The Dos & Don’ts Of Visiting Canada (As Advised By Canadians)

by SharonKurheg

People have been visiting Canada for what seems like forever. And no wonder – it boasts cities like Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal, on top of attractions such as Niagara Falls, Banff National Park, the CN Tower and Old Quebec, just to name a few.

A (former) Reddit user from the Netherlands, GOLDEN_GOATY asked people to share some of the lesser known “dos and don’ts” of being in Canada, to help prepare them for their trip to “The Great White North”. They got close to 700 replies, and most were pretty excellent for anyone planning to visit the country. Some of the recommendations were more common than others; some were fascinating. Here are some of the best:

  • Temperature swings of 30 degrees aren’t uncommon within 24 hours. — Abomb2020
  • Don’t say nothing when you enter someone’s personal space or vice versa… okay it’s hard to write in ‘don’t form. It’s more of a do. This is where our famous ‘Sorry’ comes from. You’re not apologizing, you’re just acknowledging someone else’s existence and voicing consideration in their general direction.
    It doesn’t matter who bumps into whom, you both say ‘sorry’ and go on your way. If you have to skooch passed someone or drop something near someone: sorry. You can take the lead from the other person but basically if someone says sorry to you the polite response is to smile and say sorry back. ‘No worries’ is also polite but ‘sorry’ is more quintessentially Canadian. — Girl_Dinosaur
  • Or, before you invade someone’s personal space the classic “just gonna sneak by ya” never fails. — EnhancedEddie
  • Take off your shoes when you walk in someone’s house. Not sure if its common culture in Europe. — Ramses12th
  • American here and I can vouch to how seriously Canadians treat wearing shoes as a guest in someone’s house. About six months ago, someone made a comment about wearing shoes in someone’s house and I, jokingly, asked if it was okay to wear boots. Within the hour I received at least six earnest explanations from very kind Canadians explaining to me why it was not okay. Repeat: They take this seriously. Also, I apologize again to anyone offended by my earlier comment. — slouchingtoepiphany
  • This is kind of obvious but people still get surprised: Don’t underestimate travel times. Canada is a big country. Also, when asked how far away something is, we tend to answer in time units. It’s “a ten hour drive” or “a two hour ferry ride” or “a five hour flight”. — BlargTheGreat
  • It’s common that if you catch someone’s eye while passing in the street you give a little yes nod or a smile. It’s not strictly necessary etiquette but don’t be surprised if someone does that to you. — Mirror_hsif
  • Politeness/manners is taken decently serious by most Canadians. As another user mentioned, it’s considered rude if you don’t respond to “thank you” with “no problem!” or “you’re welcome”. Likewise for holding the door open if you see somebody or saying “have a good night” when leaving the lift.
    Nothing of consequence will happen if you don’t do this, but based on experience, they’ll vent about you later about how rude you were to friends and coworkers. — abu_doubleu
  • I met a couple from Poland at a bar who were visiting family in the GTA and they made a comment about Canada being “Over run” with immigrants. Needless to say they were chewed out for the next 20 minutes until they left the bar.
    We are extremely proud of our diversity and our welcoming of all immigrants. We were built on immigration and we like it like that. — ItzGrenier
  • Do not under any circumstances become a Toronto Maple Leafs fan over 50 years and no cup. — ExaminationOk3907
  • I’d second a lot of the comments about not underestimating the cold or wild life. Please DO NOT feed the wildlife. The number of times I’ve seen tourists feeding bears along the side of the road is staggering. That puts everyone at risk all because people want to stage a fun photo. That bear is at potential risk of being shot and it is very unsafe for the people that gather around.
    Also the water in rivers is no joke. In my part of Canada, there are lots of places to wade into different rivers and each year there are people who need rescuing or who sadly get hurt or die. The river can seem calm on second and then you hit a patch that is strong and it’s too late.
    It you are going to be out in the wilderness- be prepared and don’t be a d**k. Clean up after yourself, follow the rules and be safe. — Owldove
  • Obvious one I guess but don’t refer to Indigenous people as Indians. — randyboozer
  • Don’t drink in public places. We have pretty strict laws on where alcohol can be consumed. — WhiskyTangoNovember
  • If youre driving and someone slows down to let you into traffic, give them a little wave. It might not be as common in big cities, but it is most definitely a thing is most areas. — MamaK1973
  • Don’t equate French Canadian culture with France Culture. The sayings, expressions and swear words have evolved separately over centuries, just like new world English speakers. — lacontrolfreak
  • Tipping is a thing here. 10-20%. This always starts an argument on the sub when this is brought up. I serve/ bartend and 98% of people tip and tip 15-20%. It’s how it is and it’s not going away. — kstops
  • Do not litter. Carry your trash with you until you find a garbage can. This means if you are in a park or wild area with NO services: you pack out your garbage! — ruthie_imogene
  • You may refer to us as Canadians or even North Americans. NEVER refer to us as just ‘Americans’. That’s the people to our south, not us.
    Former Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, once said “a big part of being Canadian, is that you’re not American”. — SinisherCanuck
  • Do not expect public transit to be on time or actually go everywhere you want to go. — BrightDegree3
  • Don’t be surprised by Canadian humour: we use a lot of sarcasm and irony. We have our own special way of making a mockery of everything and everyone. We get along pretty well with the Brits on that, but fortunately, we’re not as depressing.
    You might feel like you’re out of the loop, you might even not be sure if people are laughing at you? or not? Are they laughing at housing prices? the weather?? Justin Trudeau?? Is it just seasonal depression??? (it’s probably all of these answers).
    It’s nuanced, it’s in the tone, it’s non-verbal, it’s playful. You’ll get it eventually, but rest assured, it’s always good-hearted. In French, we say taquiner. It’s a sign of love (and also a coping mechanism). — radiorules
  • Canadian Geese are a-holes and will attack you if you go near them. — soniplaystattn
  • Don’t drive anywhere without potential survival gear. This mostly goes for the rural areas, especially in the parries where there is a long way between towns/cities, but, as I’m sure you’ve heard here, the weather is unpredictable. You should always be ready in case you get stuck somewhere or crash during a storm.
    I will say this, though it’s not extremely important, but be careful who you talk to about politics. Especially right now. I have found that, especially in rural areas, people get, for lack of a better word, angry about differing political views. I personally don’t know how people would react to this is cities and the east coast, but rural areas are quite easily upset about this stuff. We have a major political divide between the the area’s east of Ontario and west of it that causes lots of conflicts. Best to avoid anything political. — Anto_Br
  • You put ketchup on poutine….we kill you!!! — thejesuslizard74
  • Don’t pronounce Toronto as “Toe-Ron-Toe”. It’s more like “Churronno”. Have a good visit bud! — DevilManCpp
  • (In response to the previous comment) It doesn’t really matter, because it just shows that you are a tourist. Though, if moving here, you may want to learn how places are pronounced. In addition to “churonoh” we have “calgree” (calgary) and people typically say “BC” not British Columbia. — Canuckinfortybelow
  • Don’t drive around your truck with a Canadian flag on it. You look like a Yank or an idiot or both. — klimaz
  • If you ever visit Quebec, a little french can get you a long way. Pretty much any place that offer a service can serve you in english so dont worry about it but if you need some help in a less touristic spot, trying to speak french or learning strategic words like “Bonjour” (hi) is a good way to get a lot of quebecers on your side. For example, you can open the conversation with a “Bonjour” and then asking if the person speaks english.
    To keep it simple, a lot of Quebecers are really proud of french and you making the effort to try to speak in french will get you the respect and solidarity of a lot of people in Qc. Its a small gesture that can mean a lot for some of us. — srgtpookie
  • Don’t stand still on an escalator and take up all the space. If you want to stand, keep to the right, those who want to walk up or down need room to pass you on the left.
    Don’t be an escalator hog 😉
    I think this goes under the heading of: be aware of others and acknowledge that they are using the same space as you are. — WendyFromAccounting
  • If you’re driving between two distant cities, know where the next gas station is. Sometimes you can go hundreds of km without driving past one and you likely won’t have cell phone service. — Which_Quantity
  • Don’t use the word goof carelessly. Some people can take it as a serious insult. — khalil101
  • (another poster explained that “Goof,” in Canada, is slang for a molester of young boys)
  • Ontario has a lot of immigrants. Most work super hard. You will notice that a lot of them achieve a great degree of financial success in a span of 10-20 years. Many over achieve people born and raised here. This what makes Canada a great country and drives its economic growth.
    Sometimes people from Europe and the U.S. have hard time understanding that Canada is fair and gives equal opportunities to all. They struggle with the idea of immigrants having a lot of success.
    Canada is fair to all not just on paper but in practice. — kankankan123

