How is life in Canada different from life in the US?

Canadians: Please don’t be insulted by this question. If it seems that I am being offensive, I apologize – but I mean no insult.
I preface my query this way because some Canadian friends I’ve asked this of are insulted. They seem to think I’m making a veiled suggestion that “Canada isn’t really different from the US”. One friend responded with a list of reasons why Canadian culture was different from that of the US, but not how.

I’m not talking about obvious things like the use of French in Quebec and the acceptance of the metric system (with the 100 km/hr highways and the just-different-enough-to-be-troubling cans of soda), but the other not-so-trivial-or-obvious differences.

Well, I’ve been told (and I’ve never lived in the US, so take this with a grain of salt), that Canadians are much politer - eg, Please, Thank you, Pardon me? (as opposed to huh?), etc., and much less forthright in their day to day dealings.

That is, I’ve been told that Canadians are a tad more - gentle (genteel?) than our friends in the US.

Also, another important difference is that the income difference between the richest and poorest Canadian is less. There are certainly marginlized groups in Canada, but (according to one of the Americans that I work with - he’s lived in Miami, Detroit, Dallas, etc, etc.) just about every large US city has an actual gheto - this is just not the case in Canada.

My understanding is that racial conflicts are much more pronounced in the US. That’s not to say that there are no racial conflicts in Canada - they’re just less - um, ugly.

Finally, because of the gun control laws in Canada, most of the people I know have never seen a handgun, either for sale or being used (expect perhaps on a police officer), and rifles are much less common.

Ok, that’s a few.

Incidentally, most of my information comes from assessments by freinds/family that have lived in both Canada and the US.

Canadian checking in.

The very simple truth is that for the most part it isn’t any different. The differences between living in different parts of the U.S. is much greater than the differences betwene living is like parts of the U.S. and Canada.

If you were to move from Boston to Toronto, you would find that the city looked much the same, that the consumer goods available for purcahse were much the same, that the things people did for fun were much the same, and that the general quality of life was much the same. Canadians watch most of the same movies and TV shows, listen to most of the same music, read the same books, and attend the same sporting events.

Like the US, there are wide regional differences, aside from the Quebec factor. The economy in Newfoundland is very, very poor as compared to the central industralized provinces. Living in BC can be quite different from living in Saskatchewan. Large cities like Toronto and Vancouver are racially and culturally heterogenous (both those cities have no majority race or ethnic background) whereas smaller towns tend to be very white and unilingual.

There are local differences, too; Montrealers love hockey more than other sports instead of football or basketball, there are Canadian musicians you’ve never heard of, we have unique TV shows, etc. In terms of how it really affects your day-to-day life, no big deal.

The significant differences include:

  1. Quebec. If you move to Quebec you’re in a completely different language, so obviously that’s a huge difference, although they still listen to Britney and watch Survivor.

  2. The crime rate in Canada is comparatively low. The murder rate in Toronto, to use an example, is about ten times lower than a typical American city of like size. It is a substantially less violent society, for a variety of reasons.

  3. Canada has different political concerns, obviously. Both countries are liberal democracies, so it’s not like you’re moving to Qatar, but our daily concerns are different.

  4. Yes, hockey really is a huge deal here.

  5. Depending where you live in the U.S., the weather here can obviously be different. If you’re from Minnesota you won’t notice any change (actually, some parts of Canada are warmer than Minnesota.) If you’re from Miami, it’s horrifying.

  6. Fundamentalist Christianity on a politically significant scale is not nearly the thing here that it is in the States, in case that matters to you. We don’t have really significant numbers of people and elected leaders saying evolution is a load of bunk.

A few commonly stated things I really DON’T think are true include:

  1. “Canadians are more polite!” It is my direct experience and honest belief that this is a complete load of crap. Americans are every bit as polite and friendly as Canadians. Canadians LOVE to say this and many fervently believe it. They’re self-deluded.

  2. “Racial tensions are better here!” This may be generally true, but the larger difference is that racial tensions are DIFFERENT here. In Canada, it’s not the blacks who have been downtrodded, it’s the aboriginals.

