Canadian Cultural Assumption


The biggest Canadian cultural assumption is that there is no Canadian cultural assumption. I thought it was that there is no Canadian culture. :)

My Victoria, BC correspondent reports that a contest was recently held to complete the phrase "As Canadian as..."

The winner: "As Canadian as possible under the circumstances."

Hey hoser, eh?

sorry. couldn't resist.

How to spot a Canadian (IronyWarning!)

  1. Ask him to say "house". Or "about". Or "process". More aboot this on CanadianRaising. (*) Is it "aboot" or "aboat"? I never hear "boot" in the accent.

  2. Tell them that Anne Murray or Celine Dion are Americans, and wait for the correction. (or Michael J. Fox, or Morely Safer, or Peter Jennings)

  3. Canadians are, by and large, very unpatriotic. Nationalist fervor only surfaces when they have a chance to sneer at the social backwardness of the US. So tell them something great about the US and wait for the rebuttal. We're patriotic, we just don't boast about it like Americans do... Umm, what were you saying? [Actually, the difference is that Canadians don't tend to be jingoistic, not that they are not patriotic] I used to be very patriotic. After 15 years of moronic governments, voters and a press that leads the voters by the nose, not to mention observing pretty much the same south of the border, I'm cured.

  4. Look for the flag on their backpack. [That doesn't work, as others travel (tactically) with a Canadian flag on their backpack....] ...or the Tim Horton's mug dangling from it.

  5. Step on their foot. If they apologize to you, they're Canadian.

  6. Best of all: "Excuse me, but are you Canadian?"

Or see "How to Tell if You're Canadian",

Funny, they mention fireworks on New Year's Eve, which I've never seen in Canada, but not the fireworks on Victoria Day (a.k.a the May 2-4, coincidentally the number of beer bottles (not cans) in a case).

Everyone would gather on the 24th of May,
Sitting in the sand to watch the fireworks display.
Dancing fires on the beach, singing songs together.
Though it's just a memory some memories last forever.
- from Lakeside Park, by Rush

(*) MartinPool visited me once and he actually claimed I said out and about as oot and aboot. I don't believe him at all. I lived next to a guy from the interior of British Columbia that really said oot and aboot. I know the difference. I may be from the Ottawa Valley, but I ain't no hoser, eh lads. Of course, I'm not from Torontah (don't you mean Tronna?). Quit saying that! (I only lived in Southern Ontario until I was seven!) -- SunirShah

Ah, the melting pot we live in, where a person named 'SunirShah' is complaining that people think he has a Canadian accent

We prefer a 'cultural mosaic' to the American 'melting pot'. Only those pinkos who think Trudeau was a great prime minister do. Of course, the rest might too if it weren't always being shoved down our throats by the aforementioned pinkos. The social work agency where my wife works just hired someone whose sole responsibility is to "promote diversity" within the agency! (They already have plenty, believe me.) Arrgghh.

Interesting articles recently in the Globe and Mail ( about how this idea originated in the late 1800's with Laurier.

Would someone care to explain to me, how Ontarian Accent became classified as CanadianAccent?. There is land to the East of Ontario, and I'm not just talking Quebec here. Listen to the natural accent of a NewFoundLand?er, or a CapeBreton?er.

to say nothing of the land to the west of it... good ol' Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Q: Why didn't Canada rebel against England during the American Revolutionary War? Were they treated better, or didn't they care for John Adams? What does the French and Indian war have to do with all of this?? They only history US/Canadian history I get from Canadians is they whooped US butt in 1812. Time to fill in the gaps, neighbors to the north!

To answer the original question, I would guess (off the top of my head and not the result of remembering anything from high school history!) some factors might be:

Part of the difference was that Canadians were largely French and Catholic, while their southern neighbors were largely English and Protestant. Besides giving them different values, this made them despicable to the revolutionaries, who did not hesitate to denounce them as satanic even while seeking their alliance, and managed to effectively alienate them by plundering and halting mass during the occupation of Montreal. As far as most Canadians were concerned, the Americans were simply a different sort of Englishman, and they were not especially willing to fight to trade one foreign master for another.

