Canadian Misconceptions

When traveling abroad, one often becomes an ambassador of their country, whether they want to or not. I’ve found some great Canadian friends since arriving in Korea 3 years ago and we’ve had many laughs over the random things people say about Canada. I gave a shout out to my fellow Canucks on the facebook community group “Canadians in South Korea.” I asked my countrymen to share the most common or outlandish questions they have been asked about Canada. These questions could be from anyone – not just from Koreans – and the results were hilarious.

Here are my top 10 favourite (and most common) responses:

1. I often get asked if we hike in the mountains in Canada. Many people I know believe that Canada has many mountains and assume that, as in Korea, we all live near them.

Ok, fair enough. A lot of people outside of Canada have no idea how vast our land is.

2. I was asked last week if I lived in an igloo.

igloo

Seriously, I was asked this as well when I went to New Mexico.

3. I was once asked if I had a polar bear as a pet.

polar bear

Ok ok, this guy actually lives in BC, but he’s the ONLY person who has a polar bear as a pet and he’s been a bear trainer for over 40 years.

4. An American recently asked me if we have an army and was shocked to find out that we have a very well trained military.

military

5. Over the summer I was planning to go home to the GTA and my Korean boyfriend was trying to convince me to land in Vancouver instead of Pearson (in Toronto) because “it isn’t that much further.”

"Hey I'm in Vancouver, just gonna pop over to Halifax real quick. Brb."

“Hey I’m in Vancouver, just gonna pop over to Halifax real quick. Brb.”

6. I had a coworker say, “I don’t mean to be racist but I’m going to ask you because you’re Canadian (he was an American guy) but do goats have hooves?” I guess he figured because I’m from Canada that we’re just overrun with goats or something? He also obviously thought that Canadians and Americans are different races…

Wow. I’m just gonna leave that one there.

7. I had an elaborate “4 seasons” presentation by a woman who thought that I must’ve been misunderstanding the concept when I said Canada had 4 seasons. She said “no no no” and proceeded to draw a series of diagrams (poorly) that represented the 4 seasons. Then she drew (again poorly) a picture of snow and said “This Canada: 1 season. These are Korea” and held up 4 fingers. I replied that Korea actually has “different seasons” than Canada: winter, yellow dust, rainy and humid, and fall. 

Good burn! Haha, but in all seriousness, this was the most popular answer I received and I’ve been through this myself. For some reason, many Korean people think that Korea is unique for being a country with 4 seasons and also believe that Canada only has winter.

shutterstock_173802164

This is the yellow dust being referred to above. It's bad in both China and Korea.

This is the yellow dust being referred to above. It’s bad all year-round but tends to increase during winter in both China and Korea.

Another expat said, “Whenever I say something like, ‘It’s so cold today!’ I’m asked if it isn’t colder in Canada and why I’m not used to the cold. I have to explain each time that we use central heating to regulate the room temperature so we don’t need to wear coats and mittens indoors. Also that we keep windows and doors closed during the winter!”

As an example, here are some students from my winter camp last year. It's common for kids to wear their jackets indoors all day due to open windows and cold hallways.

As an example, here are some students from my winter camp last year. It’s common for kids to wear their jackets indoors all day due to open windows and cold hallways or classrooms.

8. I’m from PEI so I get 1 of 2 responses when I tell people I’m from PEI:
“Is that part of Toronto or Vancouver?” and “OMG Anne Of Green Gables! *gasp*”

anne

A lot of my east-coast friends get the Anne of Green Gables thing. That story is huge in Korea and in Japan, no idea why.

9. Why can’t we build buildings more than 4 stories? A local told me he saw a piece on Canada on TV and they said it is too windy in Canada so we can’t build buildings more than 4 stories high or they will blow over.

I don’t even know what to say about that one.