  3. “Taxes are so high!” Bull. It depends where you live, but Canadian taxes are NOT that high, comparatively speaking. If you move to Newfoundland you’ll get it in the ass, but if you move to Ontario you’ll pay income taxes no higher than the U.S. average, and if you move to Alberta you’ll pay less. Canadian taxes are different; for instance, you pay a federal sales tax on most stuff, but on the other hand our capital gains exemptions are friendlier in many respects, and you don’t pay inheritance taxes. I make a pretty substantial amount of money, and I pay about 25% in income tax.

  4. “Canadians put mayonnaise on their french fries!” No, that’s EUROPE. We use ketchup, salt and/or vinegar, like all decent people. :smiley:

Stereotypes (?) I’ve heard about Canada from other Americans:
·Friendlier people
·Liberal attitude
·More manly men

Canada often plays a part in my fantasies.

A Canadian here…
Several difference I have noticed between Canada and the States:

  1. News and Media.

Canadian television news is much less parochial than in the States. I noticed that in San Francisco the ‘regular’ news was about the USA. This was not surprising; what I did find odd was that ‘world’ news was pretty much only about things outside the USA that directly involved Americans.

In Canada, you will find a greater variety of news sources (papers, television channels) in English, French, Chinese, and other languages.

The requirement that federal services be officially bilingual was a seed of this, I suspect; another seed was the official multiculturalism policy. This made the prescence of more than one language usual in peoples’ lives, and thus it was easier to establish services in other languages.

This led to things such as: official multilingualism in various provinces (for example, the North West Territories has nine official languages; Nunavut has four, and New Brunswick is officially bilingual.

There also seems to be a greater number of newspapers and news services in general.

I read of major US cities with populations in the millions and only one daily newspaper. I don’t know how many daily newspapers Toronto has; I tried counting them and got 8 without trying:

Four in English:
The Toronto Star (largest paper in the country; popular and centrist)
The National Post (a recent right-wing arrival. May be losing sales)
The Toronto Sun (right-wing populist tabloid. Skin, sports, and stereo ads)
The Globe and Mail (conservative business-oriented paper with excellent world reporting. Think New York Times crossed with the BBC)

Three in Chinese:
World Journal
Ming Pao
Sing Tao

One in Spanish:
El Popular

I’m sure there are more dailies. There are uncounted weekly papers in dozens of languages, everything from Korean to Punjabi.

The other big cities (Montreal, Vancouver) and some of the medium-sized ones (Ottawa. Halifax?) all have more than one daily newspaper.

Canadian television tends to censor violence more than sex; I’ve heard that in the US it tends to be the reverse.

The CBC has English and French radio and television networks nationwide.

There is a national aboriginal television channel (APTN).

There is a national multi-faith religious television channel (Vision TV). Until recently, the CRTC would not allow religious channels giving the views of only one religion, so we had the interesing phenomenom of pirate Christian broadcasters… There have always been individual Christian programs on TV; it’s just the single-faith channels that were restricted. I believe the rules have been relaxed somewhat now.

This brings us to…

  1. Religion.

Then USA has a much greater acceptance of formal conventional religion in public life.

In Canada, at least in the part where I live (Toronto), religion is very much a private matter. We do not have the ostentatious public allegiance to established religion that I’ve seen with various public figures in the States.

I suspect that this is due to the fact that everyone’s a minority, culturally, so to speak–there is no mainstream to adhere to.

There is no Canadian political movement with power corresponding to the US ‘religious right’ for instance, although there a numnber of extremely fringe political parties along this line. I think the Reform Party/Canadian Alliance would have liked to be that movement, but so far it hasn’t succeeded.

I am aware that this varies regionally both in Canada and the States; I suspect that there is a much greater acceptance of public religion in Alberta, for instance, than in Ontario. And San Francisco is very different than Alabama.

I’m not sure about Quebec–the place was ruled culturally by the Roman Catholic Christian church until the Quiet Revolution in the early 1960s, after which the culture shifted. I believe that the current use of Church terms as profanity in Quebec French started around this time. But I’m sure matt_mcl and other Quebec Dopers can clarify and correct me on this.

