5 Huge Myths About Travelling in Canada
As the anthem goes, Canada is known as the "true, north, strong, and free" - but as a Canadian who has done his fair share of travelling, I’ve heard quite a few misconceptions about Canada from other travellers.
While I can't deny some of these stereotypes, there are still some lingering myths that people I’ve met seem to think are totally true. I’d hate for people to be discouraged from visiting Canada, so I'm here to set the record straight about a few things, and show you why I believe that the Great White North is the most underrated travel destination in the world.
Misconception 1: Canada Is Always Cold, Even in the Summer.
Alright, I'll admit - this one I can kind of understand. Our nickname doesn’t exactly help - the “Great White North” doesn’t exactly paint Canada as a place that has four distinct seasons. The fact of the matter is, Canada actually experiences a huge variety of weather - despite what you’ve heard, it’s not always snowing.
The summers in Canada can reach a high of 40° Celsius (that’s 104° Fahrenheit for readers from the country directly south of us). That’s definitely not the chilly winter weather you probably expected. Canadian summers are sunny and bright, and on any given day, you can find people hanging out at the lake, picnicking in parks, and generally enjoying the sunshine. I won’t lie, our winters can definitely be brutal, but Canadians pride themselves on being able to survive the cold and hold out for the summer months. So while our winters are chilly, it just works to make us appreciate the summer even more. So I guess a more fitting summer nickname would be “the Great Warm North”.
Misconception 2: “Aboot” and “Hoser” Are Staples of Every Canadian’s Vocabulary.
This one is a mystery to me - I don’t think I’ve ever met a Canadian that’s actually called someone a hoser my entire life. I’m sure that person is out there somewhere - I just haven’t met them. “Aboot”, though, is a bit of a different story. We don’t actually say “aboot” - it’s just the easiest way for non-Canadians to describe how we say the word “about”. Today’s your lucky day - this Canuck is here to explain.
Many Canadians make use of a little-known speech pattern called a diphthong. When two vowels appear next to each other (typically O and U, in words like about or around), we try to pronounce both of them. Our mouth muscles form the “ow” of the O, quickly followed by the “oo” of the U, and don’t quite capture either of them fully. Since most people pronounce it “ab-ow-t”, and they’re not used to the added “oo” sound, they leave the “ow” behind, and laugh at us for saying “aboot”. Really, it’s us who should be laughing at them - the added difficulty of the diphthong makes Canadian English a level up.
English may also sound quite different across the country. Canada is a massive place, with a variety of different accents. From the West Coast to the Maritimes, you can find all kinds of accents, including the unique French Canadian, Newfie, and Prairie accents. Canada is also a very multicultural country, and in any of the major cities, you’ll hear people speaking a variety of languages - English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, and more. There’s definitely more variety out there than you might expect, but one thing that’s consistent throughout is that we still say “eh” all the time.
Misconception 3: All Canadians Speak English and French Fluently.
Here’s one I wish was true. While English and French are both the official languages of Canada, it’s not all that common that you’ll meet a Canadian who can speak both languages fluently. Some areas of the country, like Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, or Montreal, the biggest city in Quebec, have a high population of bilingual Canadians. Other parts of the country, however, mostly operate in one or the other almost exclusively. If you’re coming to Canada, and you’re looking to improve your English or French, I’d definitely recommend spending some time in Quebec or Northern Ontario!
Misconception 4: All Canadian Police Officers Dress like Mounties.
Unfortunately, most of the police officers you’ll come across in Canada don’t don the bright red uniforms and funny hats that most travellers are familiar with. These outfits are for officers who are part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, affectionately known as “Mounties”. While you may see some of them riding horses around parts of Western Canada, the police officers in most other parts of Canada wear more typical looking police uniforms. If you’d like to see some Mounties and can’t make it out West, try a trip to the capital city Ottawa, or any major cultural location like Niagra Falls and you’re bound to see a few.
Misconception 5: Canada Is Basically Just the 51st State of America.
This one will really get some Canadians’ blood boiling. First of all, we’re a bigger country, in terms of land mass. Don't believe me? Google it. While it’s true that Canada and the United States share a lot of pop culture and media, they are most definitely not the same country. Canada has its own unique political system, currency, and culture, that define it from the US of A. Canada often defines itself as a “cultural mosaic” - we like to encourage newcomers to Canada to retain their cultural practices and celebrate them, rather than expecting them to conform to our culture. One of the worst sins you can commit in Canada is to call a Canadian an American. Try to avoid it if you can!
So there’s a few of the biggest misconceptions I’ve heard about my home country of Canada. I hope reading this gave you a better idea of what Canada is really like - but to be honest, the only way you'll really find out is if you experience travelling in Canada yourself.