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7 things you might not know about Canada

A long, long time ago someone asked me to do a post about Canada. I remember thinking, “About…what, exactly? Just…Canada? In general?”

Then I probably got distracted by something and I forgot all about it. UNTIL, that is, I was reading a certain smutty gossip site this evening after putting Olive to bed (we all have our vices, OK?) and there was an article about Canadian Tire money.

It then occurred to me that non-Canadians probably have no idea what Canadian Tire money is, or what the hell a “Canadian Tire” is either, for that matter.

WELL. Here is a quick post with seven things you may not have known about Canada, and it begins right where it should.

1. Canadian Tire Money

Now that I am thinking about it, Canadian Tire money is sort of an odd concept.

It’s a fake currency produced and distributed by a Canadian automotive/hardware store called, well, Canadian Tire. They sell everything from tires (obviously) and seasonal decorations to home products like brooms and dishes. When you buy something, a certain percentage of your purchase price gets given back to you like this:

You collect these ridiculously minuscule bills (I think the largest denomination is $1 and who the hell has ever gotten a whole dollar?!) and in my experience they usually spend their entire lives crumpled up under your car seat or at the bottom of your junk drawer. I don’t think I can ever remember actually using it towards the purchase of any Canadian Tire item, ever.

I have heard rumours of a bar that accepts payment in Canadian Tire money, and I know that some charities have collected it, too. These days most Canadian Tire stores have a donation bin by the front door to deposit your hefty 10c bill, and that’s where mine always end up.

2. Our healthcare isn’t really free

I mean it is in the sense that we don’t get charged based on individual usage, (e.g. It didn’t cost me anything to have Olive (or the millions of tests before I had Olive) ) but that doesn’t mean that Canadians don’t have any healthcare costs, period.

In Canada it varies by province, here in BC I pay $149 every month to cover Adam, Olive and I. That gets us access to doctors, emergency care, surgeries, walk-in clinics etc. but not prescriptions, dental or optometry. Now Alberta, where we are moving to, is a richer province so you don’t pay a thing for provincial health care. Each province has their own provincial healthcare system and you have to register and receive a new card if you move provinces.

If I was low-income, or unable to afford the $149/month it currently costs for our family of three, there are programs that offer reduced rates and/or subsidies. I’m not terribly well-versed in “The System” but I don’t think a hospital would ever deny someone treatment based on whether or not they had healthcare. Maybe someone can correct me on that?

Also, contrary to popular belief, Canadians can most definitely choose their doctors – there’s no list, or approval process. You just pick one.

Most likely based on how cold their hands are.

3. Poutine

I’m really surprised America didn’t come up with this one – it originates from our French-speaking province of Quebec and consists of french fries, cheese curds, and hot gravy.

The hot gravy melts the cheese curds atop a base of crisp golden fries and the whole thing turns into a delicious gooey cheesy gravy-y heart-clogging mess.

It’s fantastic.

4. Poutine reminded me about French

Canada is officially bilingual –  all government signs, package labels, and documents have to be available in French and English, but under 18% of Canada can speak both languages. I grew up in Toronto and had French as part of my mandatory curriculum until Grade 6, and I think it was an elective after that.

Also, I’m not sure if this is still the case but for some reason when I was applying for universities, I was allowed to submit my French mark in place of my Math mark.

Doesn’t that seem weird? Looking back that seems weird. Those two subjects have almost zero overlap yet this little loophole enabled me to arrive in a second year statistics class staring blankly at a wall of numbers thinking, “Oh, shit. Didn’t think I’d see you again.”

Of course despite taking French all the way until Grade 11, I have retained virtually none of it. I can understand far more than I speak. but my accent is so atrocious that I never even try anymore. So.

5. Moose and Beavers.

I have never seen either one in person.

6. Caesars

We have a drink called a Caesar that apparently the rest of the world does not. It’s made with clam juice – which is a lot less gross than it sounds, promise.

Also, do not be fooled, a Bloody Mary is NOT a Caesar. Caesars are delicious and spicy and as soon as you have one you want to drink approximately eleven of them and, depending where you’re drinking it, you can sometimes make a whole meal out of the garnishes (olives, pickled beans, asparagus, celery and pepperoni have been known to garnish a Caesar)

(Now every Canadian reading this is craving a Caesar. Sorry.)

7.  You can’t buy alcohol in grocery stores

And until I visited the states as a legally aged adult, I didn’t know this was even a possibility! Holy shit! How convenient is that? To be able to pick up a bottle of wine at the same time as your dinner ingredients? What IS this magical place?

Here, liquor stores are entirely separate entities. You can not buy alcohol anywhere other than licensed bars/pubs/restaurants, or specifically designated liquor stores.

I don’t know why. Lately there has been some word of this changing, but I’ll believe it when I see it. (And drink it.)

That’s all I got. (Sorry). Cheers – eh?

(If you have Canada questions, ask them in the comments and I will answer! There are no dumb questions. Except the ones I will publicly mock you for. So. )