10. I always am kind of shocked when Koreans assume I don’t like spicy food. I’m like duuuuudde Canadians drink Caesars! Then I tell them how to make a Caesar (I teach adults) especially because I assume Koreans would love it (I mean a mix of alcohol, spiciness, seafood and sometimes Pickled beans!) and them I’m surprised again when most of them tell me it sounds weird and disgusting.

The classic Ceaser: Running through the veins of most Canadians nation-wide.

The classic Ceaser: Running through the veins of most Canadians nation-wide.

This one really makes me shake my head because I find it strange that someone could think that their nation is the only one with a corner on the market on spicy foods. When I tell Korean people we have Jamaican, Indian, Thai and all kinds of other culture’s spicy cuisine in our country, they seem surprised. I have been defending the fact that I like spicy food since I got here and know many others who would say the same. Why is it so shocking that another culture may also be into the hot sauce and chilli flakes? Maybe it’s the power of kimchi, which is a pretty magical thing I must say.

Me at a kimchi making class in the fall of 2013.

Me at a kimchi making class in the fall of 2013.

You can’t really blame people for not knowing about our great nation but what you can do is educate them. As long as people have the courage to squash their ignorance with honest questions, we should have the patience to answer kindly. Slowly but surely, people around the world will know that Canada has 4 seasons, a military, only one man with and pet polar bear and skyscrapers too!

10 thoughts on “Canadian Misconceptions

  1. Ban-Puri has a soup so spicy, you have to sign a waiver. Just kidding, a very good meal.

  2. Hello!
    I read your article next to my sleeping husband(your cousin Derek) and woke him up with my muffled chuckles. I really enjoyed your generous spirit in relaying the conversations. I can not boast such a humourous attitude on the occasions I have come across these inquires! I counted eight out of ten similar conversations that I can recall. I must agree with Uncle Colin, as lovely and generous as our American neighbours are, they are not well informed about our country. But…that is ok! I think I like our nation to remain a little bit of a mystery so that travellers can delight in discovering it when they visit.
    Derek told me a priceless story about a car load of Americans who packed their skiing equipment on the top of their car and headed up to Canada for some “real good” skiing. They stopped in North Bay for gas and asked how much further they would have to drive to see some good snow? Needless to say they left were left speechless when told that was just not going to happen in July! I would have loved to see the expression on his face…
    I hope he laughed! I hope he found out that Canadian hospitality did not depend on cold weather and that our summers, especially up north, are full of the beauty of nature!
    Love your stories,
    Deb

  3. Really fun article :)

    My family has a large American/Canadian mix (Canadian and Americans marrying back 5 or 6 generations at least!) and so I grew up not understanding or seeing many cultural differences until I (a Canadian) married my (American) husband.
    Despite our nations being so close we Canadians do have a very unique and vibrant culture. Also, we really do apologize a lot, haha :)

    Anyway! Nice article!

  4. These are hilarious. I recently had a friend coming over from the states and was worried about what she would wear while up here. She though the forecast was going to be all snow and wanted to know which shoes to buy. I had to break it to her that we haven’t even had our first real snow for the year.

  5. Incoming!!! What an amusing read Karli, your comments as to the different misconception’s are really thoughtfull & generous in spirit.
    You really have a gift for putting things in perspective
    Got your parcel today … thank you in advance for what’s gonna be my very cool Hapkido T-Shirt, (beaming with pride much , I says to myself) :)
    Safe adventures in Cambodia & Burma next month, please send lots of photo’s as you go.
    Tons o love
    Dad & Bev
    XO XO

  6. My Dear Karluch:
    What an interesting and entertaining column!
    You are quite correct when you say that as Canadians, we must answer all questions and queries with patience,respect and with courtesy. There are those who know little of Canada and we must chalk that up to the individual lack of geographic data in the respective school system. Insofar as American ignorance of Canada, again, the school system and their peculiar sense of isolationism and all things American. They’re good people but should wander beyond their own borders. Take care, God bless,
    gramp (and nana of course) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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