A Brief Lesson on Canadian Culture

A Brief Lesson

At this point, you all know that I’m a nut-case and speak sarcasm like a second language. You may also know that my sister Anna is an epic person who belongs in Lord of the Rings, and my mother identifies with a Mop. But something you may not know about me is that once upon a time, I lived in Canada for several years, and pretty much turned into a Canadian. Since we just took a trip up there this week to visit our friends and swing by the old hangouts, and the cultural oddities are still fresh in my mind, I thought I’d write a blog post about it, and show my patriotism for Canada.

(I am aware that Independence Day was three days ago, and this seems like an odd topic to discuss so soon after than infamous holiday. But Canada Day was a week ago, so technically, it’s till appropriate.)

See, generally when people think of Canada, they think of moose and Mounties and maple leaves, which, strangely enough, all happen to start with the letter M. Goes to show how original Americans are. Or they think snow, snow, and way more snow, EVERY DAY, ALL DAY, YEAR ROUND. Or, boringest of them all, they think Canada is pretty much the USA with a different name and a fourth of the population.


Prepare to be enlightened.

The Legendary Winters

It is true, Canada is cold in the winter. And I won’t dispute that in the northern regions, it’s way colder in the summer than, say, Florida. But PEOPLE. It’s a big country. Just because Nunavut is freezing doesn’t mean you should take your skis to Southern Ontario in the middle of July. WHICH, I will add, someone once did, proving that Americans really are as dumb as they look.

Tim Hortons


Guys, meet Tim Hortons. When you’re in Canada, Tim is your best friend. He loves you. You love him. Even if you’re like myself, and hate coffee. (Not to mention his bathrooms are actually clean, which is more than I can say for most fast food joints.)

There is no explaining a Canadian’s relationship with Timmy. It just is. Mom, AKA Mop in the Comments, probably wouldn’t be alive without his coffee. Look, even the Amish like him. One Tim Hortons actually put up a hitching post in their parking lot, just for a man we nick-named ‘Amish Tim’.

Roll Up the Rim


It’s Tim Horton’s version of McDonald’s Monopoly, only better, because you actually win stuff. (And I’m pretty sure Canadians view it as a religion. Just saying.)


Old Colony Mennonites

Oh! Mennonites! The people who go without electricity!

That’s the Amish, dear.

And no, these Mennonites aren’t the kind with cape dresses and cap head coverings. Where we were in Ontario, there was a massive clan of Old Colony Mennonites, otherwise known as the Dietsch, or Russian Mennonites, though I’m pretty sure they’re not from Russia, considering most of them were born in Mexico and speak German. It’s confusing.

Anyway, Old Colony Mennonites wear knee-length dresses with about a hundred pleats, little triangle headcoverings that are always, ALWAYS black, and white, knee-length socks with sandals. It’s amazing how much their culture pervades life in the area we were in. Up there, it’s a normal thing to see store signs in German or a group of girls with their hair in two braids walking down the side of the road, not to mention Mexican food is a staple of life. Which leads to this next one…



A Mexican variety store for German Mennonites, run by Christians. Because that’s not at all strange.


There’s really no explaining this place, other than WE LOVE IT. It’s so cheesy, but in a good way . I actually bought my current Bible there.


THESE. These are the best tortilla chips ever. Every time we go to Canada, we stock up on them.


I’m including this picture because of the traditional Baran Family Photo Bomb.

Milk Bags


Yup. Canadians drink their milk from a bag. Inside that big bag are two small bags. You buy this pitcher thing to put one of those small bags in, cut a hole in the corner, and that’s how you pour your milk. It would be clever, except there’s no lid.

You don’t want to know how many gallons of milk this klutzy family has wasted.

Also, notice how they have the French words right underneath the English. That’s how it is up there. EVERY THING has to be in French.





It’s French Fries (let it be known that I otherwise hate French Fries) with melted cheese curds and brown gravy poured on top. OH MY GOODNESS. It’s good. I’m also pretty sure it’s Canada’s national food. They serve it at McDonalds.

It’s still good.

Loonies and Toonies

loonies and toonies

These are loonies and toonies, otherwise known as one and two dollar coins. The $1 coin is called a loonie because it has a loon on it. The $2 coin is called a toonie because it’s two dollars. Apparently, American’s aren’t the only unoriginal human beings out there.

Also, I’m pretty sure this was the inspiration for Loony Tunes.



