Things I Learned About Being A Canadian By Dating An American

While I was born and raised in Canada, I’m also a US citizen thanks to my American mom. I vote, I pretty much know the anthem, and I spend a fair amount of time south of the border. Overall, I consider myself a pretty solid American. But not long ago, I dated a guy from New York who was living in Seattle, and I have never felt more un-American and extremely Canadian than I did in the seven months we were together. He spent a lot of time up here, which gave me the opportunity to look at my country (or Bizarro America, as he called it) and my Canadianess in a whole new way. Here are a few things I learned, eh.

We do have an accent.

Okay, so yes, there’s the “eh” thing, but it goes way beyond that. My American boyfriend was always pointing out (in a joking way of course) the things I said differently. Pasta (pas-ta), sorry (sore-y), bar (ber) for example. Then sometimes I would say something like “I need another loonie for this two-six” and it was like a totally different language to him. There are also many small differences in vocabulary that kept popping up. Grade eight versus eighth grade, washroom versus restroom, first years versus freshman, double-double, two-four, and the excessive use of the word “brutal” just to name a few. Once a homeless guy asked my ex-boyfriend for a toonie and he thought he was soliciting him for sex.

We are polite.

It’s a stereotype that Canadians are polite, and it’s totally true. Once we were out for brunch and while the waitress was pouring our coffee, my American dude asked if she would change the channel on the TV. I was secretly mortified. Mostly because the curling championships was on, but also because you don’t ever ask for a channel change, or anything that requires someone to go slightly out of his or her way. You grin and complain about it under your breath. If you must ask someone for a favor, make sure to pad it with a few apologies (or sore-ys).

But we’re not that nice.

While we’re known for our politeness, Canadians really aren’t the warmest people. I was leaving a Starbucks in Seattle and as I walked out the door, a construction worker eyed my latte and exclaimed, “Hey, did you get one for me?” I laughed but I was really taken aback. A sane, or at least sober Canadian would never have said something like that. Up here, we tend to avoid talking to strangers at all costs. I’m not sure why, exactly. Maybe it’s too cold and we can’t spare the energy, or perhaps we’re just jerks. If a sales associate or waitress makes small talk with you, the common reaction, after a very polite conversation of course, is often “what the heck was that all about? She must be bored or something.” Once I made that comment about a woman working the checkout at Trader Joe’s in Bellevue and my boyfriend looked at me like I was trash talking his grandma.

We have our own pop culture.

While we share most of our pop culture with our American neighbors, we still keep our own little pocket of Canada Only music. Let me run a few names by you: Our Lady Peace, The Tragically Hip, The Guess Who, Matthew Good Band, 54-40. To Canucks, these aren’t bands that maybe had one hit ten years ago, they’re institutions. If you’re a Canuck, you can probably name at least three of their hits. And whether they want to or not, your average Canadian, when drunk, will emotionally sing along to Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway.” It’s just something you do up here. I was surprised at how many of these Canadian hitmakers my boyfriend, who works in music, was unfamiliar with. Unfortunately it made my stories about kissing Raine Maida and seeing Gord Downie in a Starbucks a lot less interesting.

Kraft Dinner is Canadian.

Once, over brunch I confessed that while I try to eat healthy, every few years I get the urge to eat a box of KD out of the pot in front of the TV. “What’s KD?” he asked. “Ya know, KD. Kraft Dinner.” Nothing. “Uh… gotta be KD?” He had no idea what I was talking about. Apparently Kraft Dinner, and therefore, the lovable slogan Gotta be KD! is 100% Canuck. “Kraft Macaroni and Cheese” is what it’s known as south of the border, which to me sounds about as foolish as hiding a mickey full of toonies in your toque, eh? TC mark

image – Steve Waterhouse


More From Thought Catalog

  • Dan

    I’m a Canuck and when I dated an American she thought it was SO weird that I put white vinegar on my fries. Even though she loved salt and vinegar chips she thought vinegar on fries was beyond strange. When I told her how common it was in Canada to the point that many places have permanent vinegars on their tables beside the ketchup she thought I was lying! Also related: eating my grilled cheese with ketchup was also strange to her….and she was from Jersey — diner capital of the USA!

    • Georgia

      Good point with the vinegar. Go Canada!

    • guest

      That is strange considering they offer french fries with vinegar on them on the boardwalk in New Jersey. 

    • Erin

       The ketchup on grilled cheese thing is definitely weird, but vinegar fries aren’t unheard of – most outdoor fairs have them (at least in PA) but it would never occur to me to put vinegar on my fries in any other setting. I don’t know why, because they are delicious.

    • zzz

      Grilled cheese and tomato soup is a common combination in the US. I wouldn’t consider eating it with ketchup though.

    • Anonymous

       But what else would you put with chips(I mean fries but really they’re called chips :P)? Go to a chipper with you ex , get the little brown wax paper bag filled with goodness and when you open it if your eyes don’t water  when you open it there isn’t enough!

      • Guestropod

        “But what else would you put with chips”
        IDK… mayo, ketchup, hot sauce, mustard? Cheese?  Ranch/other dressings?  P much anything

  • Cnweber11

    i read that in Robin Sherbatsky’s voice

    • JessAnn

       As did I.

    • Anna

       …Robin Sparkles.

