Differences between Canadians and Americans

Hey everyone! This is a topic that I’ve been really interested in for a long time. Americans and English-speaking Canadians have (almost) the same accent, watch the same movies, listen to the same music–share to great degree the same culture, or so I would think. People who’ve made it big in the US in the entertainment industry are Canadians (Jim Carrey, Avril Lavigne,…), and of course American stars are popular in Canada too. I’ve only ever been to Canada once, and I was little so I don’t remember it. I’m just interested in knowing what are Lingq users opinions as to the biggest cultural differences and similarities there are that exist between people living in Canada and the US. Any thoughts?

I think you would have to look hard for real differences, but they mostly stem from a sense of community due to the colder climate here. This is probably why we are characterized as more cautious and polite than Americans. There are also a lot of Canadians who will overcompensate for a sense of inferiority by constantly putting down all things American, but ignore them please.

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I agree that it is more a sense of belonging. Canadians belong to Canada, and have certain shared myths, history, and institutions as Canadians. Canada was formed by the interaction of British, French and Native peoples in a harsh climate, and for much of our history, under the British Crown. That is different than the history of most of the US.

Culturally, or in their attitudes, Canadians are closest to their neighbours across the border and in some ways both are quite different from Americans in the South East or Texas for example.

If a Canadian moves to the US, or vice versa, it does not take long before any difference disappears.

I guess the same is true of countries that share similar linguistic or cultural backgrounds. Spanish speaking neighbours in Latin America, or German speaking parts of Europe. After all after the first world war, many German speaking Austrians wanted to join Germany, and I gather dialects in St. Gallen Switzerland and Vorarlberg Austria are very similar. It is all just an accident of history.

“If a Canadian moves to the US, or vice versa, it does not take long before any difference disappears.”

Based on my experience of having lived in both countries (6 years in the US), I’d say this is pretty much spot on.

I visited Canada several years back and I had the best time! I felt right at home. In fact, as soon as I stepped off the train I was not quite sure if I had step foot in Montréal: the center-city did not look much different from my “adopted” city’s center-city. This initial response was kind of cool. It meant that I did not land on Mars; there were some identifiable markers, if you will, skyscrapers, traffic, bright lights, etc. But, my perspective soon changed.

I traversed Montréal and then Quebec City with the tenacity of an explorer, literally waking up at the break of dawn to hit the pavements, take the subway, the bus, fulfill my itinerary—you name it, I went there! The sites, the restaurants, the museums, the outdoor fair, the shops, the back streets, the jazz, and the people left a wonderful impression on me. I felt, and still feel, that the Canadians I encountered were nice, warm, and welcoming. As I said, I felt at home, at ease, and I felt safe. Maybe it was what is being described here as the Canadians’ “sense of belonging and community” that resonated most with me.

Concerning differences: I cannot generalize about the differences between Americans (every city & state is different) and Canadians, but I can give you my personal opinion. I noticed and felt that people in Montréal and Quebec City were 10 times nicer and 10 times more polite than the people I encounter in the city on the East Coast where I live. Visiting those places was an emotionally beautiful relief and experience. I did not want to return home to my adopted city! I kid you not.

About accents: I am aware of slight, negligible variations in the way English is spoken. For example, most people on the East Coast pronounce the word “process” as prŏcess; Canadians, such as Steve say “prōcess”. ~Hey, it’s all good.

…I love Canada…

Another difference: the US Constitution gives American citizens certain freedoms which are not enjoyed to the same degree by Canadians.

I remember Steve had a very interesting piece on his blog (or maybe it was a Youtube video) 2 or 3 years ago, where he talks about this in some detail, explaining why he thought the US model was better.

Maybe you could post a link, Steve? :smiley:

William Shatner is Canadian. That is one honor America will never be able to beat.

Rank, I do not remember what you are referring to. In essence we theoretically enjoy the same freedoms, and in fact face the same pressure from the forces of righteous and indignant political correctness to restrict these freedoms.

I’ve never been in USA and Canada but I definitely would like to visit it in the future.In fact I don’t have very much familiars who would live in USA or Canada but I’ve heard in general that Americans are very talkative people who love to communicate.Talking about Canada I just heard that it’s very clean country with friendly people as well.Anyway both countries are huge probably would be totally culture shock arriving there.

