Canada regularly tops the lists of the best countries to live in and features in jokes about a parallel reality in which everyone is polite and nice. The Prime Minister is photographed there hugging pandas, and Canadians themselves apologize even for everything.
When someone finds out that you live in Canada, they always ask you two questions. First, does everyone in Canada really have half-hearted heads, like in South Park and second, does that mean you speak French well?
French is indeed one of the two official languages of Canada, but it is spoken only in the provinces of Quebec (where 77% of people speak French as their mother tongue) and New Brunswick (where Francophones make up about a third of the population). The rest of the country is completely English-speaking. The formal status of the French language as a state language is strictly protected and maintained. On all products, you will definitely see information in both languages. Politicians at legislative assemblies and other important events are required to deliver their speeches in both English and French.
For neglecting the equal status of English and French, companies sometimes have to go to court and pay compensation. So, more recently, the country’s main airline Air Canada had to pay more than $15 000 to a married couple who filed a lawsuit with 22 complaints. The claimants complained that the engravings on the seat belts were in English only, and that the fonts for the words “exit” and “attention” in different parts of the plane in French were significantly smaller than in English.
Quebecers value their uniqueness in their language and culture. The province even has a real language police force (OQLF), which strictly suppresses any attempt to introduce English into public spaces. All signs of shops, restaurants and cafes must be either exclusively in French, or at least contain a large signature in French. Any retailer with a physical outlet in Quebec must have a French version of the website, otherwise it will be blocked.
Canada is by far one of the friendliest and most comfortable countries for immigration. Since immigrants are responsible for 80% of population growth here, the risks of facing discrimination or prejudice are minimal. After all, meeting a native Canadian is much more difficult than meeting a Chinese, Indian, or Ukrainian. The current Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, even stated that Canada is the first post-national state in which there is no place for any mainstream identity.
Toronto is divided into different areas – there is, for example, the Greek region (with the best gyros in the city), the Italian (with excellent coffee shops) and, of course, the Chinatown with dim sums, modern Asian desserts and shops with very cheap and strange things.
You may be thinking that in Canada people speak and write in either American or British English. In fact, the rules of Canadian English are largely the same as American ones, but some of the words are spelled and pronounced in the British manner. Therefore, many people joke that Canada is so afraid to imitate America that it just needed to come up with its own separate dictionaries and grammar rules.
The Government of Canada publishes a special guide – The Canadian Style – which spelled out all the standards of Canadian English. Ordinary people do not bother and in most cases speak and write in American English, because it is not easy to remember all the Canadian rules. But if you are a teacher, editor, journalist or student, a copy of this book should always be on your desk.
There is a stereotype of excessive and sometimes absurd politeness of Canadians. This is one of those stereotypes that find absolute confirmation in reality. Do not be surprised and in general get ready to hear and say this word more often than any other. Over time, you really get used to automatically apologizing for everything. In Canada, it is also customary to always hold the doors, even if the person is a couple of meters away and moves rather slowly.
Canada is known for its soft drug policy. For drug addicts who use opiates, harm reduction and resocialization programs operate. In almost every pharmacy in Canada, you can buy a first-aid kit with a drug that is used as an antidote for overdose without a prescription. Often in pharmacies there are signs with information about why you need to have it with you – in case a drug addict becomes ill next to you.
Several major cities – Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal – have dedicated facilities with injection rooms and affordable medical care for people who inject drugs. They exist not only to provide clean syringes for drug addicts and to reduce the incidence of hepatitis and HIV, but also for public order. Such rooms solve the problem of used syringes along the street, as well as overdose in public spaces.
In Canada, medicine is free, its quality is at a very high level. Each province has its own insurance plan; in Ontario, it’s OHIP – The Ontario Health Insurance Plan. