How to prep for summer like a sun-deprived Canadian

May 21, 2024

Welcome to late spring in Canada. Or, as Canadians will have you believe: ”summer.” To a foreigner, May through to mid-June is merely the shoulder season as spring winds down and the country prepares for the blazing sunshine of July and August. Not to a Canadian.

After months spent living in a literal ice box, most are tired of chilly breezes and now itching for the warm embrace of summer. So much that we’ll fake it if we have to. Call it denial, call it optimism, call it hopeful delusion: the non-debatable fact is that if you visit Canada during this timeframe, you’re bound to see Canadians’ true colours as we feign the summer season before it actually happens. Sometimes, ridiculously so. Hey, our favourite season lasts only three months—four if you’re lucky. That’s why, if you’re a true northerner, you just gotta kickstart the season even if the sun isn’t *quite* ready yet.

If you’re new to the great north, this is how to push summer like a true sun-deprived Canadian.

Head to a lake, pretend the water isn’t frigid.

Nordic countries have the polar dip and Canadians have… late spring swimming in freaking cold water while pretending it isn’t as frigid as it is. After months of cabin fever, we’re not waiting another day to take a plunge into the lake. Lakes = summertime. Though the waters haven’t had a chance to warm up yet, we’re too giddy from the anticipation to even notice.

Cold ice

Who cares what the temperature is? Wear shorts and loud florals anyway.

Snowsuits, woolen threads, and heavy sweaters had their time to shine already. Now, it’s time to get summery. Canada is a land of extremes and opposites so once the temperatures rise even just a little bit, you’d swear you’re in the Caribbean just judging from what folks around you are wearing. It may only be 15 degrees celsius, but that’s enough for Canadians to bust out the floral dresses, short shorts, and Hawaiin print t-shirts. Yes, we’re covered in goosebumps and no, we don’t care.

Over-plan the whole summer.

This may come as a culture shock for travellers (or returning Canadians) from more relaxed countries whose people tend to go with the flow and see where the day takes them. Canadians are not like this. Especially in summer. If you want to push summer like a sun-deprived Canadian, clear a day, get your calendar out, fuel with a large Timmies coffee, and be prepared to plan the shit out of your summer. Diehards do this as early as January or February to be sure to make the most out of the warm months. By spring, you’re behind! Not much of a planner? While Canadians tend to book, schedule, and create solid summer itineraries, there’s still plenty of room to go with the flow. Stunning sunsets, killer summer storms, and clear nights for stargazing can’t always be predicted.

Spongebob long list

Plan a picnic and ignore the mud.

If you’ve ever been to a major Canadian city just before summer arrives, you may have noticed the magnetic pull of the public park. When the sun comes out and things finally start to heat up, we embody spring fever by flocking to public parks in droves for picnics and shared beverages in the sunshine. Seriously, the parks become packed! It’s something that a visitor will certainly notice but most locals are oblivious to this cultural quirk. The newly-thawed ground is usually still muddy and the breezes are often still just a little chilly but if there’s one thing a Canadian knows how to do, it’s to rough it.

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Head to a patio, but cave and ask to turn on the space heater.

In other countries, it’s called summer. In Canada, it’s “patio season.” You know someone is a real Canadian when they exclaim, “Guys, it’s almost patio season!” and then rattle through their list of must-visit patios in their city. If you want to jump into the summer hype like a real Canadian, make sure to hit up a patio even when the weather isn’t exactly hot enough for basking in the sun. If you must, ask your server to turn on the space heater. Anything in the name of day drinking like it’s a sweltering August afternoon. It’s not delusional, we’re manifesting here!

Freeze your hands on a cold one.

Similar to above: just because a late-May day isn’t exactly sizzling hot, doesn’t mean you and your travel buds can’t crack a cold one. Your hands may feel uncomfortably cold if you do, but so be it. That’s what sleeves are for.

Hike a trail. Make a note to return in warmer weather.

The anticipation of summer leads us to hit the trails early as we’re eager to explore the stunning landscapes. Early in the season, we definitely come up against elements like snow-capped mountains, cool weather, mud, and spring melts. Spring hiking is a beautiful activity in and of itself but your sun-deprived self will likely also be making notes to return in the warmer months to see what else the trails have to offer then.

Kid beomadans

Clean out/dust off the: kayak, canoe, outdoor gear, and bike.

Locals in all parts of Canada won’t let their summer toys sit and gather dust for even a second longer than necessary. By late spring, the kayak is cleaned out and outdoor gear like hiking poles, tents, paddles, and day packs are ready to go.

Get a sunburn on a lukewarm day.

You know who manages to get a mean sunburn on a day when the sun wasn’t even all that strong? A sun-deprived Canadian, that’s who. “It’ll turn into a tan!” you say as you coat your face in a thick layer of aloe.


Rock the Canadian sartorial style.

Canadian style in the weeks before it really warms up is a combination of items that are way too summery (read: Hawaiian shirts again) paired with the good old classics for when it gets chilly: fleece, flannel, a hiking jacket and maybe even a toque. Nothing is matching but when you’re on a hostel grounds just waiting for your next adventure, absolutely nobody cares! It’s Canadian chic, right?

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