How do people see Canadians? Talking about Canadian stereotypes

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Have you ever wondered how the world sees Canadians?

Before coming here, I thought Canadians were funny, easy-going and kind. This idea mostly came from movies and popular culture. One particular movie that had a big impact on me was Wayne’s World (I know, my age is showing). If you’re not familiar, it’s about best friends Wayne and Garth, slackers who get into several funny, and quite ridiculous adventures. While the movie wasn’t billed as a Canadian movie per se, the titular Wayne is played by Mike Myers, who is a well-known Canadian. This made me think that Canadians are like Wayne in general – super laid-back, quirky, but ultimately good-natured.

How did you think Canadians were like before coming here?

Canadian stereotypes

Here are a few well-known Canadian stereotypes you may or may not agree with:

  1. Canadians are polite

    Canadians have a global reputation of being nice and polite. In fact, Canada has been consistently on the list of the friendliest countries in the world. Aside from the usual media portrayal of Canadians as “kind and nice”, this title is connected with the predilection for saying “sorry’ all the time.

    It can also be the result of comparison. Canadians have always been compared to Americans, our closest neighbours. The stereotype is that Americans are brash while Canadians are polite. According to Nelson Wiseman, director of Canadian Studies at the University of Toronto, this stereotype is the result of the idea that “the United States places more value on the individual, and therefore people are considered to be more selfish. Canada is comparatively more collective, and Canadians, by extension, are assumed to be more altruistic.”

    Personally, this is one stereotype I can vouch for because I experience it daily. From small gestures like leaving the door open for others, to donating to causes and volunteering – you will find that Canadians are innately kind and caring individuals.

  2. Canadians love hockey

    Hockey is BIG in Canada. While not all Canadians play hockey, what is certain is that most are hockey fans. During hockey season, expect them to be glued to the sports channels. They love to watch it, talk about it, and cheer for their favourite teams. Just wait until the Winnipeg Jets make it into the play-offs again. Join a White Out and see Winniepggers’ devotion to hockey firsthand.

    Here’s a humorous take on Canadian stereotypes, some of which are mentioned here in this article. See if you can detect other Canadian stereotypes being made fun of in this video:

  3. How to be a Canadian, CBC Comedy

  4. Everyone speaks French

    This stereotype is, unfortunately, not true. Although French is one of Canada’s official languages (the other being English), not everyone speaks French. According to Statistics Canada, 75.4% of the population speaks English, 22.8% speak French, and 17.9% speak both English and French (2016). Even though many young Canadians take French as a subject (2.4 million young people study French as a second language), Quebec and New Brunswick are the only provinces where more than 30% of the population speak French.

  5. Says “eh”a lot

    This is a stereotype that was popularized by the media in the early 70s up to the 80s. However, researchers say that Canadians have been using “eh” for as long as Canadian English has been around (Read Why do Canadians say ‘eh’ and what does it mean?). If you have enough conversations with locals, you’ll find this stereotype to be mostly true.

    Meanwhile, the stereotype revolving around the use of “oot” and “aboot” (as pronunciation for “out” and “about”), is a myth. While there are regions in Canada that do have a slightly different pronunciation (sounds more like “oat” and “abowt”), this stereotype is mostly an exaggeration as seen in comedic portrayals of Canucks.

  6. Canadians love maple syrup and Tim Hortons

    Canadians don’t have the maple leaf on the national flag for nothing. In fact, they don’t only love maple syrup, they are obsessed with it! They consume a lot of maple syrup and maple syrup products like maple butter, maple sugar, candy, and a host of maple-flavoured goodies. The country also produces and stockpiles gallons of it. Canada is the top exporter of maple syrup, accounting for 85% of the world’s exports. It also has a maple syrup strategic reserve in Quebec that can hold 55 million pounds of this liquid gold (you know, just in case there’s an emergency maple syrup shortage).

    Canadians are equally obsessed with Tim Hortons, especially Timmies coffee. According to the coffee shop, it serves more than two billion cups of their coffee each year. It also recorded that about 15% of Canadians visit one of the 3,500 Tim Hortons locations in the country every single day.

Do you know of other stereotypes we missed?

A note about stereotypes:

Stereotypes are generalizations of a group or class of people. They are oversimplifications. In reality, while many Canadians share similar traits and values, they are also wonderfully diverse.

We might discuss stereotypes in an effort to know our fellow Canadians better, but it is best to keep an open mind. Let’s think about how individual traits make us more interesting human beings.

Also, we’re not saying that we need to embody these stereotypes in order to be considered Canadian. What is awesome about Canadians is that they embrace diversity and encourage multiculturalism. That’s a stereotype we can all get behind.

Sources: Canada 150: 6 Canadian stereotypes that happen to be true, Dani-Elle Dubé, Global News; 10 Canada stereotypes that are hilariously inaccurate (10 that are 100% true), Carly Williams, The Travel; and Do Canadians deserve their reputation for being nice? Catherine McIntyre, MacLean’s. Accessed August 29, 2022.

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