March 20, 2024 | Allison Robertson

25 Things Americans Find Strange About Canadians


Strange Canadian Quirks

Our Canadian neighbors, though not very far, have some seriously strange and intriguing customs and quirks that are vastly different from ours here in America.

Here are 25 of them.

woman eating poutine and kids making maple taffy split image

Poutine

Canadians have a favorite dish they call Poutine. It’s fries with cheese curds and gravy on top. The hot gravy melts the cheese into the fries and it’s eaten all together.

Not only is it their favorite comfort food, Canadians also host Poutine Eating Championships.

Close-up Photo of Poutine in a white plate placed on a wooden tableMatt Saunders, Flickr

Poutine: Gourmet Options

You can get a poutine almost anywhere in Canada, and they even have “gourmet” versions where they add other toppings like bacon, pulled pork, onions, tomatoes, hot peppers, and more.

Close-up Photo of Poutine in a white plate placed on a wooden tableJoe Shlabotnik, Flickr

Bagged Milk

In most parts of Canada milk comes in bags rather than cartons or jugs. Consumers can buy 3 individual bags of milk packaged in another larger bag.

They put these bags into specially designed pitchers and cut off the corner of the bag to pour it.

Close-up Photo of a Bagged milk placed on a wooden tableAndrea R, Flickr

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Free Healthcare

Seriously, it’s super easy. Canadian’s simply walk into the doctor’s office, flash their health card, see the doctor and walk out. No payment transactions take place.

This is the same for hospital stays—including giving birth.

healthcare professional in white uniform with-stethoscope hanging on her neckThirdman, Pexels

Ketchup Flavored Chips

These days there are so many different and weird flavors of potato chips that this might not be so strange anymore.

But for a long time, Americans found it weird how much Canadians love their ketchup flavored chips.

Close-up Photo of Ketchup Potato Chips placed on a market rackJimmy Emerson, DVM, Flickr

They Round Up

In 2013, Canada stopped distributing pennies. Their lowest coin is the nickel, which is equal to five cents. Businesses simply round up prices to the nearest nickel.

Close-up of Canadian Coin placed on a wooden tableAlexandre Duret-Lutz, Flickr

Colorful, Plasticky Cash

Canadian money is made of polymer, it has a clear strip running through one side, and each denomination is a different color (brown, red, green, purple, and blue).

Close-up Photo of a Person holding Canadian moneyrick, Flickr

Plastic Money: There’s a Reason

The polymer material actually prevents tearing. The see-through strip has holographic prints that help distinguish real bills from counterfeit bills.

And the colors simply make it easier to recognize each bill.

Close-up Photo of Canadian Money placed on a tablePiggyBank Canada, Flickr

Scented Cash

In addition to their money being plastic, see-through, and colorful—it is also scented. Yes, you read that right—their $100 bills have an intended maple syrup smell.

Close-up Photo of a Person holding a wallet with Canadian moneyLauren Siegert, Flickr

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Scented Cash: Truth?

Canadian officials claim this isn’t true, but if you ask any Canadian, they’ll assure you they’ve done the sniff test—and it passes.

Close-up Photo of Canadian Money placed on a tableLauren Siegert, Flckr

Coins

Just like their colorful money, Canadians also have weird names for their coins. Their one-dollar coin is called a Loonie, and their two-dollar coin is called a toonie.

Close-up Photo of Canadian one dollar coin called Loonie placed on a red leafTom Magliery, Flickr

Coins: Naming

The Loonie has an image of their national bird, the Loon, on it—which is where it gets its name from. The Toonie was created after the Loonie, and it is a two-dollar coin, so it simply follows suit.

Close-up Photo of Canadian two dollar coin called Toonie placed vertically on a tableCarol VanHook, Flickr

Tim Hortons

Canadians are obsessed with Tim Hortons—a coffee and doughnut shop that is extremely popular all across the country.

Photo of Tim Hortons restaurant with big sign in front and cloudy sky in backgroundJerry Huddleston, Flickr

Tim Hortons: Menu Items

You can find numerous Tim Hortons shops in every city and town. One of their famous treats is called a “Timbit”, which is a doughnut hole that comes in many different flavors.

And the most popular coffee order is a “double-double”—which is coffee with two creams and two sugars.

