Oh, Canada! Being the second biggest country by land mass, Canada is such a diverse place in regard to landscapes, climate, and the culture of the people living there. It has more lakes than the rest of the world combined, and has two official languages: English and the French speaking folk residing in Quebec. Canada is country with so many distinct customs and quirks that make it so special, however there are certain customs that are just downright baffling.
While Canada seems to mesh into the U.S. from outsiders looking in, it couldn’t be more different from its neighbour south of the border. We eat more mac and cheese than any other nation in the world, drink clam juice cocktails, and our favourite type of chip is ketchup-flavoured. Not only that, but we use curdled milk curds in our signature dish (no seriously, it’s real good).
Only in Canada will you have the chance to experience all four seasons in a single day, with sunny and warm mornings followed by bitterly cold afternoons as you walk home from work, wondering what you ever did to deserve this. If you ever visit in the springtime you will witness hundreds of seasonally-confused people walking around in shorts in 5 degree Celsius weather, because there is no way we are wasting a single second of temperatures above 0.
Here are 20 weird things that only happen in the land of the beavers. Even as a Canadian myself, I can understand why these are utterly confusing to the rest of the world.
20 We use cheese curds for our national dish
Wait… what are cheese curds? A cheese curd (AKA curdled milk) is a food item that is hard to describe to those who are not locals. When you hear the word “curd”, you probably think of something that is unappealing or unappetising—but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, you can’t have a true poutine unless you have cheese curds.
Any restaurant that puts shredded cheese on their poutine is just an embarrassment—it NEEDS the curd to make it what it is. Otherwise, it’s just some fries with gravy and cheese. While others may think this is weird, there is nothing that complements a poutine more than some oo-ey, gooey curds.
19 We put maple syrup on everything
Okay, maybe not everything—but we do love maple syrup and will use any excuse to have it as much as possible. No breakfast in a Canadian household is complete without a bottle of our home-brewed, 100% maple syrup.
While we traditionally use it for pancakes and waffles, it is also a great thing to add to any recipe to make it just a little sweeter. You can use it to roast vegetables, put it on bacon, whisk it into a salad dressing, use it as an ice cream topping, and so much more. Heck, people even put it into their coffee in the morning instead of sugar.
18 And we even have a maple syrup reserve
Yes, we love maple syrup so much that we have an actual reserve that can be compared to the U.S. oil reserve. With 75% of the world’s maple syrup coming from Quebec, it makes sense that it has become a huge business for us Canada folk.
The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers keeps a strategic reserve of syrup locations across the province, making sure that production is monitored at all times. I mean, it would be a tragic story if we somehow didn’t have enough syrup for our basic everyday needs. There was an incident in 2012 where this nightmare became all too real when thieves stole over 30-million dollars’ worth of maple syrup. They must have eaten a lot of pancakes.
17 We eat ketchup flavoured chips
A country that loves ketchup so much that we made it in chip form. They are exclusive to those who reside up north, since the best ketchup chips are made by Lay’s which are only sold in Canada. Anyone who grows up in Canada remembers fingers dusted with red ketchup seasoning that became permeated deep into the skin.
You would think that ketchup chips would have come from America, with Heinz being the most distinguished ketchup brand out there. While you can find versions of our beloved chip flavour south of the border, they are nothing like the ones that the people of Canada have grown to love.
16 We can experience all 4 seasons in 24 hours
Only in Canada can it go from -19 degrees Celsius to 22 degrees Celsius in one single hour (this actually did happen in 1962 in Alberta). While these extremes don’t regularly happen today, it’s not uncommon for the temperature to fluctuate drastically from day to day.
Especially when the season is changing from winter to spring, there will be days where you can wear your shorts outside and the next day the snow will be falling. The weather definitely keeps you on your toes—you never really know what you are going to get when you wake up each morning.
15 We apologise for apologising too much
Canada is known for being one of the most polite nations in the world, and that isn’t far off from the truth. Being overly apologetic is something that is engrained into our culture and day to day life. Growing up my mom would constantly get on me if I wasn’t saying please and thank you.
We seem to apologise so much that it becomes a bit annoying, which obviously results in us having to say sorry for saying sorry so much. WHERE DOES THE MADNESS END?! We simply cannot help it—it’s in our blood. Sorry, not sorry for that one.
14 We buy milk in bags
In many parts of Canada, milk comes in bags rather than cartons or jugs. This is particularly the case in eastern Canada, where buyers receive a big bag with four smaller bags of milk inside, to then put in a specially designed pitcher. The corner of the bag is cut and then, voila! All the milk you could ever want at your disposal.
It’s a mystery of how these milk-buying process started, and why people would willingly buy an extra product that is needed to put the bags into. I think the short story though, is that it’s simply cheaper than buying the individual cartons.
13 We can see through our money
The new Canadian bills are made of a plastic-like material that have a clear strip running through it, allowing you to see from one side to the other. The bills were introduced in order to create a durable alternative to our old paper bills. The bills are built to withstand very high temperatures, as well as those times where you inevitably leave a bill in your pocket and it goes through the washing machine.
There are only a few countries in the world that have plastic money, with others including Vietnam and New Zealand. However, Canada is the only country where you can see through the notes.
12 We drink a lot of Tim Hortons drip coffee
It’s no mystery that Canada folk love a cup of old fashioned drip coffee. While many other countries have adopted espresso and speciality coffees as the norm, Canada is still riding the drip coffee train. Not just any drip coffee though—Tim Hortons drip coffee. Who needs fancy espresso?
Tim Hortons isn’t just a coffee spot, it’s a Canadian institution that we take very seriously.
No morning commute or work day is complete without a double-double (if you know, you know), and no office goes a day without bringing at least one box of donuts for everyone to go nuts over.
