What’s different in Canada?

Whenever I’m talking with Americans, the conversation inevitably turns to the differences between Canada and America. Although we’re similar in a lot of ways, we’ve also got more than a few things that make us distinct. Thankfully, someone has started documenting these for all the world to see on Tumblr. Here are a few of my favorites:


The entrance to a house. In Canada, pronounced the French way: “foy-AY” as opposed to the flat-sounding American “FOY-er.” This is generally where you’re supposed to take your shoes off, Americans.

Homo milk


“Homo milk” is short for homogenized whole milk. This isn’t even colloquial, it’s just straight up printed on milk containers. Almost any milk you buy at a grocery store is homogenized, but in Canada, “whole milk” refers to creamline (unhomogenized) milk. Still, homo milk sounds pretty funny.

See also “bagged milk.”

Duo tangs

A cardstock folder with a built-in three ring binder is called a Duo-Tang in Canada. This is another example of a “proprietary eponym,” where a brand name becomes synonymous with the category. Duo-Tang.  What a whacky name.

And one more…



In the US, “Smarties” is a chalky, tart, stackable candy that comes in little plastic wrappers. (This candy is called “Rockets” north of the border.) In Canada, Smarties are candy-coated chocolates – sort of like unlabeled M&Ms that come in dark blue boxes.

American friends, I hope this helps you better understand the peculiar land that is Canada.

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  • Kim Shay

    I have an American pastor. There are considerably more. Apparently, serviette and napkin are competing terms. He claims no one in Canada uses the word “napkin,” but uses “serviette.” Also, it may be southern thing, but with the word “insurance” he puts the stress on the first syllable, thus INsurance, rather than inSURance. Another one us gutters vs eaves troughs.

    • http://writingandliving.net Staci Eastin

      Funny that you have an American pastor and I had a Canadian one. :) Our founding pastor’s wife and I have talked about the differences before.

      I tend to use both INsurance and inSURance, depending on the context. Thus, an INsurance salesman sells inSURance.

  • Carol Noren Johnson

    Yesterday in training I had for my part-time position as a DUI instructor, I found out that an American with a DUI cannot enter Canada. What are some of the other Canadian laws for Driving Under the Influence (of controlled substances) and is it called that in Canada?

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      We use a variety of terms; a good site to check out is http://www.dui.ca/

  • joeycochran

    Tim Horton’s. As an American I am sad thinking of this difference. But the iced coffee would probably kill me.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Totally, but that’s because their coffee is terrible.

  • AWHall

    I’ve found that Canadians tend to add a “z” sound to many words: reZources, ViZa, etc…whereas Americans pronounce those words with the “s” sound. Then there are all the Cadbury products (like Coffee Crisp) and the horrid ketchup chips that have yet to be exported south. But I don’t miss the high fructose corn syrup in everything.

    One last example that characterizes our different cultures: when the West was settled, Canada sent in the RCMP and established outposts for law and order; Americans had the cowboys in the wild west. That difference is reflected clearly in our attitude towards guns, collectivism vs. individualism, and even the role of gov’t.

    • Kim Shay

      I am reading a book right now about the gold rush in the Klondike. The way law and order was kept in Canadian cities such as Whitehorse and Dawson is different from the way things unfolded in Alaska in places like Nome and Fairbanks.

  • Amber

    I still insist that a good number of Americans say “foy-eh.” (“Foy-er” hurts my ears.) One thing I’m noticing more and more is that Canadians’ inflection goes up at the end of sentences when an American would go down. It’s subtle, but it makes Canadians sound more open-ended when Americans sound more declarative. Also, my personal observation based on in-depth scientific research (watching people at airports) is that far more Canadian women have short hair.