Ah, Canada. This beautiful patch of land is full of quirky stereotypes, kitten-friendly bookstores, and annual hair freezing contests. Let’s not forget the mesmerizing scenery, incredible wildlife, burning love of maple syrup, and extreme politeness for other human beings. Well, it’s definitely one of the most desired bucket list destinations for many.
And Reddit user GOLDEN_GOATY seems to have a sizzling urge to visit. Recently, they asked people to reveal the lesser-known “do’s and don’ts” of Canadian culture. Hundreds of people decided to share their priceless wisdom and help a fellow Ask A Canadian community member get ready for their trip.
From the dangers of the Canadian wilderness to weirdly specific etiquette rules, these helpful comments can make anyone fully equipped to enter the “Great White North”. Below, you’ll find some of the best pieces of advice we handpicked from this thread. So continue scrolling and be sure to share your own suggestions in the comments!
Don’t be surprised by Canadian humour: we use a lot of sarcasm and irony. We have our own special way of making a mockery of everything and everyone. We get along pretty well with the Brits on that.
Don’t underestimate the wildlife. Deer can attack w deadly results and raccoons have sharp teeth, claws and opposable thumbs. Think of them as 10–20kg bears that can grab your face.
Canada is one of the most preferred destinations to enjoy the great outdoors. But even with its spectacular national parks, deep forests, and fascinating wilderness, it did not escape the dire consequences of the pandemic. Covid-19 and all the restrictions that came with it had a significant impact on the country’s tourism.
Statista reports that international trips to Canada significantly decreased in 2020. “The following year, in 2021, the number of international tourists from the United States to Canada was roughly 3.3 million, reflecting a decline of 15.5 percent from the previous year,” the researchers explained.
But when many countries now are easing up travel requirements, Canada seems to be one of the easiest places to travel to, especially for Europeans. You see, with an EU passport, you can enter visa-free. The creator of this thread, GOLDEN_GOATY, mentioned they’re from the Netherlands, so they should have no problems planning their upcoming trip. They also wrote in their post they simply wanted to find out the things people shouldn’t do in Canada “apart from the relatively obvious ones you shouldn’t do in any country.”
If you’re driving and someone slows down to let you into traffic, give them a little wave. It might not be as common in big cities, but it is most definitely a thing is most areas.
We managed to get in touch with GOLDEN_GOATY, and they were kind enough to have a little chat with us. “Well, I’m going to move to Canada in a few years, and I’m going there on vacation sometime next year. Every moment when I’m bored or don’t have anything to do, I look up things about Canada,” they revealed to Bored Panda how they came up with the idea to raise this question on the Ask A Canadian subreddit.
The user mentioned they definitely did not expect the thread to blow up like that. “Most questions I ask on Reddit only have a few answers,” they said and added they still have quite a few comments to respond to.
When asked whether the comments people have been writing were helpful, the user said they were just what they meant by “less obvious don’ts”. “I want to live off the grid in Manitoba, so I usually research laws, nature, wildlife, etc. So all the tips about the etiquette and stuff are really useful because I usually don’t look those things up.”
When dressing to go out, don’t just look at the temperature. -20 can be cold, really cold, or dangerously cold depending on wind and humidity.
Don’t equate French Canadian culture with French Culture. The sayings, expressions and swear words have evolved separately over centuries, just like new world English speakers.
Don’t underestimate travel times. Canada is a big country. Also, when asked how far away something is, we tend to answer in time units. It’s “a ten hour drive” or “a two hour ferry ride” or “a five hour flight.
It turns out that Canadians certainly helped GOLDEN_GOATY to form a better image of their homeland. The user told us they already knew Canadians are quite polite, yet had no clue there were so many unspoken rules regarding their manners and etiquette standards. “I’m totally not social (introverted), so I don’t even know these rules in my own country,” they mentioned.
When people consider moving abroad or decide to take a quick and memorable trip, it’s important to learn the little details about the country you have in mind. “I think you should know the culture, the customs, habits, the mindset, so you know what to expect” the user agreed. “If you’re on vacation — then you’re the guest, so you have to adapt.”
It’s common that if you catch someone’s eye while passing in the street you give a little yes nod or a smile. It’s not strictly necessary etiquette but don’t be surprised if someone does that to you.
Or here in Newfoundland where you’ll also get a ‘how ya gettin on der buddy’ to which you reply ‘best kind’.
Do not expect public transit to be on time or actually go everywhere you want to go. Do not expect to be able to safely ride your bike everywhere you want. Bike lanes are too few and cars will use them.
Do not litter. Carry your trash with you until you find a garbage can. This means if you are in a park or wild area with NO services: you pack out your garbage!
You may refer to us as Canadians or even North Americans. NEVER refer to us as just ‘Americans’. That’s the people to our south, not us.
Former Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, once said “a big part of being Canadian, is that you’re not American”.
Please DO NOT feed the wildlife. The number of times I’ve seen tourists feeding bears along the side of the road is staggering. That puts everyone at risk all because people want to stage a fun photo.
Not checking the weather before leaving the house. A day can begin sunny and end with a blizzard. You should always check the weather.
Don’t say nothing when you enter someone’s personal space or vice versa… okay it’s hard to write in ‘don’t form. It’s more of a do. This is where our famous ‘Sorry’ comes from. You’re not apologizing, you’re just acknowledging someone else’s existence and voicing consideration in their general direction.
It’s considered rude if you don’t respond to ‘thank you’ with ‘no problem!’ or ‘you’re welcome’. Likewise for holding the door open if you see somebody or saying ‘have a good night’ when leaving the lift.
Hitting on a person in public. I find it prevalent in the US where guys will just come up and flirt/ hit on you in a grocery store lol. It’s weird.
The water in rivers is no joke. In my part of Canada, there are lots of places to wade into different rivers and each year there are people who need rescuing or who sadly get hurt or die. The river can seem calm on second and then you hit a patch that is strong and it’s too late.
If you want something pretty culturally unique (this is more of a do) ask anyone how their day is or has been going or make a remark like cold today
You have a friend for as long as your conversation lasts then they walk off and your never see them again.
To maximize effect find someone older they usually love meeting friendly people. It will however start a genuine conversation with most Canadians and it’s not like small talk.
It’s an actual conversation where they care about you and how your days going.
I’ve seen some representations in media that show Canadians as pretty sharing with food. While we do generally try to be polite in social situations as others have stated, do not expect Canadians to share their food or drinks with you or one another.
Don’t be unprepared if you go into the wilderness. Even if you are just planning on doing a small hike in the forest wear proper attire and make sure you are paying attention to your route and which way you came. Charge your phone or have other means of communication that don’t require a cell tower. There’s lots of different terrain and rural/wilderness settings so talk to locals and research whatever area you’re in do you can properly prepare. Rescue services are very burdensome on the tax payer and there’s no guarantee you will be found if lost so rely on yourself and know you’re limits. Also, bear mace.
This is an obvious “Don’t do” but I thought I would share it anyway
I met a couple from Poland at a bar who were visiting family in the GTA and they made a comment about Canada being “Over run” with immigrants. Needless to say they were chewed out for the next 20 minutes until they left the bar.
We are extremely proud of our diversity and our welcoming of all immigrants. We were built on immigration and we like it like that.
Some less obvious “dont’s” would probably be calling Canadians “Americans” because we live in North America. I have heard that so many times and it always annoys me. Don’t do that, we are Canadians
Side note! I just want to tack on that we also love the Netherlands, as our countries have a special relationship stemming from WW2. If you visit Ottawa during May you should go see the Tulip festival! Your country sends us tulips every year and we love you for it.
DO discuss the Netherlands!
Don’t drive anywhere without potential survival gear. This mostly goes for the rural areas, especially in the parries where there is a long way between towns/cities, but, as I’m sure you’ve heard here, the weather is unpredictable. You should always be ready in case you get stuck somewhere or crash during a storm.
Be careful who you talk to about politics. Especially right now. I have found that, especially in rural areas, people get, for lack of a better word, angry about differing political views. I personally don’t know how people would react to this is cities and the east coast, but rural areas are quite easily upset about this stuff. We have a major political divide between the the area’s east of Ontario and west of it that causes lots of conflicts. Best to avoid anything political.
