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RVing to Canada? Things you should know about our cultural differences

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Canada is a very popular destination for American RVers.

And it’s home to several of the world’s best-selling Class B motorhome makers.

So a lot is us travel there. Canada feels very much at home. It’s people are open and welcoming.

In the last year, I’ve made over a dozen visits to the Kitchener, Ontario, headquarters of Roadtrek Motorhomes. And while I am very comfortable in Canada, there are some cultural differences.

I’ve been taking notes. Here are 15 things to know about Canada:

  1. It’s smaller in population. Canada has only 33 million people. Once you get past the cities, there is a lot of open space.
  2. They count and measure things differently. Your GPS may tell you Kitchener is 60 miles away, but a roadside sign on the 402 says it’s 100. Huh? They use the metric system. Don’t even try to figure out fuel prices, which they measure in liters.Their money is different. Thankfully, they count it in dollars. But it’s worth more than ours. Twenty bucks U.S. is worth $20.10 Canadian. They have weird names for it, too. Canadians call their $1 a loonie and $2 a toonie.
  3. They don’t have as many freeway rest areas. Instead, at least in Ontario, they have Onroutes – widespread concentrations of fast-food restaurants, fuel pumps and rest rooms under one roof. Canadians don’t clutter up the landscape with billboards like we do in the U.S. And except in urban areas, there usually are not clusters of gas stations and fast-food places around each freeway exit.
  4. Yes, they do have Starbucks. And the good news is you won’t have to stand in line to get yours. That’s because, hands down, Canadians prefer Tim Hortons to Starbucks. Timmy’s, they call it. And I have to say ... it IS better that Starbucks.
  5. In Ontario, the only place you can buy beer is at the Beer Store. Seriously. That’s what they call the government stores that sell beer. Beer isn’t available at convenience stores, supermarkets and gas stations. It varies, I’m told, province by province.
  6. You know they spell differently, eh? In all candour, it sort of colours their written communications. Centre – center. Check – cheque. Favour - favor.
  7. They pronounce things differently, too. Not everything. Just a few things. Ask a Canadian to say out and about. Don’t laugh. They think YOU talk even funnier.
  8. Hockey is not a game in Canada. It is a religion. On their $5 bill is a scene of children playing pond hockey. Saturday night hockey on the radio was a tradition for generations. Now it’s on HDTV. Do not make fun of hockey. Ever. Canadians also like the sport of curling. Do not make fun of this, either. And yes, curling is a sport and it’s much more involved than it appears to most Americans. Trust me on this, do not ridicule Canadian sports. Especially in a bar.
  9. Canadians are very patriotic. More so than in the U.S. They are generally liked by other countries, terrorists are not trying to destroy it, and violence – except on the hockey rink, is very rare. There’s nowhere near the polarization there is in the U.S.
  10. Unless they hunt, no one owns a gun in Canada. Canadians like it that way. They think people in the U.S. who are so adamant about owning guns are extreme.
  11. Canadians have two languages. English and French. In Quebec, of course, almost everyone is bilingual. But even in the other provinces, you will hear a French accent fairly often.
  12. You will find iPhones there, of course. But many Canadians prefer Blackberries. They’re made in Ontario.
  13. Canadian restaurants, particularly those in Ontario, are generally more high-tech than many of their U.S. counterparts. The waitstaff have their own tablets and hand-held computers that process your credit cards right at the table. And many credit cards issued by Canadian banks have chips built in which constitute an electronic signature, meaning you don’t have to physically sign the bill.
  14. In the U.S., we drink soda. In Canada, it’s pop.
  15. Canadians are healthier than us. Average life expectancy there is 81.2 years. In America, it’s 78.1, and the American life expectancy is dropping while the Canadian is rising. Americans are the most obese country in the world, with approximately 34% of their citizens obese (over 60% are overweight). Canada is the 11th most obese country with about 24% of their people obese and 55% overweight.

I like Canada, a lot. After so many visits over the past year, I’m starting to feel patriotic about the place, myself. The Canadians I’ve met are typically not full of themselves, as so many Americans are. They seem to be content and very sure of who they are, but without guile. They laugh a lot. Sometimes at us. Especially our politics. And they’re very accepting of people from other places, who look different and talk different.

Just as long as they don’t make fun of hockey.

About the Author: Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who travels the country in a Roadtrek Type B motorhome, accompanied by his wife, Jennifer, and their Norweigian elkhound, Tai. Mike is an FMCA member (F426141) and is FMCA's official on-the-road reporter. He enjoys camping (obviously), hiking, biking, fitness, photography, video editing and all things dealing with technology. His "PC MIke" technology segments are distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations. More from this author. Reach mike at openmike@fmca.com.

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Thanks for the great compliment of Canadians. We are not all crazy over hockey, I for one although I do watch 2 or 3 games a season, likely during playoffs. I do admit because of that I am usually out of the conversation circle many times.

Oh and if you visit Kitchener in October during Octoberfest you won't have to go to the Beer Store to get your beer as it is readily available at many street vendor booths during that time, also great Octoberfest sausages on a bun with sauerkraut, yum, yummm. Great time for dancing, drinking, and fun.

I must tell you I enjoy the U.S. for the winter months in Arizona and California traveled many other states also, including 3 months in Alaska. Happy Trails to everyone.

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