Close-up Photo of Pumpkin Spice Timbits from Tim HortonsCalgary Reviews, Flickr

KD Obsession

Canadian’s take a love for Kraft Dinner to a whole new level. They don’t often refer to it as Mac and Cheese—even the generic brands are commonly referred to as Kraft Dinner.

In fact, Canadians eat 55% more KD than Americans do.

Close-up Photo of Kraft Dinner Macaroni & Cheese placed on a market rackDavid Simmer II, Flickr

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Weird Spellings

Canadian English is notably different than American English—mostly when it comes to spelling. This is because Canada retains some facets of British spelling.

Pictures of people enjoying the Canada Day celebrations wearing Canadian jerseysGarry Knight, Flickr

Weird Spellings: Examples

For example, Canadians keep a “U” in words like “honour” and “colour,” and they often add an extra “L” in words like “travelling.”

They also use the word “zed” to refer to the last letter of the alphabet, instead of “zee.”

Pictures of people enjoying the Canada Day celebrations wearing Canadian jerseys and Canadian bandanasGarry Knight, Flickr

Maple Syrup

Another common food obsession is maple syrup. Canadians put it on anything from waffles and pancakes to bacon, eggs, and sausages. Some even put it in their coffee, and on their ice cream.

They also add it to baked goods and various cooking recipes to make things sweeter, in place of sugar.

Vermont Maple Syrup bottles placed next to each other on a shelfRaffi Asdourian, Flickr

Maple Syrup: Canadian Reserves

Not only do they put it on everything, they also have a massive reserve of it, with 75% of the world’s maple syrup coming from Quebec, Canada.

Many Canadians who live in the countryside make their own, too.

Close-up Photo of Maple Syrup Bottles displayed at Byward Market in Ottawa, CanadaCaribb, Flickr

Weather

In many parts of Canada, you can experience all four seasons in 24 hours. This is more common during spring and fall when seasons are transitioning.

There are some days when kids go to school in snowsuits and come home in t-shirts.

Cozy wooden cabin on shore of Lake Ohara in Yoho National Park, Canadian Rockies.Dajahof, Shutterstock

Apologizing

Canada is known for being one of the politest nations in the world. Especially when it comes to apologizing—which they do a lot.

People enjoying skating the ice rink near Toronto City Halldaveynin, Flickr

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Apologizing: Too Much

In fact, Canadian’s apologize so much that it can actually become annoying—and then they say sorry for saying sorry too much.

They simply can’t help it.

Photo of people walking on a pedestrian area in Montreal CanadaPedro Szekely, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Canadian Slang

Canadian’s have dozens of strange slang terms that we like to call, Canadianisms.

For example, a 12-ounce bottle of booze is called a “mickey”, a one-dollar coin is called a “Loonie”, and a beanie is called a “toque.”

Scenes from day 5 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter OlympicsDuncan Rawlinson, Flickr

Iceberg Harvests

In Canada, every spring, huge icebergs float from Greenland to Newfoundland and the Canadians dig right in and harvest the ice chunks to use for locally-produced products such as adult beverages and skincare products.

Close-up Photo of Newfoundland Iceberg just off Exploits IslandShawn from Airdrie, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Iceberg Harvests: Skincare

The water is used as a way to take advantage of the fresh water to then produce environmentally-friendly products.

Especially for skincare products—the water from these icebergs is apparently super good for your skin.

Close-up Photo of Newfoundland IcebergNatalie Lucier, Flickr

Highway Safety

When it comes to animals, Canadian highways are no problem. Canada has built multiple million-dollar overpasses in many of their national parks simply for the animals to safely cross without getting hit by a car.

Landscape Photo of Animal Overpasses On the Trans-Canada Highwayjlongland, Flickr

Highway Safety: Wildlife

Many of Canada’s wildlife—like bears, wolves, coyotes, moose, elk, deer—actually use these overpasses to safely cross the road.

Landscape Photo of Trans-Canada Highway Overpass in Banff National ParkChristopher Eugene Lee, Flickr

Annual Bathtub Races

While bathtub races are not only known to Canada, they sure are popular there. In fact, they have annual traditional races in many parts of the country, with thousands of people in attendance and hundreds of creative competitors.

World Championship Bathtub Racing in Nanaimo, British ColumbiaRebecca Bollwitt, Flickr

Bathtub Races: It’s a Serious Thing

These races are not just for fun—they are taken extremely seriously. The Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society plans various events year-round in support of the big race.

