Biggest Differences Between the United States and Canada
Despite being next-door neighbors, with some northern states so close that it takes just a short drive to cross the Canadian border, the United States and Canada have some big differences.
From how you pay at a restaurant to common ingredients to load on top of fries, politics to education, you might be surprised at some of the biggest differences between the U.S. and Canada mentioned here.
Canada Sells Milk in Bags
While the U.S. is known for its milk cartons, Canada sells milk out of bags. The reasoning is that the pouches are more cost-efficient, since they’re cheaper to make than cartons, and are more environmentally friendly.
The milk is poured into pitchers once Canadians bring it home and use it.
College Is Not the Same Type of Schooling in Canada
Though both countries have colleges and universities, the terms have different meanings. In Canada, universities grant degrees, while colleges grant certificates and diplomas.
A college in Canada is similar to what Americans call a community college.
Higher Education Is Less Expensive in Canada
While it’s common for students to pay tens of thousands of dollars to get a degree in the U.S., Canada offers much cheaper higher education options.
The average yearly tuition in the U.S. is about $32,000, while the average yearly tuition in Canada is about $5,000. This is because both colleges and universities in Canada are subsidized by provincial governments so that residents pay less for an education.
Hockey Is More Popular Than Football in Canada
The most popular spectator sport to watch in the U.S. is football. The second most popular is baseball, followed by basketball, ice hockey and soccer. Together, these make up the "five major sports."
Canada is much different. Ice hockey is the most popular sport and is so beloved that it’s the official national sport in Canada. Lacrosse, soccer, baseball and cricket are the next most popular sports in the country.
There Is No Middle School in Canada
The public schooling system in the U.S. is typically elementary school, middle school (or junior high), then high school.
In Canada, middle school doesn’t exist. Instead, children go to elementary school up through seventh grade, then enter high school through 12th grade. And in Quebec, students finish high school after 11th grade. They then go to a vocational school for two years.
Purchasing Alcohol Isn’t as Easy in Canada
Many parts of the U.S. make it easy to purchase alcohol, not just in a liquor store but in a convenience store or grocery store as well.
Meanwhile, in some provinces in Canada, alcohol can only be sold in government-owned liquor stores.
The Drinking Age Is Decided by Province in Canada
In the U.S., the legal drinking age for all 50 states is 21 years of age. But in Canada, the legal drinking age is decided by each province.
In Alberta, Quebec and Manitoba, you can drink as soon as you turn 18. In the rest of the provinces, you must be 19 to legally drink.
Canadians Don’t Use Pennies
It’s common knowledge that Canadians and Americans do not share the same currency. But did you know that, in 2013, Canada actually got rid of pennies?
Canada stopped minting one-cent currency because production costs outweighed the value of the coin.
Canucks Put Gravy on Their Fries
Americans are all about their chili cheese fries, often topped with chili, cheese sauce, sour cream and scallions.
In Canada, the equivalent is poutine. These French fries are topped with squeaky cheese curds, which are then slathered in a thick gravy.
Americans and Canadians Use Different Measuring Systems
Despite bordering each other, the U.S. and Canada don’t agree on the type of measuring system used.
Canada sides with the majority of the world, opting for the metric system, while the U.S. remains an outlier, working off the older Imperial System of Measurement, along with just two other countries: Myanmar and Liberia.
General Demeanor Differs Greatly Between the Two Countries
As an American, you’ve likely been told to refer to yourself as Canadian when visiting countries like France. Why? The Canadian demeanor is known to be overly polite, exceptionally welcoming and never demanding.
In comparison, Americans are stereotyped as rude, pushy and impolite. Yikes!
Canadians and Americans Don’t Always Agree on the Alphabet
Some of the biggest examples of this include the letters “Z” and “U.” While Americans say “zee” when referring to the last letter of the alphabet, Canadians say “zed.”
Canadians spell many words with a “U” that Americans leave out, such as flavour and colour.
Canada Has a Larger Land Mass but Less Population
Despite Canada’s land mass equating to 3,855,103 square miles, which is slightly larger than America's 3,797,000 square miles, Canada has a population of only 33,487,208 compared to America's 307,212,123.
This is mostly because a great deal of the country to the north is almost completely uninhabited.
All Canadian National Parks Are Free
In Canada, you can visit national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas operated by Parks Canada free of charge.
Meanwhile, many of the national parks located in the U.S. require a fee, though it’s becoming increasingly popular for these parks to offer a few free days throughout the year.
In Canada, It’s Custom to Remove Your Shoes at the Door
While Americans seem to finally be catching on, it’s always been an unspoken rule in Canada to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home.
Considering shoes track all kinds of dirt and bacteria, it’s definitely a polite and hygienic practice!
