14 ways to spot a Canadian abroad

November 10, 2021

Canadians are heading abroad again! In August, Canadians travelled abroad at a rate four times higher than the previous August, and international travel has just continued to get easier as borders reopen and countries release their new entry requirements around vaccination and testing. If you're ready to take the plunge and pick up where you left off back in early 2020, chances are you'll encounter other Canadians out there along the way. Here are 14 ways to spot a Canadian a kilometre away no matter where you are in the world.

They're sporting MEC, Lululemon or Roots gear

We Canadians may not wear our heart on our sleeves, but we definitely wear our homegrown brand names on our outerwear. Immediate hints that you've definitely got a fellow Canadian in your midst include a MEC backpack, lululemon clothes or Roots-brand leisurewear. In the case of the latter, you'll be notified by giggling if any Aussies are in the room.

They pronounce Toronto properly

Though some West Coasters may slip through the cracks on this one, most Canadians, and especially anyone from Toronto, is easily identifiable by how the pronounce the name of Canada's largest city. If you're hearing three syllables, they're either a born-and-raised Vancouverite or are definitely not Canadian. The correct pronunciation starts with a "chr" sound. Chraw-no. Any whiff of an actual T, despite there being two in the name, is a dead giveaway you're not dealing with a local. Some will insist we only ignore the second T, but frankly who's got time for either of them.


They wear shorts even when the locals aren’t wearing them

If you find yourself in a warm destination on a cooler-than-usual day and spot just one guy wearing shorts, despite the locals bundled up to the ears, there's a very good chance he’s a mail carrier on vacation, a Canadian or, most likely, both.

They’re the last to put on a sweater after the sun goes down

Along the same lines as questionable pant length relative to ambient temperature, Canadians will also be the last ones to put on a sweater after the sun goes down. Aussies will throw on a jumper the second temps drift down a degree from the daytime high, while Canadians will be exercising their right to bare arms well beyond sundown.

They have a refined palate for the many varieties of cold

You might think Canadians just have a higher tolerance for cold temperatures, but it's not so much a tolerance as a refined palate for the varying types of cold. Those who hail from warmer climates think anything below 20 degrees Celcius is just 'damn cold' no matter how you slice it, but Canadians are quick to demonstrate our appreciation for the distinction between a wet cold and a dry cold. A spring cold and a fall cold. A morning cold and an afternoon cold. The many different types of cold require a different approach to wardrobe and activity planning. A morning cold may turn into a pleasant afternoon and you'll need to be prepared for that. An evening cold can be addressed either by pants or by enough beer. Wet coastal cold needs natural layers topped by waterproof breathables, while a dry prairie cold just needs all the layers, with added attention directed to your extremities. It's an art as much as it is a science.


They use "sorry" in its full range of Canadian-approved contexts

Using sorry exclusively as an apology is amateur. A real Canadian is able to effortlessly use the word in its many, many accepted forms. While anyone in their right mind would issue a "sorry" upon bumping into someone, Canadians will also use it upon being bumped into. It can also be used in place of: pardon me, excuse me, hello, I'm about to say something, I'm confused, you and I are existing at a unique intersection of time and space, and so on.

Sorry 2

They know which actors and movie sets are Canadian

If you're watching TV or a movie with a group of strangers, you can trust any Canadian in attendance to immediately notify everyone in the room which actors are Canadian (even if the actor hasn't lived in Canada in decades), which scenes were filmed in Canadian locations and what their personal connection is to said actor or said location. It almost always involves extended family members.

They're never satisfied with late-night eats

Everywhere you go, there's a default late-night snack for hungry revellers capping off a night out. But for every greasy, carb-laden local late-night streetside delicacy there's a Canadian wishing they were eating poutine. A late-night meat pie will do the trick in a pinch, but there's really no excuse for the lack of curds and gravy at 2 a.m.

Not Good Enough

They know how to line up and wait

Perhaps thanks to the English influences on Canadian culture, Canucks are well versed in the art of queueing up. Not ones to make assumptions about who is or isn't in line, they'll typically enter the queue by apologizing to the last person currently in line and ensuring that no one else in the vicinity has plans to enter the queue at any point in the near future. "Sorry, hi, are you in line?"

They hate Justin Bieber but will actively defend his character

Most Canadians are prepared to field inquiries from well-meaning foreigners about Canada's best-known export, Justin Bieber. Yeah, he's Canadian, we say. No, we've never met him, we say. No, we're not a fan, we say. But the minute someone disparages the prince of Canada or questions his bad-boy phase and subsequent turn to Jesus, we're right there to defend him. No I can't name any of his songs, but he's family so you shut your mouth.

Justin Bieber

They speak Quebecois French even if they don’t really know French

Spend any time in France or other French-speaking destinations outside of Quebec and you'll quickly realize the Quebecois brand of the language has its own flavour. While many Canadian kids outside of Quebec learned a reasonable amount of French in school, many of us are limited to simple phrases that can come in handy abroad, but the locals will immediately pick up on the special Canadian brand of French thanks to dead giveaways like "Kess kuh say tawn nawm?" or any of the particularly Quebecois swear words.

They have trouble with currency that isn’t colour coded

While our neighbours to the south like to make fun of our colourful funny money, Australians will agree that it's a really useful way to distinguish between bills of different denominations. So when we end up in a country with a more uniform approach to paper currency (and less of a dependency on coinage), things can get confusing. We might feel super flush with a full wallet until we realize it's all $1 bills we thought were 20s, which can lead to some awkwardness at the till. Sorry.


They'll talk about a mickey, a two-six, a 26er or a two-four

Beer and liquor basically have their own language in Canada, and if you're on the hostel preparty planning commission somewhere abroad, the Canadians will make themselves known pretty quickly. If there are any two-fours, two-sixes, twenty-sixers or mickeys involved, you've got yourself a Canadian ready to party. A refined ear will definitely pick up on the fact that a lot of us start talking like we're from Letterkenny as soon as we get units of booze measurement involved.

They use the word washroom

If you hear someone in another country asking where the washroom is, you're probably dealing with a Canadian. Restroom is most common for Americans, while toilet is preferred by many other English-speaking nations. If you overhear someone asking for the washroom and being met with bewilderment, step in and help.

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