How to Spot a Canadian

Tracking down Canadians one toque at a time.

About this Site...

Canadians are a tricky people to distinguish. They are often able to blend into a society and appear to be American, British, French or any other number of nationalities. This site will provide you with some tips and tricks to help you recognize a Canadian no matter where you are.

 

This site is for entertainment purposes only. "How to Spot a Canadian" is filled with humour, satire, hyperbole, parody and sarcasm. All statements here should be taken with a grain of salt or a bottle of maple syrup, whatever the case may be.

They're Polite

You don't have to be a frequent reader of this website to know that Canadians are polite. If you have ever met a Canadian you instantly noticed that fact.

But Canadians aren't just polite. They're obnoxiously polite. If they bump into someone THEY apologize. But that's not all. Canadians have been known to apologize for bumping into inanimate objects. It's quite common to see a Canadian bump into the edge of a table and say "Sorry." And that's not just a slip of the tongue. Canadians are actually concerned for the table's feelings.

But it doesn't end there.

Canada is a country filled with people opening doors for others, smiles, thank yous and orderly line-ups. Canadians help and share and love whenever possible, even if it is completely inappropriate to do so. It's like some bizarre utopia that also happens to include beavers, poutine and hockey.

Ironically it is the game of hockey that causes Canadians to throw their politeness out the door. It's a proven fact that if you put even the kindest, gentlest Canadian in front of a hockey game they will almost instantly be turned into an aggressive, blood-thirsty, angry monster. All of the rage that they build up while helping and thanking others comes out when the puck hits the ice.

Why do you think hockey is the one professional team sport that allows fighting? It's because Canadians need it. They need the outlet. They've spent their lives apologizing to tables and now they need to get that anger out. And hockey is the one socially acceptable place for them to vent their frustrations. This fact is true for Canadians who are watching the game as well as those who are playing it. To a Canadian it's not real hockey unless someone is bleeding.

I've watched as a little old lady baked a batch of cookies, kissed a child on the forehead and then sat down in front of an NHL game and screamed "KILL HIM! KILL HIM!" for three straight periods.

Hockey is also where riots come from. Montreal's famed "Richard Riot" was caused by a hockey game. In fact, if you look at some obscure history books that are no longer in print, you will likely find that the war of 1812 was also caused by a hockey game. Unfortunately the modern media has repressed that fact.

Or not.

Regardless, a good way to spot a Canadian is to see how polite they are. True Canadians will respond to even the most brutal insults with an apology and an offer to join them for a warm cup of maple syrup back at their igloo.

A better way to spot a Canadian is to sit them in front of a hockey game. If they instantly turn into a vicious goon who feeds on the blood of the opposing team, you have definitely found a real Canadian.

Once that Canadian is found using this method it is best to leave the room until the game is over. At the conclusion of the game the Canadian will revert back to their former personality almost instantly. The process may take longer if their team lost. This Bruce Banner/Incredible Hulk transformation is a definite Canadian trait and it should be treated with the utmost respect and fear.
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They Spent Childhood Watching a Giant Talk to a Rooster in a Sack

The following tip only works on Canadians of a certain age, but it will definitely help you weed some Canadians out of the pack. As always, spotting even one Canadian is preferred to letting them run wild.

The Friendly Giant was a children's television show that aired on the CBC for almost thirty years. Much like many children's programs it focused on a human actor and his puppet sidekicks. However, unlike many children's programs, the human actor played a giant (named Friendly) and one of his puppet sidekicks was Rusty, a rooster that lived in a sack that hung from the giant's castle wall. The other sidekick was a giraffe named Jerome who stuck his head through the castle window to converse with Rusty and Friendly.

The show would always start with a shot of a giant boot in the middle of a small town. You would then hear Friendly asking his viewers to "look up, waaaaaaaay up" in order to see him and then he would welcome them into his castle. Inside the castle Friendly would arrange some tiny chairs for the children watching to sit in. Of course, the chairs weren't actually tiny. They were normal-sized chairs that only appeared tiny due to the fact that they were being held by a giant.

This show ran for many, many years and generations of Canadians were practically raised by this giant and his animal companions. Sometimes Friendly would tell stories and other times the trio would play instruments. It was an entertaining, and definitely bizarre, show. I would have liked to be in the room when the show was proposed to the network.

"Okay, we're going to have a show about a giant. Except this giant isn't mean, he's friendly. He's so friendly that his name is actually 'Friendly!' He lives in a castle with a rooster and a giraffe. Well, the giraffe lives outside the castle, but the rooster lives inside in a bag that hangs from the wall. Of course, the rooster is also huge in size as a regular-sized rooster would be too small for a giant to interact with. Oh yeah, the animals also play instruments."

And thus a children's classic was born!

