Local traditions and culture in Canada

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Canada

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    Try not to say "No" to Asian Invitations

    by kharmencita Updated Dec 29, 2012

    Being a multicultural Country, Asian culture became a part of Canada as well. When i arrived at the Hotel in Toronto, some Asian friends and relatives of mine heard that I arrived so they came to visit me. Although i just arrived few hours and was still suffering from jet logged I was whole-heartedly welcomed and was invited for supper in a Chinese Restaurant. I knew Asians are very sensitive and when they do offer things or invite they do it with great honor, too much care and whole heart. They wanted to share the day with good foods esp. to visitors, which also shows a typical characteristic of Asian culture. Besides, they wanted to show me a part of China Town. The fact that they travelled from far distances just to see me, so not to spoil the day I accepted the invitation with enthusiasm. After this event everybody came back home pleased and satisfied. This is an example of Asian-Canadian hospitality and friendliness.
    Of course, such invitations are limited only to people you know. For strangers whom you don´t know at all, try to scrutinize him first. If not sure then keep your hands off!

    seeking the right restaurant for supper it��s a culture: Asians love to share their Foods jet-logged but happy about the meals china town
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    CBC Radio One

    by rmdw Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    For many decades Canadians have been searching for what makes us different from our American friends & neighbours. One thing we have that they don't is national public broadcasting network called the CBC. They operate several TV and radio networks, in English, French, and some Native Indian & Eskimo languages too.

    My favourite part of the CBC is their news & information network, CBC Radio 1. While at times it is too left-wing and too focused on Toronto, it generally provides a good overview of Canada. My favourite shows are "As It Happens" and "Sunday Edition"

    Anyone who wants to learn more about Canada should definitely give CBC Radio 1 a listen! You can access it online from here:

    CBC Radio 1
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    Vistor Rebate Program

    by sunnywong Updated Apr 4, 2011

    All visitors may claim a refund of the goods and services tax (GST) and/or, the harmonized sales tax (HST) which they paid on eligible goods, must provide proof that they exported their goods from Canada. This is referred to as Proof of Export.

    Proof of Export began at Canada's nine major international airports. Non-resident visitors departing from one of these airports, must have their goods available for inspection and their original receipts validated by a Canada Customs official as they leave Canada.

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    Sales Taxes and currency

    by daffodil Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Sales taxes range from 7% to more than 18% so remember this when you are at the checkout. Visitors can get this money back at the end of their trip buy filling out a form that they can get at the airport of from tourist agent.
    Tipping is generally 15%. There are no $1 or $2 bills here, we have coins instead, so your pockets get heavy very fast! The paper currency is colourful, so it is easy to distinguish the denominations.

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    Aboriginal Canadians

    by jamiesno Updated Feb 24, 2010

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    Canada is very rich with aboriginal peoples and throughout the Canadian north especially their traditionaly ways are maintained in hunting, fishing and generally living off of the land.

    They have successfully fought for prominance and recognition within Canada.

    You will see many of these influences throughout your Canadian travels!

    A respected Innu lady in Labrador, Canada

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    International Influences

    by jamiesno Updated Feb 24, 2010

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    There is one special thing about Canada and I think it is a reason Canada is looked favorably upon around the world.

    You will see that people of all cultures and nations are welcome residents here in Canada.

    My father is a lab and x-ray technician and I remember growing up being around doctors from New Zealond, England, Iraq and God knows where else.

    People from other countries like Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and beyond live here in the the small town I live in Happy Valley - Goose Bay.

    If you go to any of the major cities there is a China Town, little Italy, Lebonese food at the Ottawa Jazz Festival for example. So wherever you are in Canada you will see there are many different cultures.

    China Town, Vancouver, BC

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    Canada, a bilingual nation?

    by Carmanah Updated Jan 21, 2008

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    Most people know that Canada's 2 official languages are English and French. But to call Canada a bilingual nation is a bit of a stretch.

    First, Canada wasn't even legally bilingual until the 1970's. Even though historically Canada contained British colonies and French colonies for several hundred years before Confederation in 1867, it took almost another 100 years before the federal government legally recognized French as an official language.

