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50 Things I’ve Learned About Canada in 5 Years

On 10th November 2011, we moved to Canada. Initially, we planned to be here a year, maybe two. Now that it has turned into quite a few awesome years, here are a few things I have learned over the last half-decade in this beautiful country I call home. 

Published Nov 2016.


  • Moose are actually HUGE (bigger than the average car) but are somehow pretty elusive
  • The bald eagle should be Canada’s national animal, not the USA’s. So. many. bald. eagles. everywhere
  • Beavers surprisingly crafty with their dams – we’ve had to portage our canoe over them more than once
  • You’re far more likely to see the back end of a bear running away from you than the rest of it
  • Canada has four species of native rattlesnakes
black bear in tree at apex ski resort, British columbia


  • Canadians are indeed some of the most polite people in the world
  • French is not just limited to Quebec and New Brunswick, there are French speakers all over Canada
  • Yukon Territory is home to only 30,000 people in an area the size of the UK
  • Vancouver has one of the largest Chinese populations outside of China
  • There are so many famous Canadians (actors, writers, musician) but a huge number mostly live in the US
50 Things I've Learned About Canada in 5 Years- Acadian lighthouse in Shippagan

The Great Outdoors

  • Canada has the longest coastline in the world
  • What would be a mountain in Britain, is a small hill in Canada
  • There is true wilderness, the no-one-within-a-thousand-kilometres kind of wilderness
  • Canada is home to rainforests, huge lakes (with tides!), deserts, glaciers, tundra, plains and more…
  • It takes about 60 hours to drive from the West Coast to the East Coast, all 7,000km+ of it.
50 Things I've Learned About Canada in 5 Years-vancouver island della falls hike

Canadian Life

  • No need to park when you can almost drive-thru everywhere; the pharmacy, bank, liquor store and more
  • Alcohol is still restricted to liquor stores only in most provinces (psst, it’s also pretty expensive too!)
  • Hockey is everything
  • Superbowl afternoon is a great day to go shopping (SO QUIET)
  • The price you see is not the price you pay as taxes are added on when paying (taxes vary between provinces)
Gliding through trees on Apex Ski Resort's Skating Loop

Food and Drink

  • There is a big wine industry in Canada, with hundreds of wineries and thousands of vineyards
  • Canadians eat more Kraft dinner (boxed macaroni and cheese) than any other nationality in the world
  • 65% of the world’s lentils are grown in Canada
  • Maple syrup, bacon, lobster and poutine flavoured EVERYTHING (usually separately but sometimes together!)
  • Sugar is king. There are more doughnut shops per capita than anywhere else
50 Things I've Learned About Canada in 5 Years-therapy vineyard okanagan naramata bench


  • “A gong show” refers to a something that went really wrong. Sometimes wrong in a funny way, sometimes not
  • A double-double is a coffee with two cream (never milk) and two sugars
  • Being “stoked” (very excited) is the opposite of “choked” (upset or mad)
  • “Give’r” is a common saying meaning to go for it or to put more effort in
  • A toque is a (usually woolen) beanie hat, washrooms are toilets, mickeys are small bottles of hard liquor
50 Things I've Learned About Canada in 5 Years-banff mountains view with canadian flag


  • There are places in Canada that get hot. Really hot. Like 40c+ hot
  • There are places in Canada that do not really get very cold and snow is a novelty
  • It’s quite normal to plug your car in overnight in places with extreme cold to keep the engine block and oil warm
  • Don’t go outside with wet hair when it’s -20c or below – it freezes
  • -40c isn’t actually as freezing as it sounds, not when it’s a dry cold
Toronto skyline from CN Tower

Strange but true

  • $100 bills smell of maple syrup
  • The modern state of Canada has technically only existed since 1982
  • Santa’s address is North Pole, H0H 0H0, Canada
  • $1 coins are called Loonies (they have the loon bird on them), $2 are Toonies
  • Canadians are called also called Canucks, a word in use since the early 1800’s
50 Things I've Learned About Canada in 5 Years-JR Tombstone Rake Mountain view


  • There is a named public holiday almost every month
  • Thanksgiving is in October and while it is similar to the US holiday, it tied more to harvest traditions
  • Halloween is kinda a big deal
  • Canada Day is an awesome day to just celebrate and appreciate where you live
  • The start of the summer season is marked by Victoria Day (Patriotes Day in Quebec), the third Monday in May
50 Things I've Learned About Canada in 5 Years-vaseux lake okanagan valley bc

And a few more, for the road

  • Canadian immigration is SLOW, even for spouses and partners of citizens
  • Driving two hours (or across the border) to go somewhere for dinner or a movie isn’t a big deal
  • For such a relatively ‘young’ country, Canada has a lot of interesting history and culture (First Nation, French settlement, war with the USA, gold rush-era, building of the trans-Canada railway, Chinese immigration etc)
  • People really do use the infamous red cups at parties, just like in the movies
  • Canada may be one of the most beautiful and safest countries in the world and I am SO happy to call it my home

Let me know if you too have learned some interesting facts and quirks of living in Canada!

Gemma and JR selfie in Vancouver, autumn 2011
The above photo was taken the week we moved to Canada in 2011
gemma and jr at luckett vineyards, Nova Scotia
At Luckett Vineyards, Nova Scotia, in June 2018

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