Totally untrue myths about Canada (that are sometimes maybe a bit true)
Much as Canada’s gotten a bit of buzz in recent years, what with our coverboy prime minister and splashy 150th birthday celebration, there are still a ton of misconceptions about Canada floating about. Ask any Canadian who has travelled abroad: it seems the farther we go from home, the weirder the questions we get about what life is really like here. So let’s set the record straight.
It’s super cold everywhere all the time
Yes, the Great White North got its nickname for a reason, but like a lot of the northern hemisphere, winter is just one of our seasons. We get all four of them, and they vary a ton depending on where you are in the country. Technically winter is only about three months long, though the snow typically falls between November and March in many parts of the country. But some places, like Vancouver and the West Coast, only see a few days of snow per year, and rarely dip much below the freezing point. Come summertime, temperatures across the country can sit in the 30s for weeks at a time. Across the country it’s a fair bet to assume summery weather will kick in at the end of May and last into mid-September, and it can be downright sweltering.
There are moose and bears everywhere
There might be, but Canada is so big, and mostly wilderness, so they have tons of places to hide, and they do it well. Some Canadians have never even laid eyes on a moose or a bear in the wild. And newsflash: bears sleep all winter! So if the thought of free-roaming bears creeps you out, winter is an excellent time to visit Canada because most of our bears—grizzlies, black bears, brown bears—they’re all asleep all winter. Some of our other iconic critters don’t hit the hay for the season and you can still spot moose, beavers, wolves, foxes and wild cats like cougars and lynx if you’re lucky (though not roaming the city streets, unfortunately/fortunately).
We all play and watch hockey
No, this is totally not true. Many of us have never even picked up a hockey stick and don’t care to watch the game. Unless the Winter Olympics are on and it’s the men’s or women’s hockey finals and Canada is playing (which, yeah, duh), then every single one of us is a major fan. The country shuts down so everyone can watch, and we’re all best friends and united in our unbridled love for the game. But beyond that, nope, not a big deal.
Everyone speaks French
Mais, non. French is one of Canada’s two official languages, and the province of Quebec is primarily French-speaking, and most Canadian kids learn some kind of French in elementary school, but… yeah, okay most of us can speak some French. But for a lot of us it’s only a teeny tiny bit. Enough to ask where the bathroom is or order a poutine.
You can see it all in a week
It’s no secret that Canada is big, but it seems to be a secret that Canada is actually really, really big. If you think you can cram visits to both coasts and Toronto, Montreal and the Rockies into a one or two week visit, you better get used to not sleeping (that, or learning how to teleport). It takes over a week of driving eight hours a day to get from one side of it to the other. It’s much quicker to fly from Vancouver to Hawaii or Halifax to London than it is to fly from Vancouver to Halifax.
Celine Dion sings the song of our people
Well, yes and no. You won’t really hear us blasting Celine Dion from our headphones as we go about our lives here in Canada, but when you’re a world away and you’ve been travelling for weeks or months, a few hummed bars of “The Power of Love” can quash even the most intense feelings of homesickness. There’s a time and place for Celine; it’s just rarely at home.
The police ride horses
Okay some of them do sometimes, but actual mounted police are a bit of a novelty for us, too. Most police drive cars and wear dark uniforms and regular hats. Sometimes they don their fancywear with the red coat, riding pants and broad-rimmed hat and hop on a horse, but it’s usually for show. Some cops in regular uniforms do ride horses in cities sometimes (pro tip: you can get a great view from atop a horse!), but they do that in NYC, too, so it’s not just a Canadian thing.
Winter is flannel season
WRONG. Every season is flannel season.
Toronto is the capital
It’s the country’s biggest city but it’s not the capital! The capital city is Ottawa, about five hours northeast of Toronto. Toronto is the capital of the province of Ontario.
Poutine is gross
No, it’s actually the most exquisite combination of carbs and cheese this world has ever seen.
We talk like the Trailer Park Boys
Like our neighbours to the south, we are a land of dialects. There’s definitely a Canadian twang that involves hard Rs and deep Us (see sorrrrrry and abouuuut), but as you explore Canada you’ll find a wide range of “accents.” One thing we can all agree with the Trailer Park Boys on is that there’s definitely a fine art to the well-placed F-bomb.
We never lock our doors
Thanks to a few minutes in a Michael Moore documentary, this myth has managed to permeate the world! Sure, in some places some people don’t lock the door to their house at night but most of us definitely do. Partly because crime is still a thing here too, but mostly because we don’t want our overly friendly neighbours waltzing on over whenever they please.
Canadians are uber-polite
We’ve definitely picked up a thing or two from our queueing motherland, and the word sorry is as much a conversation starter as it is an apology. But you can certainly ruffle our feathers if you try. (Please don’t.)