Canadians Share The Lesser-Known 'Dos And Don'ts' Of Visiting Their Country

Ashley Hunte
A Canadian flag waving in front of the Canadian Parliament building.
Unsplash | Jason Hafso

Oh, Canada. The land of igloos and maple syrup. Where everyone says sorry and drinks Tim Horton's. It's a beautiful place to visit (and yes, it's more than just Toronto), but like any country, there are plenty of dos and don'ts to remember when visiting.

A Redditor asked Canadians, "What are some less obvious "don'ts" in Canada?" Many had a lot to say about their home and native land.

"Don't underestimate the weather." - Nolleezz

A field full of snow.
Unsplash | Bob Canning

"Here in southern Ontario, winter can be -30 [-22 Fahrenheit] with wind-chill, and summer temps can reach +30 [86 Fahrenheit] or more with humidex. It's a good idea to dress in layers no matter the season."

As a Canadian myself, I can attest to the fact that the temperatures can get crazy. From freezing to warm in a single week, or even a day!

"Take off your shoes when you walk in someone’s house." - Ramses12th

A pile of shoes in what appears to be a wooden closet.
Unsplash | Jakob Owens

For the most part, Canadians are very serious about not having shoes indoors. In a country where the weather can change on a dime, it just doesn't make sense. You never know what's on your soles.

Though the original Reddit thread is asked by a European person, this is pretty good advice for Americans to remember, too.

"This is kind of obvious but people still get surprised: Don't underestimate travel times. Canada is a big country." - BlargTheGreat

A map showing Canada and parts of the United States.
Unsplash | British Library

"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.'"

Canada is the second largest country by area. You can hardly travel across one province in a day, let alone coast to coast.

"It's common that if you catch someone's eye while passing in the street you give a little yes nod or a smile." - Mirror_hsif

That famous GIF of Robert Redford nodding.

"It's not strictly necessary etiquette but don't be surprised if someone does that to you."

Unless you live in a big city or a densely populated area, people are going to nod or say hi to you when you pass them on the street. It's a cultural thing, I guess.

"If you're 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

A shot of highway 401 in Ontario, Canada.
Giphy | Archives of Ontario | Archives publiques de l'Ontario

This is especially true if you find yourself on highway 401 during rush hour. It is, after all, the busiest highway in North America.

"Please DO NOT feed the wildlife." - Owldove

A brown bear baring its teeth.
Unsplash | mana5280

"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."

Bears aren't unique to Canada, so it's weird that people would even think to do this...

"Don’t equate French Canadian culture with France Culture." - lacontrolfreak

A shot of Quebec City in the wintertime.
Unsplash | Tim Geenens

"The sayings, expressions and swear words have evolved separately over centuries, just like new world English speakers."

I speak French, and let me tell you: Canadian French is very different from France French.

"Canadian Geese are assholes and will attack you if you go near them." - soniplaystattn

A flock of 6 Canada geese mid-flight.
Unsplash | Gary Bendig

People may underestimate the bears in Canada, but they really underestimate these guys. Canadian geese are fiercely territorial and will chase you down if you get too close to their families. Unfortunately, they also have teeth.

"If you’re in Halifax, don’t ask for lettuce on donair." - KyleTone9

Ross from friends saying "don't do it!" and then leaving the apartment.
Giphy | Friends

A donair is a modified Turkish doner sandwich that originated in a Halifax (Nova Scotia) restaurant. You just have to respect it for what it is!

"Newfoundland rhymes with understand. Not Finland." - benjaminkpope

A shot of St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada.
Unsplash | Erik Mclean

It's generally pronounced like New-Fin-Land, or New-Fun-Land. If you say it like it's three different words, people will definitely look at you funny.

"On an escalator, you stand on right and walk on left." - Darfoot

A man standing and then falling on an escalator.

Escalator etiquette is very big in Canada. It's just like driving on the street; slow traffic keeps right, and fast traffic passes on the left.

"Don’t lump us in with the United States or act like we’re basically the same country. There are some pretty significant differences!" - MrsMaiselsBrisket

A sign for te Border Inspection agency for the Canadian border.
Unsplash | Hermes Rivera

Sure, we might all speak the same language (for the most part), but Canada and the United States are two very different countries. And Canadians hate being confused for Americans.

"Cars are turning right on red traffic lights, and drivers don't look for pedestrians; don't get hit from the left even if you got green (white)!" - hoimeid

A man with his hand on a car's steering wheel.
Unsplash | why kei

Canada is full of good drivers. Unfortunately, it's also full of... bad drivers. I feel like the amount of bad drivers is what makes the good drivers so good, if that makes sense.

"Don't drive around your truck with a Canadian flag on it. You look like a Yank or an idiot or both." - klimaz

A Canadian flag on a pole with the sun behind it.
Unsplash | chris robert

Come to think of it, you'll see very few cars or trucks with Canadian flags on them. But you'll see them on people's front yards a lot. I guess you don't really need to remind people you're Canadian if you're already in Canada.

"Not checking the weather before leaving the house. A day can begin sunny and end with a blizzard. You should always check the weather." - howareyouall

A person taking a snow blower to their driveway during a winter storm.
Unsplash | Patrick Bald

This is definitely related to the point about Canadian weather being wide-ranging and unpredictable. You might even see snow in June, so dress accordingly.

"Do not expect public transit to be on time or actually go everywhere you want to go." - BrightDegree3

Time lapse of bus stop.
Giphy | f-stop Gear

If you're planning on taking the bus anywhere, make sure you take an earlier one. Because the buses in Canada always seem to be running late for one reason or another.

"Don’t pronounce Toronto as 'Toe-Ron-Toe.' It’s more like 'Churronno.'"

A view of Toronto buildings as seen from a nearby park.
Unsplash | James Thomas

Just like Newfoundland, Toronto isn't strictly pronounced the way it's spelled. There are plenty of other cities like that too, like Calgary.

"Make sure you tip 15% at restaurants that you sit in to eat and are served." - Key-Effort-6239

A woman talking to a restaurant waiter, as seen through a window.
Unsplash | Fraser Cottrell

Tipping is pretty normal in the U.S. and Canada, but I always forget that most other countries... don't tip. Tipping culture isn't perfect, but if you don't tip in Canada, it's considered pretty disrespectful to the servers.

"Politeness/manners is taken decently serious by most Canadians." - abu_doubleu

A dancing bunny. Underneath it, the words "thank you" form.
Giphy | bluesbear

"'s considered rude if you don't respond to 'thank you' with 'no problem!' or 'you're welcome.'"

"No worries!" is another acceptable response. Or really, anything that acknowledges the fact that somebody said thank you.

"Don’t say nothing when you enter someone’s personal space or vice versa…" - Girl_Dinosaur

The word "sorry" flashing in orange and blue on a black background.
Giphy | fuzzyghost

"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."

"Sorry" is used in a lot of different context, not just to apologize to somebody. Sorry is used in place of "excuse me," if someone is in your way, or if you didn't hear what they said ("sorry?"), or because you're in the way. The Canadian "sorry," is multi-use.