Five Facts About Canada The World Tends To Forget

Alberta Canada

I love visiting Canada, but I didn’t always feel that way. For some reason as a youth, I had a kind of violent ambivalence to our northern neighbors and I don’t know why. They annoyed me in almost every way and even now looking back at it I can’t really explain why. Maybe it was societal, maybe it was familial (my Mainer grandparents didn’t often have nice things to say about Canadians) but I am happy to say that once I started visited Canada as a tourist, my opinions immediately changed. Today Canada is quite honestly one of my favorite countries to explore (not Toronto, ever) but in doing so I realized there are some aspects to the country that not only Americans tend to forget, but the rest of the world as well. So with this in mind, and in the interest in promoting greater understanding of our maple syrup-loving friends, here are a few important facts about Canada that everyone should know and which just might change your impression of this beautiful country.

Alberta Canada

1. Canada is huge

Stop and go look at a map; really look at it and I think you’ll be surprised at just how very large Canada is. It’s actually the second largest country in the world after Russia, yet if asked I bet few people would know that. The main reason is of course nearly all Canadians live huddled up against the warm border with the United States, leaving gigantic swathes of the country untended. As a tourist, this usually means we skip these areas as well. Toronto, Quebec, Vancouver, sure we’ve all heard of them but Nunavut? Whitehorse? No, not so much. So when thinking about traveling in Canada, step back and really take a look at it. Sure, a lot of those northern areas are harder to reach, but they’re certainly well worth visiting.

Montreal Old Port

2. More than moose and trees

At the same time, Canada is not defined by its natural splendor. Ask any American what comes to mind when they think of Canada and it’ll be a mix of maple syrup, hockey, moose and Mounties. But Canada is a lot more than just moose and pancake toppings; it’s a modern, dynamic country with fascinating urban centers that have a lot to offer. Traveling through most of Canada’s major cities, it is immediately apparent that they are amongst the most diverse in the world. People from all walks of life and nationalities descend on these cities to work and eventually call them home. With them they have brought fascinating and diverse cultures and amazing food too, of course. Toronto’s food scene is more like the UN cafeteria than it is a Canadian city. Sure, you’ll find poutine there, but the real finds are the amazing Thai and Vietnamese places scattered all around town. Many, many folks visit Canada to experience the great outdoors, which is fine, but the country’s urban centers shouldn’t be ignored either.

3. Interesting history

Believe it or not, Canada does indeed have a history that is not necessarily tied to Great Britain. I actually think that Canada has done the best job of any country in relating the history and stories of the original inhabitants, what they typically call First Nations Peoples. Just like the US, Native Americans had a long and rich history before the arrival of the first European settlers and evidence of this can be found all around the country, from the Maritimes to the Pacific Northwest. There’s also a lot more recent history and if you’re a history buff, then the events surrounding the War of 1812 should be of interest to you. If you’re an American like me, you’ll learn why Canada should probably be part of the US had we not so badly bungled the war. No matter your interest, Canada has a lot to offer those looking to learn a little more about history and culture, aside from maple syrup production.

Banff Upper Hot Springs

4. Americans don’t spend enough time

A lot of my friends have been to Canada for leisure travel but I honestly cannot think of one who has spent more than 5 days visiting. For whatever reason, we Americans just don’t see Canada as a long vacation destination and I’m not entirely sure why. We’ll spend a week on a Caribbean cruise, but when we visit Canada we spend 3 days in Montreal or 5 days in Banff, but anything longer is not at all common. Time to change that. Two of my visits to Canada have been a week in length and those were honestly not nearly long enough. There is a lot to see and do up there, deceptively so, and I think the variety of activities makes Canada well suited for a week or two of exploration. General education is the main problem. There isn’t enough written in the Lower 48 about the width and breadth of Canadian experiences. Sure, we know about the major sites, but more should be told about Saskatchewan’s lakes or Alberta’s Badlands; heck, a week in Nova Scotia or the Maritimes would be perfect. So when planning your next long trip somewhere, look north and give it some thought.

