I'm a citizen of the United States who has lived in Canada for 18 years - literally half the time I have been alive, now. I love my new homeland. I emmigrated for love, not because I was fleeing the election (or threatening to leave, because reasons). Buuuuut.... admittedly, you might have some pretty good reasons these days to decamp and move to the Great White North.
If you do so, welcome to Canada! We're awful glad to have you here, eh!? Here's some handy tips and honest truths about I've picked up to help you adapt to living here.
You probably know that Canadians love to apologize. Saying you're sorry is Canada's third national pasttime, just after hockey and road construction. What most non-Canadians don't realize is that Canadians aren't just being polite! Saying "sorry" is an all-purpose exclamation that has also taken the place of things like "oops," "you're in my way," "oh sh*t," and many passive-aggressive statements.
It's also just plain addictive. Sorry!
Don't worry, you'll be apologizing before you know it.
Food that you enjoy eating is in the top three of everyone's list of "Things that Are Important in Life," especially when getting comfortable living in a foreign land. Thankfully, Canada has managed to do EVERYTHING right - except discover Snickers Ice Cream Bars (seriously, we need to get on this).
We get though that the experience of finding food can still be a little bewildering, so this is your essential guide for finding sustenance in Canada.
1 - Make a priority of locating your nearest Tim Hortons'.
Tim Hortons' is pretty much how Canadians stay sane. It's how they have the energy to apologize all day. Tim Hortons' provides Canadians with large quantities of caffeine and sugar, and sometimes even food. Think of it like Dunkin' Donuts, but with stuff people actually want to eat and drink instead of coffee-of-last-resort.
Be prepared to wait in drive-thrus for approximately a billion years, because people will sit in queues that line up around the block for Tim Hortons', snubbing even adjacent other purveyors of coffee that have no line up. I have not figured out what black magic they have used to make their coffee with, but apparently it works.
2 - Mayo, Vinegar, and Gravy is the new ketchup.
Burgers come with mayonnaise on them up here. I don't know why, but I've kind of gotten to like it. You will also see mysterious bottles of clear liquid substance on tables when you go out to eat any place that serves fast food. This is vinegar. Canadians like putting it on french fries, particularly when they eat fish and chips. I don't know the reason why they do that either, because ketchup has all the vinegar content I need in my fast food.
Whatever the reason, if you're feeling especially adventurous, feel free to get into the Canadian spirit and give it a try. They may also offer you gravy for your French fries, but I recommend you skip gravy on fries and go straight to poutine, a concoction of cheese curds and gravy both on French fries, which should be Canada's prime export to the USA (in my opinion).
3 - Ketchup is the new sour cream and onion, and so is dill pickle, and both are mysteriously frigging delicious.
Vinegar on fries, and ketchup on chips. I KNOW, I DON'T UNDERSTAND IT EVEN AFTER 18 YEARS. But both ketchup and dill pickle chips are ridiculously addictive for reasons unknown. It's probably the same substance they stir into Tim Horton's coffee to make people line up that long. Just go with the flow, and you'll find yourself hooked before you know it.
4 - Kinder Surprise is ACTUALLY LEGAL HERE
Smuggling is no longer required. The Canadian government has faith in you and believes that you will attempt to chew your egg rather than swallow it and the plastic surprise whole.
In addition to saying "sorry," there are many other important things to pick up about Canadian vernacular, especially if you have kids.
1 - The letter Z
You and I say "Zee" but Canadians actually pronounce this as "Zed." This may baffle you and make you uncomfortable when you have to sing the alphabet song with kids. Everything else is the same, luring you into a false sense of comfort, until you sing "W, X, Y and Zee," and all the kids say "Zed," and then they give you "that look" like you're an idiot and they never trust that you know what you're talking about. Ever. Again.
On the upside, Lord Zed from Power Rangers suddenly makes a lot more sense.
2 - Soda versus Pop
If you're from certain regions in the United States, you might have the word "soda" permanently ingrained in your brain. If you call it soda, not only will younger generations not have any idea what you're talking about, you will out yourself as an American to the older crew, and this might subject you to jokes about Americans all night long.
3 - Aboot
For the love of all that is holy, do NOT say that Canadians say "aboot." It is true that the "u" sound isn't emphasized the same way as it is in the south, but if you make a joke about "aboot," Canadians will subject you to a long and polite lecture about how southerners are tone-deaf heathens.
Instead, ask them about Newfies, who appear to be fair game to all Canadians, including the Newfies.
4 - 2nd Grade versus Grade 2
I don't know why this is a thing. But calling saying something like "2nd Grade" in front of Canadians is a great way to start an international incident, and there's definitley no doubt aboot that.
So make sure you call it Grade 2. Or 3. Or whatever.