  1. Hi Opal!

  2. Awareness of the surrounding world

Living among giants (the USA, Europe, China, Russia… especially the USA), Canadians are always subliminally aware of the world beyind their borders, in a way that Americans don’t seem to be. They know that they are connected to the world in many different directions. They also know that there are large, poweful entities in the world that may not be moving in the same direction as they are.

The USA, because of its power and size, is complex enough to be a world unto itself. Canada has the size, but in many ways it is a string of settlements with vast unlit territories bewteen. We are aware if the vast empty North, and it causes us to huddle in our warm houses in the winter and thank the gods that we don’t have to go outside.

Canadians take a perverse pride in our nasty weather… but only when inside, and able to look out at the storm through a window that keeps it safely outside.

I’m sure I can think of more, but I have to get some work done… :slight_smile:

Actually - I’ve only ever heard this from visiting Americans, or displaced Americans. One of my very good friends has spent about equal time living in Calgary as she has in Philidelphia - according to her, Canadians aren’t more polite, in so much as Canada is more polite. Ditto on the racial thing.

I’ve lived in both places - currently in Alberta, and I’ve never noticed this. Public religion is not a real big thing in Alberta at all, rural or otherwise. (At least not in my experience).

Yet more confirmation the the US, “the greatest country in the world”, is culturally and politically the most backwards of all the Western industrial countries.

I’m telling ya; when I was a kid in the '60’s, the weather stopped on the Canadian border. There was no weather north of the 49th parallel!

See, I hear the “Canadians are friendlier/more polite” thing often as well. However, in looking at threads where Canadians and Europeans describe their experiences visiting the US, they often comment on how friendly, for instance, waitstaff in restaurants are.

If I (who has no business commenting here, since I’ve only visited Canada and not lived there) had to make a lame generalization, I’d say Canada is slightly more “European” than the US. Hard to explain, but I think many who have been to both countries would agree. Specifically, I noticed a sort of combined French and British influence on the culture there.

i heard they eat ketchup flavored chips…

I understand there is a big difference in how medical insurance works. Can someone explain what exactly the difference is?

Someone also told me that Canadian women are more beautiful, any truth to that? :smiley:

If you watch Simpsons, you’ll understand the reference: to a Canadian, the U.S. is Shelbyville. Everything is almost the same, but slightly twisted. Not in a bad way. Of course, if you ask my wife, it’s Canada that’s the different one.

Having lived here for 2 years now, the thing that really, really catches my eye is the religion aspect. Every day, I see someone reading a bible on the Metro, my bus driver tells me to have a “blessed day,” hell, the other day, a woman who was lucky enough to have the subway door stop right in front of her called out “Thank you Jesus!” 'Cause, you know…that’s what he’s there for…

It’s all over the place; politics, television, grocery shopping. Frankly, I find it a bit frightening. My wife finds it completely normal.

That and the sex vs. violence thing.

Oh, and kryptonite2, ketchup chips are gooooood.:smiley:

I don’t know about Canadian women in general, but Montreal is thought to have some of the most beautiful ladies in the world. This is probably a ratio thing (with 7 or so girls for each boy, there’ve got to be some pretty ones) and an ethnic thing (multiculturalism creates a becy of beauties all across the spectrum).
I usually describe Canada as the love child of the UK and the US.

My .02

As Rickjay mentioned, for the most part we aren’t different. When I lived in Vancouver I felt like Seattle could just as easily be another side of the city.

At first I was going to disagree with Alice’s point of Canadian cities having a real “ghetto”. But the more I though about it, she might be right. There are areas in Vancouver that I definetly wouldn’t want to walk around in by myself at night, but I could and have felt relatively safe in the day. Not that I would want to take make a home in those areas by any means. The otherside of it, when I was in LA a few years back I just knew I didn’t want to go driving around Anaheim or get off the I5 at the wrong exit. Seeing razor wire strung around the freeway was not something I was used to seeing.

