15 Clues you’re in Canada

Maple Leaf on wooden boards

15 clues you're in Canada, Canada flag


You know you’re in Canada when…

  • Every other vehicle on the road is a pick-up truck
  • Hydro means electricity not water
  • Fine-dining is a “gourmet” hamburger
  • Bryan Adams and Celine Dion STILL get regular airtime
  • You’re directed to Craigslist or Kijiji for everything from a new phone to a new house
  • People eat their muffins with butter and call pasta noodles
  • Your snowblower has more miles on the clock than your car
  • Bedbugs make the news
  • Back gardens double up as ice-rinks in winter
  • You know how to wear a toque and what to do with “Timbits”
  • Public parks have as many barbecuesΒ as benches
  • You have Canadian Tire money in various locations around the house
  • You’re always within 10 feet of a hand-sanitiser dispenser
  • The term “Homo milk” doesn’t make anyone giggle
  • …and you can buy that milk in a bag

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments…

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Whitby Shores, Whitby, Ontario

By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


    1. I didn’t mean to offend Catherine, just a whimsical list of observations from my British point of view. Back in the UK a pick-up is unusual – here you see them all the time, the car park at school is a great place to check out all the different styles. As for the hamburger, the National Post ran a weekend feature not so long ago on the “gourmet hamburger” scene in Toronto, and it’s not cheap! Definitely in the “fine dining” price bracket…

        1. I’m only calling it how I see it, coming from a different country, I’m not being judgmental. Personally, I love the trucks, we considered getting one before settling on our Jeep.

      1. I don’t see how this post could have been offensive when it was very clearly whimsical and poking gentle fun at life in Canada. I live in Vancouver and it seems to me that just about every car I see is a pick-up but that’s not unusual for me coming from South Africa; although when I lived in the UK – it was very unusual to see pick-ups.

  1. There’s lots more to say…and I also disagree strongly about the pick up trucks and hamburgers….where do you live?! Not in any major city, where there is fantastic food available. I’m a Canadian expat in NY since 1989 and go north several times a year.

    The major difference (not from the UK perhaps) in Canada is that everyone apologizes all the time and pronounces it sore-y. Not in NY!

    1. This was never meant to be an exhaustive list, that’s why I threw it open to the readers, but I seem to have hit a nerve with the trucks. *shrugs* I counted a dozen when I popped up the road to pick my daughter up from school. We’re 50km from downtown Toronto. According to the government website, “In 2006, the majority of light vehicles on Canadian roads were cars (52%). However, the mix of vehicles on Canadian roads has shifted to include a greater number of larger, less fuel-efficient, vehicles, including pickup trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles (SUVs).”
      As for the burgers, I’d never known an obsession like it! They feature in lists of the most popular food in Canada, most food outlets serve them and they have been elevated to “gourmet” status by various chefs and eateries in Toronto.
      Wow, the dog-eat-dog vibe of New York must’ve been a shock to your mild-mannered Canadian sensitivities. I can’t imagine people apologising much there.

  2. I see your dilemma with writing lists like this. You can be perceived as whinging about the current situation (which I know you’re not) by drawing attention to some of the differences. I’m generally a bit hesitant to make comparisons to life here versus life there because of that reason. However… I recognise a lot of the things in your list from when I lived there. and they bring back sweet memories.

    A lot of the items in your list also apply to Australia e.g. the number of trucks (known as Utes) here) and the arrival of the gourmet hamburger (numerous fine dining establishments exist in Sydney selling high quality fare such as Wagyu Burgers at $150 a pop). All public parks here also have barbeques as standard. Bedbugs don’t make the news but the price of petrol at the bowsers in different suburbs of Sydney regularly do.

    I think a lot of the similarities come from the ‘outdoors’ way of life shared by Australia and Canada, and probably aren’t unique to the great white north. Interesting list though – and the Canadian Tyre money thing is bizarre! We used to find it everywhere. Did you know you can trade them back in for 0.0001 cent per note?

    1. Yes, it’s definitely an affectionate list, uttered with a smile. I know a lot of these things aren’t unique to Canada but I wanted to convey the differences that registered to someone coming here from the UK. As for the Canadian Tire money, did you hear about the man who saved his up and bought a ride-on mower?

    2. In Canada, it’s known as whining, rather than whinging 8^). And Canadian Tire, not Tyre (and why would you trade it in for practically nothing, when you can get free stuff at Canadian Tire with it?)

  3. As an American I can attest that there are far more pick-ups and other truck-like vehicles in the US and Canada than just about anywhere else. It’s an observation, not an insult, unless you make perjorative assumptions about the owners. Was also stunned you didn’t have Bob & Doug McKenzie and ‘eh’ on the list; are you SURE you’re living in Canada?? And yes, I’m sure both will irritate some Canadians…

    1. Hi Linda, I often wonder how our expatriate experience is affected here by our lack of TV. We’re not signed up to cable (so many said it wasn’t worth the $, and now I love that we are more discerning about what we do chose to watch) so there’s a large part of Canadian life that we have no exposure to. I’m certain that TV would have hastened our immersion into Canadian culture with it’s inescapable daily input, but to be honest, I prefer ignorance of American Idol and Jersey Shore. I’ll find other stuff to fill the gaps with, don’t you worry!
      As for “eh!”, funnily enough, it’s something I used to say before I came here, so I guess it didn’t register on my “Canadioddities” radar πŸ™‚

    2. There is a high density of pickup trucks in Jamaica, too… imported from the U.S. People like tough cars that can handle our often rather rough roads, and farmers especially love them – they pile them up with ripe bananas or other produce.

  4. What a fun list! I lived in Toronto for a while and yes, every other vehicle is a pick-up truck or a van 9driven by a hockey mum. I should know, my sister-in-law is one of them! πŸ™‚ )

  5. I found this post through Maggie at flyawayhome… I’m currently living in Stornoway, an island in the Outer Hebrides off the West coast of Scotland. I’m from the mainland but would love to do this 15 things for STY if I thought I could get away with it!!! πŸ™‚ Great post!

    1. So glad I could be of some help in that respect! It’s my understanding that much of the rest of the country jovially shares your view πŸ™‚ One of my best Canadian friends is a Newfie…

  6. Ha! I think this is funny. Although, in smaller towns you typically see more pickup trucks than you do in say, downtown Toronto. πŸ˜‰ At least that’s what I find. You forgot to add the ‘double double’. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for writing this!

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