    Still to this day, language in Canada is tied to its pre-confederation history. French is spoken where there were once French colonies. Today what was once "New France" is now the province of Québec, the only true French-speaking province where the majority of its citizens are native French speakers.

    The map I've attached shows you the distribution of English and French speakers across Canada. Red represents areas where over 60% of the population speaks English. Green represents areas where over 60% of the population speaks French. The red and green also show you where the population in general lives in Canada. Areas left white means that the land is sparsely populated.

    English and French language map Chinatown in Vancouver
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    Words Canadians frequently use...

    by Carmanah Updated Jan 21, 2008

    A washroom generally refers to a public toilet, although Canadians are also familiar with the American term restroom. A bathroom can refer to a public toilet, but more frequently it refers to the room with a toilet in somebody's house - bath or no bath.

    Asking to use "the toilet" in Canada is a no-no because Canadians find it too literal. It's like saying, "I need to poo". Likewise, "the loo" is never used in Canada unless trying to be cute or pretending to be British or Australian.

    Chesterfield is an old fashioned term sometimes used by older generations in Canada. Couch seems to have replaced that term these days.

    Some Canadian houses do have a front porch. If the porch surrounds the entire perimeter of the house, they might call it a veranda. If it's located along the back of the house, it would be called a deck.

    Canadians wear running shoes, runners, or sneakers on their feet when they're being active and sporty.

    A caesar is an alcoholic drink made from vodka, clamato juice, and tobasco sauce, not to be confused with a caesar salad.

    Serviette is a French term adopted into Canadian English, although the majority of Canadians these days call them paper napkins or simply napkins.

    Coca-Cola, Sprite, Root-beer, Orange Crush, Ginger Ale - they're all pop in Canada. Soda is an American term for pop. Some Canadians might catch on if you say "soda", but others might assume you're requesting a "soda water".

    A loonie is a Canadian one dollar coin, named such because of it features a loon on one side. In other contexts, it also means "crazy person". A toonie is a Canadian two dollar coin. I am not making this stuff up.

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    by stevemt Updated Oct 5, 2007

    This actually applies to the US as well, but In Canada you often see houses with the national flag flying.

    I is often a big flag from a normal flag pole, or can be a half sized flag from a house flag pole, right down to small flags mounted on gates etc or even on cars.

    I personally have never come across this practise anywhere else other than North America, but would have to hazard a guess that it does occur elsewhere.


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    Canada Day

    by Carmanah Updated May 1, 2007

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    Canada Day (July 1st) is a national holiday celebrating the birth of the nation of Canada. It is celebrated all over Canada by a day off of work. Since all Canadian children and teens are out of school by July, it often signifies the beginning of summer vacation and the peak tourist season.

    Since Canada didn't fight for national independence, Canada Day is *not* called "Independence Day", even though it is celebrated in a patriotic fashion similar to the USA's July 4th. And while the holiday was initially titled "Dominion Day" back when Canada became a nation in 1867, its name was officially changed to "Canada Day" in 1982. Calling it "Dominion Day" means you're really out of the loop.

    What to expect from Canada Day varies across the country. It can be a non-event in some places where you'd surely expect something to happen (like Vancouver, BC), but it can also be the biggest celebration at other places (like Ottawa, Ontario) where the whole city practically turns into an outdoor circus with the happiest bunch of people wearing red, white, and maple leaves! But even small towns can go all out on Canada Day (like Steveston, BC) hosting parades, fairgrounds, and fireworks.

    By contrast, in Quebec City, a francophone city whose political interests lay heavy in separating from Canada, they will put the least effort in celebrating Canada Day. Many do not identify themselves as Canadian and will certainly not celebrate it. On a similar note, Montreal has it's unofficial annual "moving day" on Canada Day. Most Montrealers rent apartments. Suspiciously all annual leases are up on July 1st, forcing the whole city into a chaotic moving frenzy. Who has time for Canada Day if you're moving?

    Although most tourist sites, restaurants, and shops remain open on Canada Day, banks and government services will be closed. National historic sites can sometimes stay open for free on Canada Day!

    But even if you're not Canadian, you'll be encouraged to become an honorary Canadian for the day on Canada Day.

    Wearing red and white on Canada Day!

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    What is Canadian food?

    by Carmanah Updated Dec 11, 2006

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    Most people assume that Canada must have "Canadian food", yet, that really isn't the case.

