By Jade Johnston
Canada is a fantastic country to live and travel in. However, like all countries, it does have some areas where it can improve. Often times, it is hard for a local to objectively examine their own country. Through my world travels, and by living and working in several other countries, I have now gained the ability to reflect on my own country with the eyes of a foreigner. So without further adieu, here is my list of the best and worst of Canada. Also check out a similar post – Do’s and Don’ts in Canada.
The Best of Canada
- Canada is multicultural
One of the things all Canadians are taught in school is that America is a melting pot, and that we are a mosaic. That means, we take pride in the fact that we encourage new arrivals to our country to retain their own culture. The result is colourful neighbourhoods, great ethnic restaurants, and peoples of all backgrounds and races. We celebrate our differences through festivals such as Winnipeg’s folklorama – where for two weeks in August the city explodes with cultural performances and amazing ethnic food.
In the major cities of Canada, you can find every ethnic background. Vancouver is now more than 50% of Asian descent, while the prairies are an equal balance of Eastern European and Filipino descent.
- Canada boasts a wide variety of both urban and rural activities
No matter what your passion, you can find it somewhere in Canada. One of the great things of being in one of the world’s largest countries, is the vast variety of landscapes and activities. Skiing in the Rocky mountains, whale watching on the west coast, art and museums in Toronto and Ottawa, and checking out the French Canadian music scene in Montreal are just a brief example of what you can find on offer in Canada.
- Canada has a strong economy
Business is a booming in Canada, which means there is no lack of activities and restaurants to keep a traveler busy. It also means that those coming to Canada on working holiday visas do not have to worry too much about finding a great and exciting job in their city of choice.
- Canadians are friendly and open
The Canadian people are famous for being friendly. The province where I am from, Manitoba, used to have “friendly Manitoba” written across every persons license plate. If you are standing on the street looking at a map, it is likely that someone will stop and help you out. Also, try to meet some of the locals, especially if you are travelling through smaller towns. Canadians love to go out, eat, and laugh. We are very open and can make friends quickly – so don’t just hang out in your hostel – get out there and meet some of us! Check out the city forums at couchsurfing.org to find some events going on in the area.
- Canada has great and affordable restaurants
One thing that Canadians love is going out to eat. Eating out is the national past time, and the result is that Canadian cities are chalk full of fantastic and varied restaurants. Not only is the variety there, but the price is right. Eating out in Canada is extremely affordable, and there are just so many options, that any budget can find something to their taste. As an expat living in New Zealand, one of the things I miss the most from my home town of Winnipeg is the fantastic restaurants. (Sorry friends and family! You are on the list as well, but well, that crepe place across from my old flat is just so good!)
The Worst of Canada
- Most Canadians are unilingual – whether that is in French or English
I have found during my travels that there is a common misconception that all Canadians are bilingual. Although Canada as a country is bilingual, most of the citizens are not. Therefore, Anglophones travelling in Quebec (outside of very bilingual Montreal) will find it very challenging indeed. And Francophones who travel to Canada’s west coast may find it downright impossible to find someone that can understand them.
- Public transport to rural areas is often lacking
If you plan to explore the quaint and cute small towns of Canada, or explore the great natural areas in the country, you will find it downright impossible to get around by public transport. Another extremely popular (and epic) activity to do in Canada, is the cross Canada driving tour. Although this can be done by bus or train – it is an entirely different experience if done by personal vehicle. Not only does driving your own vehicle give you the freedom to set your own schedule, but it also lets you stop in all of those before mentioned small cute towns on the way.
- Domestic air transport is more expensive than in other countries
After spending several years in Europe and experiencing the wonders of cheap airlines such as Ryan Air, and also living in New Zealand where domestic flights are extremely budget friendly – it has become glaringly obvious to me just how expensive air travel in Canada can be. Although it is possible to find the odd budget fare, if you have the time to do it, I would definitely recommend travelling across Canada overland. Check out via rail for train fares (also not that budget friendly – but a lot more scenic), or hire a car and take on the trans-Canada highway.
- Urban sprawl
Unlike in other countries where natural barriers or high population densities forced cities to grow up, Canadian cities have always had all the cheap land and space they could ever want. The result is, unfortunately, urban sprawl. Most people opt to live in the suburbs instead of in apartment buildings, and parking lots are in the open air instead of under buildings. For a traveller confined to taking public transport, this means that it can often take a very, very long time to get from point A to B. With this in mind, if you know what parts of the city you want to see and explore, try to find accommodation near that area to cut down on your transport time.
- Extreme weather
Each region of Canada has it’s own, specific, extreme type of weather conditions. Be aware of where you want to travel, and what sort of weather is typical for that area and time of year. If you are travelling in summer, make sure not to forget your sunscreen and bug spray. In Ontario and the prairies the temperatures can soar to over 35 degrees Celsius, and in some parts of Canada the mosquito is the provincial bird.
If you are travelling to Canada in the winter, then make sure you are prepared. Depending on where you do, you may come face to face with temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius. That is cold enough to freeze your nostrils together and form icicles on your eye lashes. Warm clothing is a must, and don’t forget your toque (Canadian for “hat” – pronounced “too – ck”)!
Do you agree with this list? What are the best and worst aspects of YOUR country?