Global Affairs Canada is a government resource that outlines the Canadian government's definitions of what it means to be a Canadian. It aims to assist visitors and new immigrants better understand Canadian cultural norms and conversations.
In classic fashion, the government's advice is as hilarious and as stereotypically Canadian as you imagine. Their insights compare points of view from local and outside perspectives to paint a picture of what to expect from day-to-day life in Canada.
Topics range from casual conversations to how to understand shared historical events. According to Global Affairs Canada, our country loves beer, hockey, food, music, politeness, diversity, and so much more. Here are the greatest hits!
"Canadians are keenly aware of "otherness", and consequently it is common to hear: where are you from? as a first contact question."
Ah yes, I'm sure we can all attest to asking this or having been asked this by someone. It's true that many Canadians are aware of cultural differences but this shouldn't be taken negatively. In fact, Canadian perspectives believe that we are are a "tolerant society that is also more socially-minded than that of the US". You should also talk about hockey.
"The best way to impress most Canadians is to show what you have noticed is different from the United States"
A tried-and-true method of Canadian solidarity, if there ever was one. However, the guide points out that we mustn't offend Canada's polite sensibilities by not overtly criticizing the U.S. The guide also mentions that "most Canadians see themselves as humbler, more funnier" than Americans.
On Activities and Culture
"Of course one should not miss any opportunity to canoe in Canada [...] There are many great things about many different parts of Canada and beautiful sites everywhere"
Perspectives on Canadians being outdoors-loving and obsessed with summertime activities are certainly not far off. Canadian mountains and rivers are essential to the experience. Hockey is also a must. The guide even mentions cities like Montreal and Toronto coming alive for cultural activities all year long.
On National Heroes
"This, of course, depends on your perspective and few heroes are shared by both French and English speaking Canadians [...] although Canadians tend to accept fame only after the artist has made their name outside of Canada."
The guide mentions hockey heroes such as Wayne Gretzky and Maurice Richard being universally loved in Canada. It highlights differences between French and English Canada as well, citing Rene Levesque and Terry Fox as other highly revered figures. Canadians also love talking about their musicians, comedians, and actors.
"It is possible to have breakfast in China (dim sum), lunch in Lebanon (shawarma) and dinner in Italy (fettuccini Alfredo or Mushroom Risotto), or, if one prefers to stay more local, there are great places to enjoy mussels, good fish or lobster, or fish n’ chips in the Maritimes, or a good portion of poutine in Quebec"
Probably the most accurate recommendation in this guide! We're renowned for having a multitude of cultural delicacies available to us. The best way to a Canadian's heart is through their stomach.
On Religion and Ethnicity
"Most Canadians believe it is important to respect people regardless of their religious beliefs but see religion as a private matter [...]
We're hearing more and more debates about this, to be sure, but the guide hammers home the point that by-and-large, Canadians are tolerant and respectful.
"In bilingual (English-French) workplaces, language is perhaps the biggest dividing factor [...]
Ethnicity is a big concern in Canada because of how diverse it is. The guide mentions that ethic populations in Canada have regional differences and cultural understandings that make each one unique.
The situation of indigenous peoples in Canada is considerably more complex and problematic."
However, the guide does acknowledge that certain conversations might be uncomfortable and even taboo for many Canadians.
What does being Canadian mean to you?
To read the full Global Affairs Canada guide on how to speak to a Canadian, click here!