    Sure, I suppose you could argue that since maple syrup is produced in Canada, that it's a "Canadian food". Yet, most Canadians would agree that it's not really a daily part of the Canadian diet. As well, some people might claim that "poutine" (fries with gravy and cheese curds) is a uniquely Canadian dish only found in Canada. While it's true, poutine is only found in Canada, it's a junk food dish that originated in Québec and has only recently been introduced to the rest of the country. Being junk food, it's more of a treat and isn't a part of anyone's daily diet.

    The problem with this whole mentality is that, Canada's populations are so diverse, there really isn't a traditional "Canadian food". Canada is also very regional. With different climates and different geographies spanning 5 time zones, what might be common in the households of people on the west coast of Canada might be very different from what's common on the dinner plates of those on the east coast, or in the provinces and territories in between. A lot of Canada's cuisine is very regional, based on local ingredients.

    For example, people in British Columbia (on the Pacific coast) are far more likely to be dining on wild Pacific salmon, whereas people in the neighbouring province of Alberta are more likely to be eating locally-raised beef.

    Also, Canada has had diverse immigration patterns which have highly influenced each region's culinary options. For example, Ukrainian immigrants have made perogies a staple food in Saskatchewan, while Asian immigrants have turned Vancouver into North America's best Chinese cuisine scenes. Jewish immigrants have made bagels and smoked meat a part of the Montreal diet, while the Lebanese have influenced the cityscape of Ottawa with shwarma shops everywhere!

    So drop any expectations of finding "Canadian food" in Canada, and enjoy what Canadians have been enjoying for decades: diversity!

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    The myth of Canadian bacon

    by Carmanah Updated Nov 12, 2006

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    There is a round style of ham in the USA called "Canadian bacon". Because of the name, many assume that this is what Canadians eat, and that if you were to go to Canada and order "bacon", you would actually get "Canadian bacon". However, that's not the case!

    There's no such thing as "Canadian bacon" in Canada. This is only an American term referring to a style of ham. The term "Canadian bacon", ironically enough, only exists in the USA. In Canada, if you want round pieces of ham, you would ask for ham. If you were wanting the traditional long strips of bacon for breakfast in Canada, you would just ask for "bacon". This is the default style of bacon in Canada just like it is in the USA. In the UK, people call this "streaky bacon".

    However, in the UK, I found that if you just ordered "bacon", you tended to get a round slice of meat that was more thick, lean, and ham-like. In Canada, we call this "back bacon". It's generally higher quality bacon and can really only be found at butcher shops or specialty stores. Most restaurants in Canada, in my experience, do not serve back bacon.

    There's also another type of bacon that you can find in Canada - moreso in eastern Canada like Ontario - and that's "peabody" or "peameal" bacon. It's basically like back bacon, but it has a rind of cornmeal or peas.

    Some believe that this is where the myth of "Canadian bacon" started. Since Ontario used to be "The province of Canada", and prior to that, the British colony of Upper Canada, its British colonists likely continued their tradition of eating British foods like back bacon. Perhaps some visiting Americans (by then much distanced from their British roots) had noticed this peculiar kind of bacon being eaten and called it "Canadian bacon", for this was the only place they had ever seen this weird kind of meat!

    And thus, now an entire country of hundreds of millions have dubbed round ham "Canadian bacon", assuming that this is what Canadians eat. If they only knew! ;)

    This is This is This is This is
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    Remembrance Day: Lest We Forget

    by Carmanah Updated Nov 12, 2006

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    November 11th is Remembrance Day in Canada. It's a day to commemorate the sacrifice of veterans and civilians in World War I, World War II, and other wars. Schools will often hold Remembrance Day ceremonies. At 11am on November 11th, there is a moment of silence across the country. Memorial wreaths are laid at local commemorative cenotaphs during municipal ceremonies.

    It's custom in Canada to wear a red velvet poppy on your coat to show your respect to all those that fought and died in the war. While this custom started in recognition of the war veterans of WWI and WWII, it continues to pay respect to all veterans who fought and died in all wars. Starting November 1st, war veterans will often be seen around busy commercial intersections or at shopping centres selling poppies. Donations go towards the veterans. Poppies are generally worn until November 11.