You Can’t Stream Pandora in Canada
Despite being oh so close to one another, Canadians would have to cross the border to be able to use Pandora Internet Radio.
To comply with DMCA rules and regulations, Pandora is only available to users in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.
Canadians and Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving in Different Months
Despite having the same name for a big holiday, Canadian Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving are not the same.
While Americans celebrate the holiday on the fourth Thursday of November, Canadians celebrate it on the second Monday of October. The Canadian Thanksgiving is closely linked to the harvest festival that’s big in the U.K.
Canada Is Much Colder Than the U.S.
Considering Canada is the northernmost country in North America, it only makes sense that it has colder temperatures.
In the frigid winter, Canada can’t seek refuge in warmer parts of the country, unlike Americans who can warm up in southern states like Florida.
Canadians Pay at the Table at Restaurants
At a restaurant, Americans typically have to receive the check, put in their card, then have the server take the card to run it and then finally tip.
Canadians, however, experience a much more seamless paying experience. In Canada, the credit card machine is brought to the table, where you run the card and then select the percentage you want to tip from the menu on the screen. Easy peasy!
Exotic Meat Is Common in Canada
While Americans are big on steak, chicken, turkey and pork, it’s common for Canadian grocery stores to offer meat options like horse, venison, camel and rabbit.
Canadian restaurants offer similar options, too. Look out for a menu featuring kangaroo, quail and more!
Canadians Says Pop, Not Soda
The majority of the United States refers to the soft drink as “soda,” with some states, mostly in the Midwest, referring to it as “pop.”
Canada, on the other hand, is in agreement countrywide that it should be called pop.
Iced Tea Refers to Sweetened Iced Tea in Canada
When you ask for an iced tea in Canada, expect a sweetened iced tea, flavored with lemon. The tea can be made from a powder at home or purchased in a bottle or can along with other soft drinks.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., iced tea is simply cold black brewed tea without additives, unless you're in the South, where the sweetened variety is called "sweet tea."
Canada Has Stricter Gun Laws
Owning a gun in the U.S. is considered a fundamental right.
In Canada, firearms can only be carried in public by those who require them for their job, such as a police officer.
Canadians Have a Higher Life Expectancy
While the average life expectancy for an American is 78.1 years, Canadians can expect to live several years more.
The Canadian life expectancy is 81.2 years.
Online Shopping Is More Popular in America
E-commerce in Canada only represents about 4.4 percent of total retail sales in Canada, compared to 7.7 percent of retail sales in the US.
In fact, less than half of Canadian businesses have a website, whereas it’s very common for Americans to find any business online.
Canadians Love Tim Hortons
Despite being the world’s largest coffee chain and the favorite among Americans, Starbucks takes a backseat to Canadians’ love for Tim Hortons.
You’ll often hear Canadians referring to the country’s largest quick-service restaurant chain as “Tim’s” or “Timmies.”
The U.S. Has a President, While Canada Has a Prime Minister
Canada is a Commonwealth country. Rather than being led by a president, like in America, Canucks are led by a prime minister.
Justin Trudeau is Canada's current prime minister, but, technically, Queen Elizabeth is the Head State of Canada.
Canucks Have More Major Political Parties
While the United States has two major political parties (Democratic and Republican), Canada has two major ones called the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party of Canada as well as three other popular parties: the New Democratic Party (NDP), the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party of Canada.
Canada Offers Free Healthcare
Canada has a universal health care system funded through taxes. The system allows Canadian citizens or permanent residents to apply for public health insurance, with services and products dependent on the province and territory in which they reside.
Meanwhile, the U.S. health system does not provide healthcare to the country's entire population. Rather, the majority of citizens are covered by a combination of private insurance and various federal and state programs.
Canada Has 2 Official Languages
Despite the U.S. being home to 41 million native Spanish speakers, Spanish is not an official language.
In Canada, however, French and English are both considered official languages. Children are required to take classes in their second language at school. This means French speakers in Quebec must take English classes, and French must be taken as a second language for English speakers in the rest of the country.
The U.S. Gets Less Paid Parental Leave
Canucks are granted government-paid maternity/paternity leave for a whole year, and it's usually 55 percent of their salary. The minimum a parent can take is 15 weeks of paid parental leave.
In the U.S., the employer is responsible for paying, not the government. New parents typically receive 12 weeks off, but it's by no means required to offer paid parental leave for mothers or fathers.
Americans Work More Than Canadians
Canadian employees receive 30-minute breaks every five hours. There is also a maximum of 48 hours per week they can be asked to work unless there is a written agreement between them and their employer.
In the U.S., however, federal law does not require breaks. There is also no legal limit to how many hours a week someone can be asked to work, though the law states that any time over 40 hours must be paid time and a half.