The Canadian version of Food Lion.

Also, instead of saying their Z like Zee, Canadians say Zed. The worst part is, they’re convinced it’s the right way.

I’m convinced it’s not.



Guys, meet Vector. Vector is disgustingly good. It’s like corn flakes coated in sugar. And it’s also $8.50 a box.

But it’s exclusively Canadian, so I thought I’d include it.

(I would like to add for the sake of my dignity that we really don’t eat cereal. This was a souvenir for my brother, who had to stay in the States due to work.)

Tobacco Barns


They’re everywhere. They’re ugly. They hold tobacco. Shocking, I know.

The Accent

Don’t try to impersonate it. You can’t. And you may get a few dirty looks in the process.

The Good Old Canadian Sunsets


I am convinced Canada has the best sunsets in the world. It’s like the flat scrubby landscape is so ugly that the sky has to make up for it. At least in Southern Ontario.

Please don’t count how many times I’ve used the words Canada and Southern Ontario. It’s embarrassing.



I only lived in Canada for a short amount of time, but I grew to love it dearly, and I know I always will. I identify as Canadian. They may not have as much as we States people do, and their grocery stores may not be as big, and they may use one and two dollar coins instead of bills, but there’s something to be said for smallness. And milk bags. And poutine.

And TIM.

So anyway, folks, there’s your long and insanely detailed blog post of the day. Now you can go to Canada and pretend you know everything about everything, earning yourself the label “American Tourist”. Other countries don’t think so well of us, I’m afraid. They think we’re spoiled brats.

I can’t imagine where they get that idea.

Long live the maple leaves!




11 thoughts on “A Brief Lesson on Canadian Culture

  1. I love insanely detailed things. And that was pretty cool. Canada sounds nice, and I WANT SOME POUTINE. Though I must say that gravy looks more like fake maple syrup than gravy… XD
    So why do they have a maple leaf on the flag? It’s not like they have more maple trees than America, is it?


    1. Yeah…it kind of does… We always got ours from this little Mennonite general store, and it looked (and tasted) way better.
      Come to think of it, I honestly don’t know. Huh. I’ll have to look that up. *adds to list of things I want to look up but probably never will*


      1. I think I actually looked it up once, but I don’t remember. 😮 Must be something having to do with maple leaves. *sage nod*


            1. This conversation reminds me of Anna in one of her more astute moments:

              “Look! A Canadian Tour Bus! It must be from Canada…”


  2. Sarah,
    When I was nine years old, I went to Canada on a a two week mission trip/dance competition trip, and I must agree with you on the summers. We went to Southern Ontario, as well as Quebec in July. We sang a song in french, and then got told that our accent wasn’t right! Oh well, we excused ourselves because we were Americans after all. Canada Day is July 1, right? We actually were in Canada on Canada Day, but we were at Niagra Falls. The fireworks over the Falls were beautiful. I ate at Tim’s and I even had poutine I think. At least I remember thinking gravy and fries must be one of the strangest foods I had eaten. When you’re nine, you don’t remember all the details.
    You also don’t tend to get up early enough to catch the sunrises when you’re nine, and your parents are anxious to get you to bed before sunset in the summer, so I don’t remember the beautiful sky colors. Sorry.
    Like I said, we went in July, and it was warm. I remember we went swimming at the missionaries house, and the water felt really good. I still have some of my Canadian pennies, I think. I couldn’t get my hand on any “loonies” and only Dad held the “toonies”. I wish I had persuaded me to have some, because I collect coins and he traded them in for American money when we got back in the States.
    And I definitely remember the milk! I spilled some all over my dress just one hour before I supposed to dance. It was embarrassing, and I got a lot of looks from my fellow dancers. Now, it was only a small amount, but it was still frustrating.
    I do not remember much else of my trip. I was only nine after all, and it was only for two weeks.


    1. So much fun, fellow semi-pretend-Canadian! We’ve been to Quebec as well. It’s pretty strange up there, how everything is French. Don’t worry, I don’t think anyone un-Canadian can ever master the accent. 😉


  3. I’m such a tourist.

    Got Canadian coins today as change for something and I stared down at them like, “What do I do with these?”

    I’m pretty sure the cashier thought I was insane.

    Also, the Florida thing. The tour guide for the trip I’m on keeps calling it “warm outside”. It’s just over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and I’m over here like, “You’ve no idea what warm feels like.” It was 100 degrees when I left Florida…


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