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Canadian Culture – Is there a difference between English and French Canada?
Canada is a unique and interesting country in that it’s split between two distinct regions – French Canada and English Canada. As with all countries, Canada has its own distinct culture, its own way of life and its own batch of national stereotypes. The question is this – does this culture vary wildly depend on where you’re moving to in Canada, or is it simply a case of speaking French when in Quebec?
First things first, the difference in language is fairly important. Canada has two official languages, but for the Quebecois French is their first language. While people in Quebec do learn English at school and almost the entirety of French Canada is at bilingual, you’ll find that most people in the province use French far more frequently than English in their daily life. People in English Canada are usually pretty good at French too, though the average fluency usually isn’t of the same level. Of course, with a lack of a national standard curriculum in Canada, the degree to which people study French varies from province to province, territory to territory.
Because language is one of the biggest determiners of culture, there is a slight cultural difference between French Canada and English Canada. Language aside, this is mostly due to the fact that French Canada’s history is linked to France, whereas the English-speaking provinces and territories is more closely linked to the UK. Despite all this this, the biggest cultural differences simply come down to media and food consumption. By and large, most of Canada has a fairly similar culture.
This brings us onto the national cultural stereotypes of Canada. There is a common misconception that all Canadians have the same accent, that everyone says “aboot” and ends every sentence in “eh?”. As the world’s second largest country, Canada is unsurprisingly home to a large number of different accents and only a small number of Canadians have the accent this stereotype is based on. People in Alberta, for example, sound different to people from Vancouver, just as people from Toronto sound different to people from New York. The same is true of French Canada – people from Quebec sound different to people from Paris, just as you might expect.
Another cultural stereotype of Canada is that everyone is polite and friendly. Fortunately this is very much a truism; Canada is routinely ranked in the top 10 safest, most peaceful countries to live in, on a par with New Zealand, Switzerland and Japan. The Canadian people as a whole are extremely polite, incredibly friendly and very welcoming towards the expat and international communities. However, just like any country, the culture you’ll find in Canada’s individual provinces and territories will have its own unique quirks and differences. People from Vancouver have been liken to people from California, for example, whereas people from Toronto have been likened to New Yorkers and Londoners.
One of the most interesting cultural nuances in Canada which might take you by surprise is that milk comes in bags. Whether you’re in Quebec or Winnipeg, Calgary or Edmonton, milk doesn’t come in cartons or bottles (unless you look hard enough) – it come in bags. This is something which has been known to confuse and excite expats moving to the area in roughly equal amounts. If you were to buy milk in Canada, your milk would come in a pack of several bags. When you want milk, you open a bag and place it in a special milk jug and simply cut the corner off. You get the same volume of milk for your money, but the pack lasts longer than a single bottle or carton would as the majority of your milk stays sealed in individual bags until you choose to use them.
All in all, Canadian culture is as similar but varied as you would expect from any country of its size. Whether you’re moving to British Columbia, Manitoba or Quebec, you’re naturally going to experience a slightly different culture – that being said, you’re in for the same polite, friendly, welcoming group of people that Canada has become world-famous for. If you have any questions about Canadian culture during your relocation to the world’s second largest country, feel free to contact a member of our AMEA team today.