    The poppy was chosen as a symbol for Remembrance Day due to its colour and signicance in the poem, "In Flanders Fields". The poem was written by a Canadian military physician, John McCrae, during WWI among the worst bloodshed at Flanders, Belgium.

    In Flanders Fields

    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    Trivia: The poem can also be seen on new edition Canadian $10 bills. In 2004 a specific edition Canadian quarter (25 cents) was released with a red poppy on its "tails" side. Also, Bryan Adams has a song called Remembrance Day with a very fitting video.

    Finally, while all provinces celebrate Remembrance Day, only some provinces have it as a public holiday.

    Lest We Forget Remembrance Day icons on the Canadian $10 Remembrance Day Canadians young and old celebrate Remembrance Day Remembrance Day quarter

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    Canada: It's "North America" but not "America"

    by Carmanah Updated Nov 11, 2006

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    Canadians can be sensitive to being mistaken for Americans. I think it has more to do with the Canadian media portraying Canada as a country on the verge of being swallowed up by American culture. Thus, there's this national fear that Canadians have little to distinguish themselves from the USA and thus are losing their national identity. Canadians are also sensitive to this because they're mistaken for Americans quite frequently while abroad, as many people can't distinguish American accents from Canadian accents, and many Canadians believe in the false stereotype that Canadians are well-respected abroad and that Americans are not. Hence the Canadian flags on backpacks!

    But before I get off topic some more, here's a little local custom:

    In Canada it is correct to say that Canada is a country "in North America", or that it's a country within "the Americas". However, Canada is not "in America" and Canada is definitely not "America". Canadians do not refer to themselves as "Americans".

    When Canadians talk of "America", they are talking about the USA. Likewise, if they are talking about Americans, they are talking about citizens of the USA.

    I am writing this because it's common for, say, Europeans, to say they're "going to America", when they actually mean North America. But to a Canadian ear, "going to America" is basically saying you're going to the USA. So if you say, "I love America" but you mean Canada, you might get some Canadians riled up! If they correct you and your response is, "well, it's the same thing!" you'll only infuriate your fellow Canadian, for it will trigger the sensitivity towards their fragile Canadian identity crisis. By even suggesting that Canada is the same thing as the USA, you are (willingly or not) suggesting to the Canadian that there is no difference between a Canadian and an American, and well, as I explained above, this is really a fantastic way to ruffle some feathers!

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    by Carmanah Updated Nov 1, 2006

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    Halloween is celebrated on the night of October 31st everywhere in Canada.

    People make jack-o-lanterns out of pumpkins and display them out by their front door. Some people will elaborately decorate their windows and front door area with spooky things like cob webs, skeletons, witches, ghosts, etc. However, this is not necessary. Some people will even play spooky sound effects on Halloween, and take Halloween so seriously, they'll create their entire home into a haunted house!

    As it gets dark out after dinner, little kids dressed in costumes will ring their neighbour's doorbells. Once the door opens, they'll scream "Trick or Treat!!!". Unlike my parents' baby boomer generation, nobody asks the kids to do a trick anymore, everyone just gives them candy. Halloween candy, I think, is an industry in itself! Little miniature versions of chocolate bars, Halloween-themed jellies, and whatnot. But the general rule is, if you don't put a jack-o-lantern on display, kids will not ring your door. Nobody HAS to give out candy.

    One Halloween tradition that only exists in certain parts of Canada is the lighting of fireworks. Most cities have unfortunately banned the sale of fireworks, but in Vancouver and its suburbs, people can purchase fireworks, firecrackers, and roman candles legally to light on Halloween night. As a result, Vancouver's neighbourhoods often smell like gun powder on Halloween night, and you might have to dodge a few firecrackers as you walk down the street!

    Once kids become teenagers, they generally stop going trick-or-treating, and will likely join a bunch of friends for a Halloween party. A Halloween party is essentially a costume party, so if you're ever invited to one in Canada, be sure to come prepared!

    Finally, for the adults, if they're not giving out candy to kids, they might be having a Halloween party of their own, or they might be ignoring Halloween all together. Although, most cities have elaborate Halloween parties in the clubs, often giving away great prizes to the best costumes!

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