@Steve: “…I do not remember what you are referring to…”

There has been a number of great blog posts and Youtube videos from you on this whole subject. One excellent example would be the video on your Youtube channel with the title "Political Correctness II " - especially the part which begins 3 mins 22 seconds into the video.

(In my opinion this is one of the very best talks you have ever made on Youtube.)

Just watch the film “Canadian Bacon”–that’s all you need to know.

(Just kidding. I haven’t seen that film in a long time and need to rewatch it, but I remember it being interesting and maybe even politically relevant).

One thing that stands out to me that several of you have posted is the difference in the sense of belonging, as well as the greater politeness level found in Canada than might be usual in the US. My parents are from the southeastern United States, where (from my perspective) people are seen as being more friendly, outgoing and hospitable than in other parts of the country. Southern people can be very warm and welcoming, but sometimes they can also come across as imposing or “too” friendly to Americans from the North. Hape, I think you mentioned you thought it seems sometimes that Americans sometimes have a “superficial” air of friendliness. That’s something I’ve thought about some people here too–overly enthusiastic, plastered smiles on their faces with only safe, reassuring words for everything you say and who (God forbid) would never get the idea to offend you–at least not intentionally or to your face. But then, I’ve also met plenty of truly kind, compassionate, and genuinely caring people here, as well as those who told you straight up what they thought if they didn’t agree with you. Of course, the US has so many regional stereotypes, as well as stereotypes based on race and social status, so it can be difficult to paint a generic portrait of what the “typical” American looks like. Or at least, that’s my opinion, whatever it’s worth.

Yvette, your descriptions of Montreal/Quebec City make me want to visit that much more! I’ve met several people who’ve crossed the border from the US into Canada who say it’s like things get so much cleaner on the other side. Yet I’ve also heard people say (as many do about French-speaking people) that the Quebecers are rude. Your experience that they were so nice and welcoming is a breath of fresh air to me :slight_smile: But the I’d imagine there are a LOT more differences between French- and English-speaking Canadians than just language, wouldn’t there be?

newgroove2013, I’m not trying to be funny, but I found the people much more attractive in Quebec City than here where I live. I do not mean this in a flirtatious way, only that in looking upon the faces of women, men, and children, I remember thinking that they were pleasing to my eyes. This was probably a positive, psychological reaction to feeling good about everything around me.

Here, in my adopted city, so many people are uptight, self-righteous, full of a false sense of self-entitlement. These traits manifest as ugliness, which mars the features and darkens the countenance of many. I think kindness and just plain old politeness makes people in general very attractive. I’m surrounded by unkind, rude, indifferent, arrogant people. (There’s no ‘and’ because the list could go on interminably.) For every nice person I meet here in this questionable city, there are maybe five “I’m very special-get-out-of-my-way” people clogging up the pavement, blocking the intersection, calling themselves vegan while sporting leather shoes. (Ok, that last bit, I so could not resist!)

When I went to Canada the differences in overall attitude were much more pronounced than any other existing differences. There are ugly attitudes everywhere, even in Canada, I’m sure. But! There was an angel looking over my shoulder when I was there, so I did not run into any knuckleheads. I guess if I were to live in Canada for a while, I would be able to draw a deeper comparison of sorts. With much heartache, and within the scope of this discussion, I agree with Hape’s cursory assessment of the differences between Canada and the US.

It must be the Standard American Diet that’s got us all in a bad way…and the health care system…and the air…and the guns…and the violence…and the racism…and corrupt politicians…

And Canada? Well, what’s your problem?

I’d agree with Yvette on both the grand problems the standard American diet, the ridiculous sense of entitlement, the “I’m owed something even though I did nothing to earn it” attitude, the corrupt politicians, and the racism (although I’ve seen plenty of racism in Europe; American racism is largely based on appearance, European racism seems to be mainly based on one’s native language and where they were born), however the guns are a scapegoat. There are more firearms per person in rural areas of America than in urban ones, yet rural areas have the least amount of violent crime. The real problem is due to failures in our education system and the propagation of urban violence culture, where the gun is just a convenient tool, where if somehow were magically removed, would only be replaced by the next most convenient tool.

As an occasional visitor to the US I must say that I find Americans friendly. More friendly in the South East than in Boston for example, at least superficially, but overall, friendly.

