A lot of people have told me that Australia and Canada are exactly the same, only one is hot and in the southern hemisphere, and one is cold and in the northern hemisphere.
But anyone who has experienced both countries knows that this isn’t true. Canada and Australia are very different from each other.
So we polled a group of about 2500 Australians living in Toronto, Canada, and here are some of the things they think are weird or different here.
The banking system is a little different
Most unlimited every day bank accounts have a fee of $10 to $15 a month, with some charging thirty dollars a month, unless you go with an online-only, branch-less bank.
Cheques are still commonly used, so make sure you know how to use them. Especially for rent, and sometimes even to pay you for doing work. And a lot of places still make you physically go to the office to pick them up so you can deposit them.
(I reckon they’re hoping some of their employees won’t bother making the trip and will just miss out on their pay). Not a chance, especially in this paycheque-to-paycheque city.
EFTPOS is called “debit”, and your regular every day account is called your chequing account, not savings. I took me about two years to stop automatically pressing savings on the debit machine (and I still sometimes do it when I’m tired/rushing). Check out this helpful write up from RBC on how banking works in Canada
And you still have to specify to the cashier whether you’re paying with debit or credit here. Because it’s nice to slow down and chat with strangers sometimes.
They have strange ways with electrics
Powerpoints are called power outlets and they don’t have on/off switches. This is strange for Aussies, since we are taught to turn the outlet off before plugging in/unplugging an appliance.
I guess that’s handy when you go on vacation and don’t have to worry about switching them all off to save money. It’s not so handy that the risk of electrocution is real, but no one seems to care over here, and you know. When in Rome….
The switches are only for lights, and in a lot of buildings, they are gigantic. They’re good if you have your hands full and want to turn the light on with your elbow. Or your nose… Don’t act like you haven’t done it!
A lot of living rooms don’t have ceiling lights (but there might be an outlet controlled by a switch by the front door, into which you can plug a lamp and use that as your living room lighting. Fine, I’ll bring my own lamps then!
“Toilet” is a dirty word
It’s washroom or bathroom, thank you very much. If you ask someone where the toilet is, they will look at you funny. Even toilet paper has to be called something dainty like hygienic tissue. No dunnies over ‘ere!
But then when you go in to the bathrooms, there is a huge gap in the doors in of the stalls! Like, big enough that you can make eye contact with someone standing outside. What happened to the dainty, hygienic tissue business? What does it matter when everyone can see your business?
Prices are just outright lies
Nothing costs what it says it will cost, because you have to remember to add taxes (and sometimes a tip) to the advertised price. And merchants don’t always remind you because it goes without saying over here. So, for example, when you sign up for $10 a month gym membership, it’s really $13 a month including taxes.
But…. service quality is much different here. people really wait on you in retail and dining establishments, and that level or service is expected here. So don’t be surprised to see someone kick up a stink here when they’re not satisfied with something they’re paying for. Enjoy working in customer service for $14 an hour, folks!
Taxes and voting are different
The tax year is aligned with the calendar year, whereas in Australia it’s July to June. Australia, explain this one? I found some “theories” but nothing concrete.
Voting is optional but it’s on a weekday, forcing people to make time before or after work. No sausage sizzle or cake sale to make it fun either. Canadians are missing out on the inspiration of the democracy sausage!
Telcos rob you absolutely blind here
Want the latest iPhone?
(Of course the prices don’t include tax)
Phone calls between mobile phones out of the city you’re in are classified as long distance and cost more money.
Depending on your phone plan, you could be charged for incoming calls as well
Phone numbers are the same length and format whether it’s a mobile or a landline, and they all have an area code specific to the city they’re in. This is across all of North America. So you won’t know whether the number you’re calling/is calling you is a mobile or a landline.
And things are okay here that were outlawed or changed in Australia decades ago
Like they still use Styrofoam packaging in takeout foods
And businesses will ask you to fax them documents! For example, insurance companies. So you have to go to Staples (or somewhere) and pay like $3 to send a fax.
In some provinces, wearing bicycle helmets is not mandatory for adults. Here are the current laws for each province:
- British Columbia: all ages.
- Alberta: under 18 years old.
- Saskatchewan: No law.
- Manitoba: under 18 years old.
- Ontario: under 18 years old. .
- Quebec: No law.
- New Brunswick: all ages.
- Nova Scotia: all ages.
- Prince Edward Island: all ages.
- Newfoundland and Labrador: No law.
- Yukon: No law.
- Northwest Territories: No law.
- Nunavut: No law.
There aren’t many different “bottle shops” in Ontario, and they have limited hours. There’s the LCBO, The Beer Store and Wine Rack. Some grocery stores are now selling limited selection of beers.
But it’s okay for other things to run late
Retail stores don’t open until 10 or 11am but stay open until 9pm every weeknight (which is actually super convenient and I don’t know how Australian retailers stay in business when most of their prospective customers are at work while they’re open). You can have a 9-5 job in retail in Australia, but not in Canada.
If you have kids, and you put them in after school activities like sport, they run late on weeknights, sometimes until 9pm.
But don’t you dare be late for work!
Many workplaces make you sign an agreement upon hiring that if you’re late a certain number of times per year, (mine was seven) you will be terminated. Many others sneakily track your arrival and departure times and if they notice a pattern of lateness, even 5 minutes, they will eventually present them to you as an reason to terminate your employment.
Canadians don’t like to wait
Canadians think a 5 hour flight is long. Most of them practically keel over when you tell them how many hours you spent inside an aircraft to get here.
When in line at takeaway places etc, people leave a huge gap between the next person and the counter. Don’t yell at me when I don’t realise you’re in the line ALL THE WAY BACK THERE.
People speed in Ontario (and surely other parts of Canada). If you’re only going 120kph on the highway you’re probably driving slower than everyone else.
And the road rules are weird (and dangerous)
Pedestrians also always have the right of way and are given crossing rights at the same time that cars are trying to turn into the road they’re crossing. This creates traffic and causes more people to be hit by cars.
In Ontario, you can turn right at any red light. Pedestrians play chicken with impatient Toronto drivers because it takes an hour to get anywhere (and driving a BMW makes you feel powerful I guess).
And other unusual cultural things
College sports are a big deal here. A lot of money is invested into them and they have a large following.
Canadians love putting their flag on everything and are proud to wear Canada-themed clothing (especially Olympic gear) and it’s not considered racist or bogan (redneck).
A lot of houses don’t have fences in their front yard. Not all, but a lot.
Canada can’t decide between the imperial and the metric system. Body weight and weights at the grocery store are expressed in Imperial, but the scales are in metric. So are measurements of length, height and are, except for travelling distances and speed limits which are in kilometres. Weather temperatures are in Celsius, but the temperatures for swimming pools, hot tubs and ovens in Fahrenheit.
People walk around holding hockey sticks like its nbd. Like even at the grocery store. Or using them to decorate. Like this flagpole.
The shower/bath combinations are confusing. Do I push it? Pull it? Press it? Lift it? I JUST WANT TO TAKE A SHOWER.
Interesting food choices
People eat their pizzas with dipping sauce. There is a whole article dedicated to how it became a thing.
Raw broccoli and cauliflower to snack on is everywhere
They also put mustard and hot sauce on everything. at diners, bars etc when they bring you condiments it’s usually mustard and hot sauce.
And when you order something like sandwich and it comes with “a side of chips”, they actually give you potato chips. And a gigantic pickle. North Americans love their pickles. You won’t find the pickle from a McDonald’s burger flung against the wall in the restaurant like an abhorrent intruder.
So there you have it. We obviously didn’t get all of them ( not even close) but these are some of the ones we thought of!
What about you? Have you noticed any weird, different or bloody annoying about Canada? Let me know in the comments!