But The Friendly Giant wasn't the only bizarre program Canadian children were introduced to. There were many more:

  • Mr. Dressup - A man who had an endless variety of costumes inside his "Tickle Trunk." He would dress in these costumes to entertain his puppet friends. The original puppets were Casey (a human child in puppet form) and a dog named Finnegan. The puppets spent most of their time in a treehouse in Mr. Dressup's yard. The puppets were later changed as the puppeteer retired. Mr. Dressup often drew pictures or made crafts for the children as well. A puppet alligator named Al ran a local trading post.

  • The Elephant Show - Three singers (Sharon, Lois & Bram) went through a series of wacky adventures accompanied by a group of children and their elephant friend. The elephant (appropriately named "Elephant") was a person inside an elephant suit who never spoke but loved to dance. The show also featured concert footage of the three singers as well as appearances from their friend Eric, who played a tuba made from washing machine parts.

  • Polka Dot Door - Adapted from a British show, Polka Dot Door featured a cast of several actors; both adults and children. They told stories, sang songs, and played with (and talked to) stuffed animals. The stuff animals did not talk, but everyone pretended they did, holding them up to their ears and asking them to repeat themselves. When the stuffed toy said nothing for the second time it was instantly understood. The signature moment in the show would occur when only one of the two adult hosts were present. A strange creature known as "Polkaroo" would appear and try to explain something to the remaining host and any children that were nearby. Of course, Polkaroo would have been easier to understand if it was capable of saying anything other than its own name. Eventually, through a series of actions and muted "Polkaroos," it would be understood and leave happily. At this point the missing host would return and find out, much to their dismay, that Polkaroo had left. This always prompted a sad "And I missed him again?" from the unlucky host.

  • Today's Special - Shot in a department store, this show featured a mannequin that came to life, a puppet security guard and a giant mouse that spoke in rhyme. If the mannequin (named "Jeff") ever lost his hat he would turn back into a mannequin and could not move again until his hat was replaced. This aspect of the show terrified me as a child.

  • Camp Cariboo - A fictional camp where the two hosts/camp counselors wore hats with giant antlers and eyes. They would frequently do crafts, sing songs and other such camp activities. They would also end up in several wacky situations that they would need to find their way out of.

  • Under the Umbrella Tree - The story of a woman (Holly) who lived (under an umbrella Tree) with a puppet blue jay, puppet iguana and puppet gopher. Holly may or may not have been the mother of the three puppets. She certainly treated them that way. How a human woman gave birth to puppets of three different species was never explained. Even if she wasn't their mother, didn't anyone find it weird that she was living with three different wild animals?

  • Fred Penner's Place - The story of a man who crawl through a hollow log during his daily hike. Once through the log he would enter a clearing where he would spend his day singing and doing crafts. Much like any good television show, there were also puppets.

  • Rocket Robin Hood - This was an older show that aired in reruns for many years, thus touching the lives of many Canadians. It basically told the story of Robin Hood, except it was in the future. Many characters wore rocket packs. No joke is necessary here.

  • Sesame Park - Originally Canadian Sesame Street, this show was one of the many Canadian versions of international programs that are very common in Canada. However, this deserves its own recognition due to the large number of Canadian stereotypes present. Not only were there segments in French, but the show featured new, Canadian muppets such as a polar bear, an otter and a beaver. The show was eventually transitioned off of the standard street and into a "more Canadian" park and renamed.
If using these methods to spot Canadians please note that some of these shows may have aired in the northern United States as well. To determine whether or not your subject is a Canadian it is best to ask them questions relating to two or more of these programs.

Thanks to readers Art of Mashuptown and Geoff of Queen City Images for this suggestion. If you have an idea for the site please Email Us. We're always looking for new ways to spot Canadians.
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They Have an Accent, But Not THAT MUCH of an Accent

You would think that an easy way to spot a Canadian would be to look for the guy saying "aboot" and "eh" a lot. After all, the Canadian accent is one of the easiest distinguishing factors of a Canadian, right?

Wrong.

If you find someone saying "aboot" and "eh" in every other sentence you likely haven't found a Canadian. What you have probably found is an American pretending to be a Canadian. Confused? You should be.

Free health care, a lower drinking age and access to affordable igloos have created many fake Canadians, or "faux-nucks" as we like to call them here. For generations Americans have been crossing the border to avoid wars, purchase prescription medicine and listen to Celine Dion albums (an acceptable practice in Canada that could get American tarred and feathered.) These Americans have done their best to blend into Canadian society during their trips up north. Unfortunately this practice has also made it difficult to spot a true Canadian when you see one. But never fear, we here at How To Spot A Canadian understand how important it is to identify and catalog all Canadians, so we have another tip for you.

Canadians speak with what is known as Canadian Raising. Canadians don't actually say "aboot," but they do pronounce the word differently. An American attempting to duplicate the Canadian accent will likely exaggerate the accent, and this is how you can spot a true Canadian from a fake one. Another way to is to ask the person if they are saying "aboot." An American will laugh and mention how all Canadians pronounce it "aboot" while a true Canadian will be confused. It's difficult for Canadians to hear their own accents.