World Championship Bathtub Racing in Nanaimo, British ColumbiaMoosealope, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Bathtub Races: Government Support

In 2023, the Canadian government provided $30 million in one-time grants to support cultural events—which included the annual bathtub races.

Bathtub Racer finishing at Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver, BC 1981CanadaGood Gregory, Flickr

High Tolerance to Cold

Canadians have a high tolerance to cold weather. What we Americans think is “freezing cold” is considered “mild” in Canada.

A typical view of the Rideau Canal in winter as hundreds of people enjoy the world's largest skating rinkVince Alongi, Flickr

High Tolerance to Cold: Freezing Winter Temps

Canadians are known to wear shorts and t-shirts in any temperature that reaches above zero. This is because their winters are so extremely cold that zero degrees feels like summer after two months of -40F. 

You can also see Canadians wearing flipflop sandals right up until the first snow fall.

Photo of a young person doing snow shovel wearing flipflops, shorts and a t-shirtLisa Moffatt, Flickr

Maple Syrup Taffy

Canadians make their own taffy by pouring hot maple syrup onto snow (outdoors) and rolling it up with a popsicle stick. The snow stops the hot syrup from cooking and cools it to the consistency of taffy.

Close-up Photo of some persons hand holding Maple syrup popsicleJaime Walker, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Maple Syrup Taffy: Festivals

This delicious treat can be made anywhere—including their own backyard—but is most popular at their Maple Syrup Festivals. Is there anything more Canadian than that?

Molten syrup being poured on clean white snow to create the soft Maple taffyBrittney Le Blanc, Flickr

National Anthem

The Canadian national anthem is often sung in two different languages—at the same time. Since English and French are both national languages, people learn the anthem in both languages in school from a very young age.

The Tenors vocal group perform the Canadian National AnthemChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Washington D.C, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

National Anthem: The Lyrics

In many versions of the anthem, the lyrics will jump back and forth between English and French—and Canadian kids can actually keep up with it!

Canadian National Anthem performance at Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, FloridaMatthew Paulson, Flickr

Santa’s Home

Whether you mail Santa a letter from Turkey or Australia, it ends up in Canada. Santa’s official address at the North Pole—which has Postal Code: HOH OHO—is owned by Canada Post.

Santa Claus village in Quebec, CanadaMircea Costina, Shutterstock

Santa: Letters

All of the letters sent to Santa will receive personalized replies (in over 30 languages) written by hundreds of Canadian volunteers who step up to the plate to keep Santa’s magic alive.

Santa Post Office coming on 67th edition of the Santa Claus Parade, Montreal, Quebec, CanadaAlina Reynbakh, Shutterstock

Santa: A Canadian Citizen

In fact, in 2010, the Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister declared Santa Claus as a Canadian citizen.

Santa Claus shows up at the end of the 108th Santa Claus Parade in TorontoCanadapanda, Shutterstock

Ice Hotel

Canada has an entire hotel constructed of ice. The Hôtel de Glace in Quebec has an ice slide, an outdoor spa and sauna, and over 30,000 tons of snow and 500 tons of ice making up the building.

Each year, the ice hotel is built brand new—since it melts come summer.

Main Hall with Ice Chandelier of Hotel de Glace in Quebec City, CanadaMatthew Paulson, Flickr

Hockey

As we all know, Canadians are obsessed with hockey. There is always a hockey game on TV to watch, and many Canadians record the games to watch again at later dates.

The Canadian women's ice hockey team celebrates their gold medal victorys.yume, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Pond Hockey

As well, no Canadian needs a well-manicured arena to play hockey. Pond hockey is a thing, and its rare to find an untouched frozen pond in the winter.

They even have Pond Hockey Championships.

People Playing Pond Hockey at the Fairmont Banff SpringsBanff Lake Louise, Fickr

Hockey: Year-round Sport

Canadian children play hockey all year round, on ice and on pavement, and there are various hockey championships across the country.

Children playing road hockey in Vancouver, Canada.Pete, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

Although many people seem to mesh Canada into the U.S., it couldn’t be more different. Canada is such a diverse place full of culture and quirks that truly make them stand out among the rest of North America.

Landscape Photo of Snowy Mountains with the Canada Flag in frontJared VanderMeer, Pexels


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