Taxes… probably not all that much different, but then again I live in Alberta. I would actually go as far as saying the cost of living may be substantially less in many ways here than in the US.

We have our share of right wingers here (probably myself included) but we also have our share of left-wing zealots as well. IMHO religion is not really in issue in government anymore. Others may disagree.

Weather… Sure. I get exposed to -30[sup]C[/sup] temperatures in the winter… sometimes colder. Our summers though can be quite warm and downright hot (although I am still waiting for spring to arrive!). I usually vacation in the Okanogan area of BC and in the summer hi 30s is not at all rare. But for the most part, I would say the weather isn’t all that different.

Our entertainment is very, very similar. Hockey can be big here, but its like how Basketball and Football is big in the US. Here, they are almost a niche market… but growing.

Being more polite? I dunno. Maybe, but I have never gotten into a heated conversation with someone and figured they must be an ass because they’re American. I would guess they’re an ass because, well, they’re an ass, regardless of nationality.

HOWEVER, I have noticed that Canadians seem to be treated a little better in other countries than Americans. On holidays I have gotten to know some of the locals (usually Carribean countries) and some really didn’t care for Americans. Some people I spoke to made the generalizations that they are a rude and arrogant people (rightfully or not).

All in all, I do find Canada (English Canada at least) to be very similar to their US neighbors to the south. I mean that in the literal sense, too. Albertans will be pretty much at home in Montana, Idaho, etc. BCrs in Washington, Oregon… etc. I would suspect someone who lived in Maine or Vermont would be just as “shocked” going to Alberta as they would going to Montana, but it would be nothing for them and minimal/no adjustment going to New Brunswick or Nova Scotia.

I think the biggest difference in Canada vs US is our health care system.

In Canada, pretty much most Doctor visits are covered by the gov’t. We pay for prescriptions, eye care, dental and anything cosmetic (plastic surgery for example)

If we have babies, we are covered for hospital stay up to (correct me if i’m wrong) 5 days.

I think our health care is one of our biggest assets, and I, for one, appreciate it immensly!!

You know, it doesn’t make sense but I think so… but that is probably just my perception. Of course, I’ve seen some mighty hot American women too.

But one other thing I have noticed is this… and Americans I am not making this post as a slam so don’t get offended, please.

I think Americans in general are fatter. I would bet that if you took a random sampling of 100 Americans and 100 Canadians that more Americans would be obese than Canadians. I remember going to the US I was in awe that some of the grocery stores would have 2 aisles, both sides of junk food… where as I was used to seeing 1 aisle, usually only 1 side that had exclusively junk food. As well more of the food items in restraunts seemed to be prepared fried or deep fried.

Anyone else notice this?

Aren’t Canadians required by law to chug a liter of maple syrup every morning? :smiley:

Another Canadian here.

how is life different in Canada?
well first, we are always wearing winter coats cuz of all the snow… we live in igloos during the ‘summer’…
we hunt moose and drink beer all day.

how different can living in Canada be from the US?
i’ve been to the US a couple of times…
I think the US is the same as Canada… but dirtier… more violent…
but life is pretty much the same.

How is life in US different from life in England, France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Japan, Korea, or any industrialized countries?

Pretty much the same right? make money, buy a house, watch tv, play sports, eat out, spend money on designer stuff… buy a car…
can life in other countries be that different?

oh and canadians have this thing called poutine.

i heard that americans don’t know this.
well it was a while back…(5 years ago)
but my friend went to an american university(kentucky)
he went to a bar and grill and asked for a poutine. the waiter didn’t know what the heck that was. POUTINE???
he said it’s fries with gravy and melted cheese on top…
the waiter was grossed out. he was going to puke(my friend’s words)… but my friend said “just get me fries, gravy and cheese!”
they brought it separately… and my friend mixed it together…
his american friends were grossed out… but tried it…

and they loved it!!!

poutine… a canadian dish…

Plus we all (Torontonians excluded, for the most part) hate Toronto. Americans seem indifferent on the subject.:smiley:

I grew up in the U.P. of Michigan, and we convinced people that’s how it was there, too. And we got our mail by dogsled, of course;)