This one is almost too obvious to list – but it’s also so hard to go without. Poutine is engrained in many of my fondest and most traumatizing travel memories, as much as I loathe admitting it.
Best poutine-related memory: Sitting in Whistler village with a big, messy plate of poutine after returning from a stint in Southeast Asia where a shellfish allergy kept me eating almost nothing but dry crackers for weeks on end (turns out there’s a lot of cross-contamination going on in Asian food markets).
Worst poutine-related memory: Ordering “Crazy fries” in New York, advertised on the menu as “Fries with gravy and cheese” (Yes!), only to have them be delivered as a plate of cold fries with a melted square of processed cheese on top and a side of pitiful gravy (No!). It took a while to recover from that blasphemy.
2. The incredible friendliness of strangers.
I’m a definite extrovert, which isn’t a hard thing to be in Canada. I regularly find myself chatting with strangers in grocery stores, coffee shops and on buses in my home and native land. When I visit countries that highly value privacy, I can’t help but feel a little lonely. Canadians are always apt to strike up a polite conversation in the coffee line and those little talks sometimes make my whole day.
3. $1 and $2 coins.
This beef is mostly with America. I will never figure out why on earth I need a wallet full of $1 bills – it is a waste of paper and it makes it difficult to tell whether I have $5 or $100 in my wallet at any given point in time. Plus it’s much easier to rip a bill than a loonie. Come on, ’Murica. Start circulating those coins.
4. Everything being new.
Canada is an incredibly new country. We have new apartments, new cars, new department stores, new everything. And sure that gets bland – it’s often the allure of the old, character-ridden surroundings that draws me to other countries in the first place – but every once in a while I miss that crisp, fresh newness of my home and native land. Everything is just so clean in Canada. And after six weeks of mouldy hostel showers, the words “Clean and new” sound downright sensual.
5. Unlimited access to clean water.
If there’s one thing we tend to take for granted in Canada, it’s our access to clean drinking water. And clean bathing water. And clean teeth-brushing water. Basically just clean water period. Every time I fill up my water bottle at a public fountain or order a complimentary glass at a restaurant, I remember how lucky we are to be able to drink straight from our taps in Canada. There’s nothing worse than waking up at 4am completely dehydrated in a foreign country and realizing you forgot to buy a water bottle before you went to bed last night…
Canada is crazy efficient. Trains show up on time. Meetings begin when they’re scheduled to. Speed and efficiency are valued to the point where you can even put a rush on many official procedures (think passport renewal, visa applications, etc.) by forking over a little extra cash. Canadian businesses are anything but laid-back and you can almost always trust that things are going to get done on time.
Perhaps this is a product of growing up in Northern Ontario (I know, right – people live there?) but I grew up accustomed to having a lot of space. Canada is a big, sparsely populated country so we build everything bigger – streets, apartments, cities – you name it. Though I do enjoy the packed-in charm of European cities and the hustle of heavily populated metropolises, some inherently Canadian part of me always ends up yearning for the wide, expansive landscapes I grew up with – even if only for a short fix.
8. 24/7 access to everything.
Canada is always open. Even in relatively small towns, there tends to be at least one grocery store that sells the essentials 24 hours a day. Nothing really shuts down on the weekends, which means you never have to worry about stocking up or going without. When you want something at 2am on a Saturday night, you get it. Simple as that.
Canadians are born with Tim Hortons coffee coursing through their bloodstream – and with good reason. Nowhere else on earth can you get a coffee this large, this delicious and this reliable for a mere $2 or less. Every time I get off the plane at Pearson International, I make a beeline for the first Tim Horton’s I see – it’s a warmer ‘Welcome home’ than any friend or relative is ever truly capable of giving.
10. Canadian manners.
In countries that aren’t Canada, I have to hold myself back from saying “Sorry,” multiple times a day – simply because it would sound so out of place. In Canada, you could run someone over with your car and they’d probably apologize for standing in your way. We’re a hilariously over-polite country and it’s endearing in its own strange way.
11. Our health care system.
Though I never travel without health insurance, the efficiency and reliability of health care systems in other countries isn’t always ideal. I’m never sure what kind of service I’m going to receive if something goes wrong or how much of a bill it could rack up – it’s unsettling when you’re feeling unwell, which is something you never have to worry about in Canada.
12. REAL maple syrup.
We can tell the difference before it even touches our lips.
13. Other people who understand the meaning of the world “Cold.”
Ironically, I hate cold weather. But if there’s one thing I hate more than cold weather it is hearing people complain about how freezing it is at 10 degrees Celsius. It is BALMY at ten degrees above. Hell, it’s balmy at ten degrees below. Why am I the only one wearing a tshirt?
14. The term “Eh?”
Any Canadian abroad has been subject to endless chirping about their frequent usage of the term “Eh?” And honestly, I’ll take that chirping any day. “Eh” is simply a fantastic way to end a sentence – it requests affirmation without sounding overly formal. It’s a chill way of saying, “Am I correct in thinking that?” And if Canadians are anything, it’s chill… eh?