11 We eat mac and cheese for every meal
Everyone loves mac and cheese, but the people of Canada take it to another level.
Fun fact: Canada consumes more mac and cheese than any other country in the world. The Kraft Mac and Cheese brand (AKA Kraft Dinner or KD) has almost become a second national dish alongside poutine. If you grew up in Canada, you probably have fond memories of your mom making you KD for lunch multiple times a week.
There is just something about the powdered cheese dish that is so delicious. If you are a real Canadian, you will even dunk some ketchup on it to give it that extra amazingness.
10 We have our own English language
Depending on where you are from, most Canadian accents don’t sound that much different from the ones in the U.S.. However there are notable differences between certain spelling and pronunciation, since Canada has a separate English dictionary from America.
Many features of Canadian English comes from the influence of British English. Unlike the U.S., Canada keeps the “U” in words like “colour”, and add an extra “L” in words like “travelling”. Canadians also pronounce the letter “Z” as “zed”. We also have different words for the same thing, as the USA calls a bubbly drink “soda”, while Canada calls it “pop”.
9 We harvest icebergs
Who would have thought you could harvest icebergs? Well, apparently you can in Canada! Every spring, massive islands of ice float all the way from Greenland to Newfoundland where the harvesting takes place. Chunks are then extracted by entrepreneurs that use them for locally-produced products, such as wine, vodka, beer, and skincare products.
The water is used as a way to take advantage of the fresh water to then produce environmentally-friendly products. Specifically with skin-care lines, the water is said to be amazing for your skin, with Ossetra (from St. John’s) being the biggest company to capitalise on these natural resources.
8 We have the world’s safest highways
For animals, that is. Canada has built multiple million-dollar highway overpasses in the country’s national parks in order to avoid animals getting hit as they cross the highway. Wildlife such as bears, wolves, coyotes, moose, elk, and sheep use these overpasses and underpasses to safely get to the other side of the road. They have been built in Banff National Park, Yoho National Park, as well as one located in Sudbury, Ontario.
While these are mainly used to protect the animals residing in the parks, they are also used to protect those driving from any animal-related collisions. Sounds like a win, win.
7 We hold an annual bathtub race
This crazy tradition dates back to 1967 in Nanaimo, BC, where converted bathtubs race in a 90-minute course. In the first year, close to 200 people competed in the 36-mile course, with only 48 actually finishing it. The race has been somewhat perfected since then to include high-performance tubs in the race.
The annual aquatic tradition is a part of the weekend-long Nanaimo Marine Festival held every summer. It’s actually taken extremely serious, as there is even an official Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society that runs it every year along with concerts, art workshops, a ton of vendors, and other activities planned.
6 We can send a letter to Santa (and he’ll write back!)
Thanks to our beloved Canada Post volunteers, kids around the world can send a letter to Santa each year and actually receive a personalised better back. They get such a high volume of letters, that they actually have to hire volunteers to reply to them all. Santa and his volunteers have answered more than 1 million letters in 30 languages, and that number is growing more and more each year.
Have you ever heard of anything more Canadian than that? I mean, getting a personalised letter from Santa as a kid is pretty much the most exciting thing that will ever happen to you.
5 We will wear shorts and a t-shirt in any temperature above zero
Make no mistake that AS SOON as the temperatures hit above 0 degrees C, Canadians will break out the shorts and t-shirt. We have so many months of winter a year that we get so dang excited when the weather isn’t in negative temperatures.
As soon as the winter is drawing to a close, outdoor patios will be packed to the brim full of people, even if there is still some snow on the ground. While other countries that see mild weather year would be in sweaters in this type of weather, Canadians will be outside sun-bathing in their bikini as soon as spring hits… no doubt about it.
4 Canadians eat maple syrup off of snow as a tasty treat
Believe it or not, Canadians pour melted maple syrup on snow, scoop it up with a popsicle stick, and eat it as a tasty snack. There is probably nothing in the world more Canadian. This snack is officially called ‘tire d’erable’ which translates to ‘maple taffy’, and it’s pretty much amazing.
The snow essentially stops the hot syrup from cooking and cools it to the consistency of taffy. It’s part of traditional culture in Quebec, and people travel from all over the country (and world) to snack on these delicious treats. However, you can make it pretty much anywhere if you have access to both snow and maple syrup.
3 We have weird names for our coins
Canada has both a one-dollar and two-dollar coin, both with their own personalised name. The one-dollar coin is known as the ‘loonie’, since there is an image of our national loon bird on the coin itself. In order to follow suit, we named the two-dollar coin the ‘toonie’.
Us Canada folk think nothing of the funny names, but you have to admit they do sound a bit comical when you’re trying to explain to a foreigner what our coins are called. We even have a weekly holiday called ‘Toonie Tuesday’ where different businesses and restaurants will offer food or services for just two dollars.
2 We sing half of our national anthem in French
Adding to Canada’s inclusive nature, you will often find that we sing half of our national anthem in French and the other half in English. Since they are both national languages of Canada, they are both equally important to include.
Growing up in elementary school, I remember learning the national anthem in both languages and singing it each morning—so, you likely have it engrained in your brain by the time you’re 10 years old. The lyrics will jump back and forth between languages throughout the song, which is rare to see in any other country’s anthem since not many have two official languages.
1 Our signature drink includes clam juice
The Caesar is a Canadian staple. The perfect drink for brunch, a hot summers day, or to cure events from the night before—the Caesar cocktail consists of vodka, Clamato juice (which is clam and tomato juice), spices, and a pickled garnish. It’s similar to a Bloody Mary, but better in so many ways.
The secret ingredient that makes the drink so unique is the fishy clam juice that is a component of Clamato juice. Anyone who isn’t from Canada thinks that putting fish juice in a drink is extremely weird—and we don’t really blame them. It is weird, but it somehow works.