Here’s the whole thread, if you want to check it out. Heads up for occasional adult language.

Feature Photo: Public domain

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Derek November 6, 2022 - 5:50 pm

If your windshield is cracked in British Columbia, you need to buy a new one. They do not repair cracks. In the US, cracks smaller that the length of a dollar bill can be repaired with a type of epoxy glue. Or repair it as soon as you cross the US border.

1/4 to 1/3 of Canadian are very anti-American. Canadian news often takes swipes at the US.

SharonKurheg November 6, 2022 - 8:56 pm

re: Canadians being anti-American…can you blame them? They allow abortions; we took the right to choose away from woman on a federal level. They allow freedom of religion; we’re trying to make this a “Christian nation.” They respect diversity; some of us tell people to “Go back to their country” and complain about so-called “illegal aliens,” etc. Many Americans suck right now.

razorg November 6, 2022 - 10:02 pm

The “right” to abortion wasn’t taken away. it was sent back to the states to decide, which is the same position Judge Ginsberg had.

Derek November 7, 2022 - 3:41 am

Canadians are jealous that they have no access to medical care. Many cannot find a family medicine physician (primary care physician). America is better in that respect. Canadians are jealous (at least in British Columbia) that they are denied drugs for metastatic breast cancer (Ibrance) while Canadians who work for US companies get it covered under US insurance. Canadians are jealous that they are ripped off with gas that costs more than $6/gallon. Canadians are jealous that online prices are cheaper in the US. Canadians often have commercial postal boxes in US border towns but no Americans rent them in Canada because there’s no reason to.

It really riles Canadians that things are much more expensive in Canada. Visit any Costco gas station in a US border town and see Canadians engage in dangerous behavior by filling containers with gasoline and putting them in their trunk.

askmrlee November 6, 2022 - 7:32 pm

Yes – especially that French speakers in Quebec and the rest of Canada are not French, so don’t call them “French”. English speakers in America are not “English”!

Concerned Canuck November 7, 2022 - 10:46 am

On immigration, while we value what immigrants bring the reality is that there is nowhere affordable to house them (and no health care either) and also companies use immigrants and students to drive GDP growth with the housing Ponzi scheme that is now a lot of the Canadian economy. There’s a complete disconnect between federal immigration targets and what the provinces can actually supply for doctors and homes. Very few immigrants choose the Prairies or Maritimes to settle; they all flock to BC, southern Ontario, Ottawa-Montreal.


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