Before we begin, a disclaimer: Canada is a big place — like, really big. Take 77 Englands, or 28 Germanys, or six Alaskas (the largest U.S. State, which is, coincidentally, attached to Canada) and you’ll end up with one Canada. We’re talking about the second largest country in the world — six time zones across. So there’s no point recommending restaurants in Toronto’s brilliant Chinatown if you’re camping in the Canadian Rockies 3,000 km away, and even more pointless to tell you the best B&B’s on Vancouver Island if you’re in Montréal for a long weekend (almost 4,000km away).
Instead, we’re going to look at some Canadian experiences you can enjoy in pretty much any part of the country.
1. Go To Tim Hortons And Order A “Double Double”
When Canadian hockey player Tim Horton opened a fast food restaurant in 1964, he probably didn’t know that he was creating a Canadian icon. The chain now has around 4,500 locations, and Canadians just go crazy for it! Tim Hortons (sometimes lovingly called “Timmies”) is mainly known for donuts and coffee, and you can impress locals if you order your coffee in true Canadian fashion by asking for a “double double” — meaning “double sugar and double cream.” If that’s a bit too sweet for you, you can go for a “regular” (one sugar, one cream), and if that’s too creamy for you, get a “regular with milk” (one sugar, one milk).
2. Learn The Adorable Nicknames For Canadian Money
The Canadian on the other side of your Tim Hortons counter is probably already pretty impressed by your coffee order. But you can take it even further by knowing the names of the Canadian coins when you pay. That’s right, Canadians have cute nicknames for their currency:
- One cent is called a “penny.” Don’t even bother to remember that, though, as it’s not in circulation any more. RIP Canadian penny.
- Five cents are a “nickel.”
- A ten cent coin is called a “dime.”
- 25 cents are a “quarter.” It’s worth flipping these coins over because the reverse sides have a lot of different motifs, the standard one being a caribou.
- One dollar is called a “Loonie,” since it bears the image of a common loon, a well known Canadian water bird.
- Two dollars are called a “Toonie” — you know, because it’s two loonies. These don’t have a “common toon” on the reverse (such an animal is yet to be discovered), but feature a polar bear. Also pretty cool, eh?
3. Learn How To Use “Eh” Correctly
Many people overdo the “eh” a bit when they come to Canada. But less is more, so use this little magical sound at the end of the sentence when you would like to express: “right?” / “isn’t it?” / “don’t you agree?”
4. Listen Closely To How Canadians Really Pronounce “Out” And “About”
While they’re pretty entertaining, Buzzfeed and South Park are not exactly reliable sources on how Canadians pronounce “out” and “about.” So while in Canada, listen closely to how Canadians actually talk. Depending on where you are and who says it, it might range from [a boat] to [a boot] to [an adorable little seal sound].
5. Experience Life Underground
You know all those apocalypse movies where people are forced, by some horrible catastrophe, to live underground? Well, imagine that, minus the horrible catastrophe. It gets pretty cold in Canada, so some cities like Montréal have a huge network of underground malls connecting different subway stops, basically forming a second city underneath the city.
6. Rent A Car And Go For A Hike
With most of the population of 35 million located in a narrow strip in the south of the country, Canada has a lot of untouched, breathtaking nature left to explore. The only problem is that you’ll most likely not get there without a car. So rent one, drive directly north for an hour or two, and then stop for a hike. It’ll be worth it, promise!
7. Drive On A Really, Really Long Street
Since Canadians have such a big country, their streets need to be extra long. Yonge Street, a route connecting the shores of Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe, was long quoted by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the longest street in the world at 1,896 km. However, this was due to a mistaken conflation of Yonge Street with the rest of Ontario’s Highway 11. The street is still 86 impressive kilometers long — and it’s not the only member of the Really Long Canadian Streets Club! It can easily happen that you live on the same street as a friend, but your houses are on opposite ends of town, or that you wanted to see your boyfriend’s rock show on 555 Dundas Street West in downtown Toronto, only to discover that the venue is actually on 5555 Dundas Street West outside of Toronto in Etobicoke (a situation which might have happened to the author of this text). The madness doesn’t stop there. You could also show up on 555 Dundas Street West only to discover that you actually needed to go to 555 Dundas Street East, which is — you guessed it — at the other end of the city.
8. Make Friends In A Bar
Canadians are generally very open and friendly, and it’s easy to strike up a conversation in a bar or pub with pretty much any random “Canuck.” Pro tip: Be sure to learn a bit about the local ice hockey team beforehand, and you can bond over Canada’s favorite sport.
9. Discover Canada’s Cultural And Linguistic Diversity
It’s very easy to come in contact with different languages when you’re in Canada. Firstly, there are two official languages: English and French. Secondly, while a country like the USA is commonly referred to as a cultural melting pot, Canada is regarded as a cultural mosaic. In fact, over 20% of citizens were born outside of Canada. This makes for a very rich cultural mix: Take a stroll through any Canadian city and you are bound to overhear conversations in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic, Tagalog, Punjabi, Spanish, Italian… head outside of the cities and you’ll hear Aboriginal languages like Inuktitut, Ojibway, Mi’kmaq and Cree. There are many more languages spoken in North America besides English, and you can most likely find Canadians who speak them.
To get the full scoop on Canada we, of course, had to talk to a real-life Canadian in an episode of the Chatty con Leche podcast!