Quebec City

5. Just a really pleasant place to be

I love visiting new and foreign places, seeing if I can get by on my wits and poor language skills. Canada doesn’t offer that, but what it does offer is a really pleasant travel experience. After my last trip to Canada, I came to the realization that I just really like being there. I’d live in Canada in a heartbeat, given the opportunity. The people are legendarily nice, a stereotype that absolutely holds up, everyone is warm, kind, polite and welcoming. The cities make sense, are generally clean, interesting and fun to explore. The vast open spaces are beautiful almost beyond comprehension and offer a seemingly endless array of experiences and activities. Things aren’t too expensive, they drive on the correct side of the road and aside from adding ‘u’s to a few words, understanding Canadians is pretty easy. Traveling through Canada is just an all-around pleasant experience and I know I’ll never get tired of visiting.

These are just a few facts and interesting tidbits I think the world needs to keep in mind when considering a trip to Canada. I think as a nation it oftentimes gets short shrift and it’s high time we change that.

What do you love most about Canada?

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

13 Responses

  1. RC

    Hi Landlopers,

    Visiting Canada is in my wish list for next year. I do traveled mostly in Asia for business trip and i really hope that someday i can visited other places for leisure. There are many things that you wrote her that makes me more excited to explore Canada because I have this common thinking about Canada the maple syrup,hockey and of course i’m not going to miss out the Niagara falls. Looking forward to spend a long vacation in Canada soon. Thanks for the info because you just made me realize that there are so many things to do in Canada.

    Reply
  2. Lauren Bassart

    I love Canada. We have been spending more and more time there in different places and it is as diverse as the USA. Can’t wait to go back and see some moose over the winter 🙂 SNOW!!!

    Reply
  3. Alouise

    Love hearing an outsider perspective on my country. I definitely people underestimate how big Canada is, or they tend to visit the same places over and over. I’ve lived here for 30 years and I haven’t seen it all (but I’m trying my best).

    Reply
  4. Anna Lamma

    Nice to see this post, especially how I just moved out here! I hope to learn a lot more about this vast country. Thumbs up!

    Reply
  5. Marie @ A Montrealer Abroad

    Canada is AWESOME, stat. 🙂 I loved reading your perspective on my country, and I hope you will visit again soon!

    Reply
  6. Alison

    After spending five months travelling across Canada a couple of years back, it is my favourite country. The friendly positive people, natural beauty and diverse landscapes make it an amazing place to explore. Vancouver in particular offers an amazing lifestyle.

    Reply
  7. Lucas

    Wow, out of nowhere yesterday I tweeted that I thought I had a skewed view of Canada, in that I thought the whole country was beautiful and fun and pleasant, since I’d only ever been there for my 10-day honeymoon to Banff, Vancouver and Victoria. Then I see this post in my RSS feed today. Turns out my position may not be so skewed after all! Would love to visit Montreal, the badlands in Alberta, the rest of Vancouver Island, Whistler and the many other places I’ve never heard of but I’m sure are wonderful.

    Reply
  8. Rebekah

    I’m a mainer and growing up there is sort of joke about canada being lame… and sort of a sense of competition. I think a lot of it in Maine at least has to do with a long history of social differences between the irish and the french-canadian as well as some economic issues related to the lumber industry. we’re much more restricted in Maine and we get beat out of by Canadian companies. Thats a super serious opinion, but on less serious note I’ve been seeing how many awesome places are in canada and I would love to do a roadtrip. It looks so amazing.

    Reply
  9. David @ HitTheRoad.ca

    Thank you for spreading the word about Canada!
    I keep telling people there’s a lot more here than just trees. There’s a wealth of diverse people and places. So much more to see than Whistler and Niagara Falls 😉

    David

    Reply
  10. Heidi

    Spent a week in Montreal just this past August 2014. Rented an entire apartment on Airbnb very inexpensively. It was close to the subway, not to far from the Gay Village. Both French and English are spoken. Great food, great neighborhoods, great vacation.

    Reply
  11. Tanya

    Loved your post! I am a Canadian, but a Maritimer to be exact. It seems as if you have gotten to experience the West and central parts but don’t forget to come out East. I am from Nova Scotia and (I know I am biased) it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I currently live in the middle east and have traveled to many places but there is nothing like the eastern coast of Canada.

    Reply
    • Tanya

      P.S. …you thought Western Canada was friendly. Maritimers are often too friendly for the rest of Canada haha

      Reply
  12. Madi

    This gave me a little bit of a chuckle. I’m a born and bred Canadian so I just had to read what you thought most of the world forgets about us. They’re all true. It’s a gorgeous country that has so many different types of landscapes, people and cultures. I’m lucky to call myself Canadian!

    Reply

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