!

Images courtesy of the Bank of Canada and BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. All other images are property of Frederick Linsmeyer.

3 thoughts on “Common Misconceptions About Canada”

  1. I thought the only one road in Canada was the QEW “Queen Elizabeth Way” .. There is “only one way, thats the QUEENS way” etc.

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