    • Tanya Salyers

      Especially “sore-y” and Canuck.

  • Kim

    you forgot beer… we have way better beer. 
    And I don’t say a-boot…. I SWEAR. 
    Go CANADA!

  • Cnweber11

    & How did I never notice they never call it Kraft Dinner down here?! I grew up on KD in Canada!

  • Rishtopher

    I loved this! What part of Canada are you from, Georgia? After speaking with my American friends for a year now, everything in your assessment rings true. 

    My favourite thing is still trying to describe poutine to anyone not from Canada (who doesn’t already know what it is). One of my classmates from Ecuador thought it was fries and cheese covered with chocolate sauce. He was utterly disgusted with the idea until I told him what it was and he was able to try it, haha.

    • Georgia

      I’m from Vancouver. Although I went to university in Montreal. Yeah poutine is a hard sell for people who didn’t grow up knowing what it is.

  • bee

    who the hell says ‘ber’??? i’ve never heard anyone here pronounce bar like ‘ber’

    • zlady6

      i think it’s actually a fairly common pacific northwest thing. same thing with bag – it often comes out more like “beg”

      • Mercedes Villanueva

        I pronounce the word bag as “bay-g” and my boyfriend always laughs at me. I’m from Scarborough, Ontario (the less city-like portion outside of Toronto).

  • Sam_van_slamdunk

    The thing about not talking to strangers is definitely not true. Talking to strangers is a regular part of every Canadian’s day. We ARE friendly.

  • LX

    Idk, I live on the East Coast, and it’s pretty standard to say hi to literally everyone you pass on the street if you make eye contact with them. Based on visiting the rest of the country, that’s just a weird Maritime thing, though. But your description of how we’re mortified by ever asking anyone to go slightly out of their way to do something is suuuper accurate.

    • matt good

       I’m also from vancouver and i freak out when people i don’t know talk to me. i don’t know why… must be a west coast deal

  • Nika

    Wait, you kissed Raine Maida?  Girl, hold on, I need to hear about this!

    • Georgia

      Not on the mouth (unfortunately). I rushed the stage at an OLP concert a few years ago. I jumped on him and kissed him on the cheek. I was then escorted off stage. It was kind of awesome.

  • Raymond Thimmes

    Ohioians are overly and uselessly polite also. Like we enjoy the torture of others incivility.

    • Tanya Salyers


    • Josh (조쉬)

      “Fuck off, Ohio” – Indiana

  • Katii

    Hell yeah sister! Star-Spangled Canadians represent!!!  Mad Canada pride. :)

    • Georgia

      Woo! Star-Spangled Canadians for the win!

  • Katii, again

    Seriously this article is my life right now, as I live in both countries.

  • Anonymous

    True on most accounts except for the “nice” part. I wasn’t surprised to read in the comments that you’re from Vancouver though, where people aren’t nice. I grew up in Winnipeg and later moved to Vancouver and was shocked at how cold people were here. Sad. Other than that everything here I relate to (especially “sore-y”)

  • Diego

    I learned those things by dating a Canadian girl. How the fuck else would I have learned about Bruce Cockburn’s Lovers in a Dangerous Time?

  • Eli

    I’m having the same deal but I’m British and he’s American. 

  • Anonymous

    I was expecting more references to poutine and ketchup chips and aero bars!

    • Georgia

      He did eat poutine once, but it was in Seattle. Every Canadian then stood up and yelled “that’s not real poutine!”

      • Guestropod

        ooh, what was not real about it?  

  • Guest

    wow, everything was so true… i’m from southern ON and the whole “we don’t talk to strangers” is very accurate here as well…. and the pop culture. it still seems weird to me that not everyone in the world worships gord and the hip.

  • Sd

    I LOLed at “my boyfriend, who works in music”

  • Guest

    you kissed Raine Maida? awesome

  • Claire

    i am an American who is INSANELY JEALOUS of you seeing Gord Downie at Starbucks!

    • Georgia

      Thank you.

  • Mercedes Villanueva

    I find that in Canada, strangers are less likely to speak to me while I’m in the city (i.e. when I take the TTC to go to downtown Toronto from my home in Scarborough).  Anywhere else and I’ll get a whole rendition of one’s life story just because I happen to be sitting beside them. Other than that, everything was spot on. Especially the thing about not wanting others to go out of their way. I’m always worried to ask for things that should be normally asked for, like napkins at a Taco Bell.

    • guest

      I’m from Ottawa and dear lord I have heard way too many strangers’ life stories while on the bus/waiting for the bus/helping customers at work/while sitting minding my own business. People here share too much..

  • R Nicator

    American here…like OLP and love the Hip.  And girls from Quebec.

  • Stephanie W

    This post just made me youtube Superman’s Dead.  I love my country!

  • TrueCanadian

    As a West Coast Canadian, I can’t relate to any of these things. Seems like a huge generalization to me, and one that is not necessarily true. I’m assuming the author is from the East Coast?

    • AARON

      I live 45 feet from the Pacific ocean, and a lot of this stuff resonates with me, at least. Except “bar” as ber, that is definitely an east thing.

      And I certainly hope nobody out east is still listening to some of those bands.

  • Anonymous

    I learned everything I need to know about Canadians from Due South.

blog comments powered by Disqus