Canada has two national languages: English and French. Therefore everywhere you go, you will discover that everything from cereal boxes to road signs comes in both English and French (unless, of course, you move to the primarily French Quebec; they pretend English doesn't exist).
Knowing two languages has much to commend it, including coolness factor, getting decent-paying jobs with the Canadian government, and being able to swear in front of your kids in a language that they might not understand - yet. Just be careful that your kids don't pick up your favourite French pet phrases, because there's going to be a fair number of people up here that understand when your 5 year-old repeats it.
You knew this was going to come up, right?
Hockey might be a completely incomprehensible sport that has no appeal to you whatsoever. but here's a complete phrase kit including everything you need to know to survive a conversation about hockey. Do not worry if you don't understand it. Just repeat one of these phrases and then smile and nod politely as they talk without any input from you:
If cornered and someone asks you who your favourite player is, just pick Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr. Both are equally acceptable to the vast majority of Canadians. Lemieux is also a valid third option.
If football comes up, here's all you need to know: it's virtually identical to American football - but the field is bigger (and therefore Canadians may comment on how football up here isn't for sissies). Instead of the Superbowl, Canadians have the Grey Cup, and if you need to mention a football player, just say Doug Flutie.
P.S. If Canadians try to trick you and ask you what the national sport of Canada is for immigration purposes, it's actually lacrosse.
And yes, Canadians invented basketball. It's true.
You may be weirded out by this crazy system that works in base ten, but you'll get used to it. Just remember, however, if you're driving a vehicle from the United States that kilometers are those SMALLER numbers on your speedometer. The RCMP will not let you off with the excuse "I thought the speed limit was 100 miles per hour."
If the temperature says 20 degrees, that means it's t-shirt and shorts weather to everyone not a Floridian. If it's 10 degrees, wear pants. If it's 0 degrees, it could snow. If it's below that, turn yourself into a human burrito with a quilt and just stay home.
And if it's 45 with humidex, go outside and marvel at the weather that even people from Mexico think we're crazy for living in, because welcome to a country of extremes, baby!
If you cannot figure out how much a pound is in grams at the deli, just say 500. #closenough
Bonus: when you visit the doctor, the scale will show fewer than half the numbers you're used to. But your scale at home will work as normal in pounds, just to throw you off.
You're not in Kansas anymore, baby. There's lots of people to choose from.
We've got Liberals (approximately left-wing Democrats), Conservatives (approximately right-wing Democrats), the Green party, the NDP (socialists!), the Bloc Québécois if you think Quebec should seccede from the nation, and a whole bunch of others that are actually registered but nobody takes seriously. That includes things like the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada (if you think the NDP are too hippie liberal), the Marijuana party (apparently too stoned to have their website running properly), the Rhinocerous Party (which is where you can throw your vote away and thumb your nose at the system), and the Bridge Party of Canada (because, bridge).
But this will probably weird you out: you can't actually vote for the prime minister directly.
Voting is a point of pride with Canadians, because they take it upon themselves to keep the politicians honest. In fact, you'll hear them say things like "time for a regime change; those hosers are getting complacent" when they feel like one party is just sitting around waiting to collect a paycheque. They set up websites to help coordinate strategic votes against candidates for office that they don't like. And don't be surprised or put out if they express opinions about Trump and Clinton! Canadians love politics, even when they're not their own. You'll be stunned by the amount of political coverage available.
By the way, if the idea of socialism makes you nervous, just remember, FDR's new deal was all social liberal programs, and it gave the USA social security, the Fair Labor Standards act, and abolished slums. So, there's perks.
Canadians aren't big on the whole flag-waving thing, but don't think that they don't have a lot of Canadian pride. They sure do!
One of the first things you'll likely be subjected to is a list of every Canadian invention ever made, which will include basketball, insulin, instant mashed potatoes, snowblowers, beer that has alcohol in it, and Chris Hadfield. Then you will be subjected to a lengthy list of Canadian comedians, which will be astonishingly huge because there's nothing to do in Canada but sit in igloos, eat poutine, and tell jokes from the winter months of October to May.
Canadians will proudly tell you how they managed to live without the equivalent of the bill of rights until the 80s, which is a true fact. They may also try to tell you that they burned the White House down in the war of 1812, but this is a Canadian exaggeration because they were still considered British at the time. Canadians might counter with a tale about how they earned their freedom from the monarchy just by asking politely. It is important to note that Canadians are teasing you. If you return fire with less than complimentary commentary on Canada's national animal, the beaver, you will go down.
Anne is one of those people who usually speaks to others in memes, pop culture references, and SAT words. On those occasions she can be understood at all, she likes to entertain others with a sense of humour usually described by friends as “hilarious—once you get to know her.”