I was at a dinner tonight with a group of Canadians, friends of mine, all of whom regularly travel to the US. I asked them whether they thought Americans or Canadians were friendlier. The majority thought Americans were friendlier, whatever that means.

I think it depends on our individual experiences. The friendliest people I have come across in my travels are the Portuguese and the people around Salerno near Naples in Italy. But I find most people friendly, whether asking for help at a highway restaurant in Germany, or on the streets of St. Petersburg, or in Shanghai or Tokyo, or Barcelona.

People are friendly, or at least I only remember the friendly ones.

I think it’s silly to generalise about an entire nation of people from a select few. Almost wherever you go, once you get past the language-barrier, most people are the same (maybe they have different ways of showing it), but generally they talk about the same thing, complain, etc… I remember when I was a kid, I used to think that foreign people were always talking about really deep, meaningful things (i.e. Philosophy, Theology).

In my opinion, people (nearly) always feel bad about where they live. When you live in a place for long enough, you get used to the people, the places, etc… So when you go away to somewhere else, everything seems new, different, fascinating. It’s like you get surrounded by a reality distortion field which simply blocks out the rubbish that the locals probably feel and see everyday. I’ve never been to the US, but when I’ve met Americans abroad, I’ve always found them much more friendly, laid-back and happier than British people. When I’ve met Canadians, I’ve found it very difficult to tell the difference, the accent is almost identical to me, and unless they tell me where they live, I would never know.

I’ve experienced this many times, whenever I’ve either gone on holiday or spent some time away in another country, I always find the people friendlier/more attractive, the town cleaner, and the countryside better. After I left the UK to live abroad, after a few months I felt the same in my new town, I got used to the people and found that many of them are self-righteous, moaned all the time and were generally unhappy with life. Whenever I return back to the UK to visit my parents or friends, I find my home-town friendly again, but this quickly disappeared after a few days and then I was happy to go home again. (The grass is always greener, as they say)

One more example is when I was in a small town in Spain. I found the people really friendly, it felt like a true community, everyone seemed happy, calm and content with life. However, when I started to speak to some foreigners who actually lived there, they said the absolute opposite, and that the people are horrible and generally not friendly at all.

I agree, wiewiorka. People are people, but individuals are individual. Generalizations are of almost no value when you are dealing with individuals. I say, get to know individuals, not peoples. And object whenever someone applies a generalization to an individual.

Canadians drive snow mobiles in the winter and have to arm themselves with harpoons to fend off the Polar Bear attacks since the guns are in high regulation. It’s a much harsher way of life.

But no.

I’ve known many Canadians, more than I ever tried to meet with purpose. But I know them!

Canada vs America is an everyday flame war on the internet. A debate is not something I can walk past.
I’ve been on both sides, So I know that they are mostly the same culturally. Both sides are extremely defensive about their countries.
I’ll tell the Canadians that they are boring because they are so similar and that it would be better if the French had kept them and created something unique like Quebec rather than some American clone nation.
But I like to stir controversial statements for both attention and the thrill of a debate.

I do love Canada though. Free College and healthcare. Arghhhh… I’m going to be in soo much debt living here.
But national healthcare might fail here,…people are too unhealthy. I’ve taken enough biology and Nutrition to know what we are being served in our grocery stores is unregulated poison.
They also seem to lean more towards my liberal social values.

I agree with Wiewiorka and KCB, I think generalization can be a very dangerous thing.

When people generalize, they are usually taking their own (statistically meaningless) personal experiences, and applying them sweepingly to many millions of people, the vast majority of whom they have never met.

For example: when people say “the French are rude”, etc…no, I really don’t agree…it just means that the person has been unfortunate enough to run into a few French people who happen to be rude.

Having said that, I think there ARE such things as distinct national traits - but these can only really be determined in a scientific way, based on a wide body of sociological data.

Americans to me sound like robotics everyone speaks in the same tone, voice, no difference of opinion like they have been brainwashed by American media and politicians. However, good and bad people exist in every society so we can not paint the whole nation with the same brush. When it comes to Canadians. they sound to me like normal , sane people like everyone else in the world. I can relate more with Canadians than Americans based on a few real life interactions and online observations over the internet. But that’s just my persional opinion not a fact so take it with a grain of salt.