Non-Canadians who have visited Canada - what surprised you about the country?

For those who have visited Canada - what surprised you about the country? Is there something about the food, customs, places, people, that surprised you?

And yes, I am aware that Canada isn’t a homogeneous country, but a large, diverse country with many different regions. So, what surprised you about the part of Canada that you visited?

Toronto. We were there in 2005ish and asked around for a good Mexican restaurant. we were given directions to Taco Bell. I thought that was kinda funny.

Tim Hortons.

I’ve only visited Vancouver (many times), Victoria, Sidney, Nanaimo, Barkley Sound (eight straight hours of kayaking :slight_smile: ), and I’ve been diving off of Nanaimo. One camping trip to Kelowna.

After all of the hype, I was surprised that Tim Horton’s wasn’t all that great. I don’t think they’re as good as Winchell’s or Spudnuts.

One thing was driving along a beach in Vancouver at 5:30am in August an seeing no joggers. Another was stopping at a MickeyD’s and seeing pizza by the slice. Oh, and somewhere on the Island, just outside of Comox, I think, there was a sign above a driveway that depicted rabbits alongside “Poontang Acres”. I mean, serious, the Island, the winters cannot possibly be that long and harsh there.

This is probably unique to Quebec:

When I was in high school, the choir took two trips to Quebec: the first to Montreal, the second to Quebec City. The thing that struck me was that more or less everyone in Montreal was bi-lingual, but the francophones deeply resented having to resort to English. I remember being at a restaurant where the server was very chipper and cheerful when she greeted us in French, but as soon as we ordered in English, she went very cool and business-like. On the other hand, in Quebec City there were several places where people had no English at all, but they were extremely happy to help us anyway, and made their best effort to communicate anyway.

Of course, I’m sure that my teenage impression was entirely off the mark and I was drawing massive assumptions based on incomplete information, but it was the sense I got at the time.

Went to see Niagara Falls, wax museums, a flower display. I was most impressed by the lack of litter. Crossing from the US (Buffalo, NY?) the roadway was filthy, then once we were in Canadia everything was clean.

When I was a kid we visited Montreal for Expo '67. Of course, the big thing I noticed was that it was all in French, but I thought that was pretty neat. You could buy Jules Verne books in the original French in the bookstores.

Much later, when Lived in upstate New York I visited Toronto and Hamilton. The road signs in kilometers and the speed limits in km/hr didn’t throw me – it was a simple exercise in quick calculation. Ditto for the money and the exchange rate. What did surprise me were:

1.) milk in plastic bags! (and you had to have your own pitcher/holder for the, after you snipped off one corner)

2.) The “shoebox” cinemas at Eaton Center that held about 25 people each. And a lot of the films were Canadian or British films that never seemed to make it to the States.

3.) There was a certain indefinable something about the highways that indicated that you weren’t in the US. I don’t know what it was – and I don’t mean the metric signs or anything like that.

Just about nobody said “Eh.” :slight_smile:

Many, many Asians.

Less French influence than I thought.

I live in Montreal. I usually try to talk to cashiers, restaurant servers, etc. in French. Usually they talk to me in French, but sometimes they hear my “anglo” accent and switch to English.

The first time I was in Canada, summer 1963, my friend and I came in at Niagara Falls, visited the falls, then on to Toronto, found a motel on the 401 for $5 (! that was very cheap even in those days) and then to Montreal. Till then the only striking thing was how little different it was from the US. Montreal was a bit different, but not that much. Everyone was bilingual and I did not see any resentment over speaking English. Then we went to Quebec City and that was different. More like a European city. Still, I know from Quebecois I have discussed this with, even French Canadians feel much more at home in the US than in France.

The second time I was in Canada was as an immigrant. Now I am a citizen.

As a Canadian who drives around the States a bit I always feel a bit claustrophobic when driving around the Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont areas. I find that in populated areas the houses seem closer to the road and in unpopulated areas the brush is not cut away from the road as much as in Canada.



It may have been the lack of billboards and gas stations. I know when I traveled from Winnipeg, MB to Barrie, ON by the I-90 and I-94 I was struck by how many of each I saw.

I was surprised at how polite the police were. It thought that it was only a stereotype from comedy shows, but I was surprised by how many Canadians I encountered in general who were courteous and nice.

Milk comes in plastic bags instead of cartons.

The french fries served from the trucks under the bridge to Port Huron, Mich., are delicious!

ETA: Dammit, CalMeacham!

Hijack joke from a Canadian:
How do you get a bunch of Canadians out of your swimming pool?

Say “Get out of the pool, please.”

You can always tell the Canadians here, because they’re the ones with a dozen or two gallons of milk in their shopping carts. :stuck_out_tongue:

I spent 5 weeks in Vancouver back in the 90s as part of my job at the time.

This probably sounds dumb but I was thrown by the pronunciation of the letter “Z”. We were discussing a piece of software and one of the Canadians referring to a variable pronounced it zed. I could not find the variable he was talking about because I was looking for one with the three letter name “zed” when of course it was simply “Z”.

Up until then, I didn’t realize that the US is unique in pronouncing it “zee”.

I loved both Montreal and Toronto.

Montreal, the biggest positive was how freakin nice people were. Even when their English was poor, they tried.
The biggest negative was the homeless people on every street corner. Right outside the hotel, begging guests as they came in and out. That wouldn’t be tolerated here; a cop would have made him move along.

Toronto, we got a hotel downtown, right in the middle of everything, for a great price. That was surprising.
Negative: the only thing was you need to have a better way to get across ginormous lake Ontario! It adds forever to the trip. :slight_smile: Seriously, though, I had a great time.

Decades ago, when my mother was traveling in Quebec, servers in restaurants said they didn’t speak English so she used her high school French. They cheerfully switched to English because they appreciated the effort but people want to be able to communicate.