Don’t take this the wrong way, but don’t act superior about Europe vs. North America. It can get really tiresome. “In Europe we would never eat dinner this early.” “In Europe our universities are free” “in Europe we don’t have TV ads for lawyers or prescription drugs” “in Europe our beer isn’t served so cold” “in Europe we don’t put so much ice in our beverages”.
You seem like a nice person who wouldn’t do it, but it seems second nature to Europeans.
I recommend you learn defensive winter driving and learn the signs of black ice. Shine no spray from tires
Don’t expect to pay the price you see on items in stores or ads when you get up to the cash register. And don’t expect an easy time calculating what the actual price is before getting there.
Provinces add provincial tax, there is the GST or the HST, green (carbon, recycling) taxes of different amounts on different items, deposits on bottles and milk cartons, environmental fees on electronics, special taxes on tires……
Can be quite a shock to see an extra $30 in taxes/fees on an item when you get to the till.
Don’t ask for sliced American cheese at the deli counter. My mom did this while we were vacationing in Montreal, and when we got back to our rental, we discovered that it wasn’t sliced. It was one big block of cheese. We’ve since learned it’s called “processed” or “square” cheese. She said, “that’s what I get for asking for American cheese in Canada”. We all had a laugh over it, and maybe it wasn’t even intentional, maybe the deli guy misunderstood what she wanted
Dont point your fingers on anyone. I usually point a lot and when I came here I was shocked that you cannot point at anyone.
Never go into someone else’s fridge unless you know them so well you can walk through their front door without knocking. And even then, NEVER eat anything, just get milk/creamer for the coffee…and put it back in the same spot when you are finished.
If you are hungry, mention it casually. If they do not offer food, do not mention it again. Arrange to leave and get your own food/go home. Hospitality in Canada is offering a non-alcoholic beverage (even water). You are not entitled or to expect anything else. Do not assume somebody else’s finances can afford to feed you.
Tipping is a thing here. 10-20%. This always starts an argument on the sub when this is brought up. I serve/ bartend and 98% of people tip and tip 15-20%. It’s how it is and it’s not going away.
We love our alcohol here, however don’t be a twat and be loaded drunk in a shopping mall or in a city street acting a fool.
Don’t drive around your truck with a Canadian flag on it. You look like a Yank or an idiot or both.
Cars are turning right on red traffic lights, and drivers don’t look for pedestrians; don’t get hit from the left even if you got green (white)! Also cars don’t understand cyclists, like in NL, so don’t go bike until you see how poorly people drive. Remember, in Canada it’s not required to properly learn how to drive, like in Europe.
Announce when you’re going to the toilet. I grew up in Britain where ‘just popping to the loo’ is such a normal thing to say. Even saying ‘toilet’ seems rude, they say ‘wash room’ here. Now I’ve lived here for 5 years I find it absurd/kind of gross that Brits do that.
More of a do than a dont but if you ever visit Quebec, a little french can get you a long way. Pretty much any place that offer a service can serve you in english so dont worry about it but if you need some help in a less touristic spot, trying to speak french or learning strategic words like “Bonjour” (hi) is a good way to get a lot of quebecers on your side. For example, you can open the conversation with a “Bonjour” and then asking if the person speaks english.
To keep it simple, a lot of Quebecers are really proud of french and you making the effort to try to speak in french will get you the respect and solidarity of a lot of people in Qc. Its a small gesture that can mean a lot for some of us.
When someone offers you a beer you accept regardless of preference. The best beer is free. The second best is cold.
Don’t cut your milk bag unless it’s secured in a pitcher. Milk is sold in bags here. It’s easy and tidy and great until it’s not. Also don’t cut the hole too big. And don’t cut it with an old dull serrated knife.
Don’t stand still on an escalator and take up all the space. If you want to stand, keep to the right, those who want to walk up or down need room to pass you on the left.
Don’t be an escalator hog 😉
I think this goes under the heading of: be aware of others and acknowledge that they are using the same space as you are.
Don’t honk. Like honk if someone is about to have an accident or a polite little beep for attention but otherwise it’s considered pretty rude to toot your horn.
If in a classroom setting, don’t speak answers aloud unless asked or in a discussion setting. For example, if the professor puts a problem up on the board like “2+2=_” then don’t say 4 unless asked directly that way other people have a chance to answer it in their own time as well.