If this doesn't help, take a look at their back pack.

Thanks to reader Brandi for this idea and for the "Canadian Raising" link. If you have an idea for the site please Email Us. We're always looking for new ways to spot Canadians.
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Their Leader Defends Himself With Native Art

Most countries around the world protect their leaders with the highest level of security available. They have their own security forces and dangerous people are kept away from them at all cost. I'm pretty sure if you even looked at Barack Obama the wrong way you would be jumped by six members of the Secret Service.

But that doesn't seem to be true in Canada.

In 1995 a man walked into the Canadian Prime Minister's home with the intent to murder him.

Not only did the armed man manage to get into the house, but he spent 20 minutes roaming the grounds first. He then spent an additional 30 minutes inside the home before he was spotted by Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien's wife Aline.

Yes, a strange man with murderous intentions and a knife was given almost an hour to strut around the Prime Minister's home like he owned the place.

Okay, you probably think that's weird, but I'm guessing that you assume that he was arrested the moment he was noticed, right?

Nope. Apparently a crazy person trying to kill the Prime Minister isn't a good enough reason for anyone to rush into action.

Once Aline Chr├ętien noticed the man she ran into the bedroom and locked the door with herself and her husband inside. She then called for help. Another few minutes passed before the RCMP showed up to arrest the man. They were probably late because they stopped at a Tim Hortons drive through first, or maybe there was a good hockey game on.

Once the man was arrested the Canadian public was left wondering what went wrong.

Did the RCMP screw up? Did no one notice the man, despite the fact that he walked past several security cameras? Are Canadians really so trusting that they did not want to interrupt this man's private tour of the home? Was everyone so busy fighting of polar bears that they didn't have time to help the Prime Minister?

No, nothing was done because the Canadian Prime Minister can defend himself.

That's right, in Canada you don't just elect a leader, you elect someone who can drop the gloves and start a good old hockey fight if need be.

You see, the Prime Minister, while locked in his bedroom, armed himself. Of course, this is Canada and there aren't guns in every drawer and under every bed, so the Prime Minister protected himself with a solid piece of Canadian culture: an Inuit carving of a loon. That's right, the same loon that graces the Canadian dollar also protected the head of Canadian parliament. What a noble bird.

For what it's worth, less than a year later the Prime Minister once again took matters into his own hands when he grabbed and shoved a protester out of the way.

A good way to spot a Canadian is to ask them how easy it would be to attack their leader. People from other nations will either be appalled at the idea or they will recoil away, fearing the possible punishment for even thinking of such an act. Not a Canadian though.

A Canadian will laugh and tell you about all the times that the Prime Minister has almost been attacked and let you know that it's harder to get a free Timbit than it is to attack the head of government.

It's this Canadian belief that everyone is peaceful and no one wishes any harm to anyone that makes Canadians so easy to spot. It will also make their nation quite easy to take over one day, when the United States runs out of natural resources.

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They Can't Watch the New, Popular Ads During the Super Bowl

Last night millions of people from around the world tuned in to the Super Bowl. While Canadians have their own football league, the NFL is still quite popular in the True North Strong and Free, so the Super Bowl is still a very big event.

For many Americans the high point of the Super Bowl is not the football but the commercials. Every year large companies shell out millions of dollars creating new commercials that will air during the big game. The ads typically debut new products or feature well-known celebrities. Many of these commercials only air once, during the game, so if you miss the game then you miss the ads.

That's not true in Canada. When a Canadian network airs the Super Bowl they sell the ad space to Canadian advertisers. These Canadian ads are usually standard commercials that no one wants to see. Even if a Canadian can get a US broadcast of the game the ads are usually replaced with Canadian ads.

And so, while Americans are watching groundbreaking new ways to promote goods and services to the masses, Canadians are watching the same old thing.

Canadians are typically quite angry that they can't see the ads during the game. The CRTC even has an explanation for the different ads posted on their website.

It's easy to understand the Canadian point of view. Wouldn't you be upset if you had to watch the same old maple syrup ads and snow shovel commercials again and again while Americans are being introduced to new and better ways to sell cola and cars?

A good way to spot a Canadian is to reference a Super Bowl ad that was aired in the United States. The Canadian will typically go on a rant about how Canadians don't get to see the good commercials. This rant will continue for several minutes and usually degenerate into a diatribe about hockey. This is another good way to spot a Canadian. If you give them enough time to speak they will eventually turn any topic into a hockey conversation.

Note, due to the popularity of the Super Bowl ads there are now many websites that rebroadcast the commercials online. Internet savy Canadians will find these ads within hours of the game's conclusion. Once a Canadian finds the ads online you will need to focus your Canadian hunting techniques on how the person watched the ads, not whether or not they saw them.

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Do you have your own unique way of spotting Canadians? If you'd like to share it with us, please contact us by email. We're always looking for new tips!