Moved from AmericanCulturalAssumption:

Canadian measurement units

Money We generally use the same terms for coins (penny, nickel, etc.) as the yanks do. However, I have heard the term "mountie" applied to a quarter, but it was a 1973 quarter, which happens to have a mountie on the side which doesn't have the Queen on it. Most quarters have a Caribou (not a moose) on them, but recently the government has been putting out quarters with provincial or cultural artwork on them. Most conservative Canadians find this annoying and wish ...why don't I shut up now.

Anyway: We also use the term sawbuck and two bits. Well, old guys do, anyway.

Furthermore: -- TerryWray

One of the most annoying things Americans can do (from a Canadian's perspective) is to consider some aspect of Canadian culture a uniquely CanadianCulturalAssumption, when actually it is more of a CommonwealthEmpireCulturalAssumption? or even just a generic NonAmericanCulturalAssumption?. Prime example being the pronunciation of 'Z' as "zed" rather than "zee".

Another is to impose an AmericanCulturalAssumption upon a product intended for consumption in Canada (possibly among other places). Prime example being children's educational television shows, since Canadians tend to get a lot of American TV stations and programming (seeing as how almost all of the population is within a few hundred kilometres of the border). There does exist "Canadian Sesame Street", with Canadian spellings and pronunciations and French as a second language rather than Spanish; but I remember it getting much less airtime overall than the "standard" American version when I was a child. (Actually I don't know for sure that either is still in production, or ever even gets airtime.) It is, but it's been renamed "Sesame Park". -- SusanDavis

Sadly, American culture has come to replace old Canadian idioms for many of us, especially the younger set - perhaps largely because Canadian culture is already passive by nature. Typing the previous paragraph I was reminded of one such replacement: the pronunciation of "kilometre" as ki-LAW-met-er. The original pronunciation is KIL-o-meet-er, which is certainly the one dictated by logic. You wouldn't say ki-LAW-grum (kilogram) right?

But I suppose that's enough of my ranting -- KarlKnechtel

I can't describe it in detail, but most English words with a few syllables seems to have a "natural" pronunciation that is usually evident to people familiar with English. For example, even back when I didn't know how to pronounce the word "pronunciation", I could sound it out and figure out intuitively which syllables should be stressed (pro-NUN-ci-AY-shun). I don't know how unique to me this was, but I used it quite a bit when reading aloud text with words I had never seed before. It just came naturally. I think the word kilometer is like that. I don't think the analogy with "kilogram" is correct, because I don't think the common prefix of kilo- dictates a common pronunciation. I think the pronunciation is more determined by all of the syllables taken together.

Does anyone know what I am talking about? -- SamKelly?

My favourite:
Aren't most of these AngloCanadianCulturalAssumption?'s?

Divert Your Course

This is the actual radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995. Radio conversation released by the chief of naval operations, 10-10-95.

Canadians: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.

Americans: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.

Canadians: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.

Americans: This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert your course.

Canadians: No, I say again, you divert your course.

Americans: This is the Aircraft Carrier US Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States Atlantic Fleet. We are accompanied with three Destroyers, three Cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change your course 15 degrees north. I say again, that's one-five degrees north, or counter-measures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.

Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

I refer you to
Re: "During the Cold War, you never viewed the Russians as "the enemy", and were frankly baffled as to what America's problem with them was." (zompist link)

Perhaps this discussion belongs in TheAdjunct, but this is rather curious. The Soviets wanted totalitarianism and were rather forceful to achieve it. Was this not considered a big threat to Canada's democracy and independence?

It's an AmericanCulturalAssumption that the Soviets wanted totalitarianism and were rather forceful to achieve it. Having grown up in Canada, I can confirm that although the Soviet brand of "Communism" was viewed negatively, it was generally not perceived to be as expansionist, insidious, or globally dangerous to democracy as many Americans believed it to be.

But what shaped this belief? The Soviets certainly seemed to take every opportunity to expand that they could. I agree that Americans may have exaggerated the threat in general, but "just another country" is not an accurate portrayal.

Whilst Soviet actions in Eastern Europe, etc., were certainly contributory, much of this belief is arguably due to Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the HUAC. Once set in motion, irrational paranoia becomes a rolling snowball that's difficult to stop.

See also MeltingPot

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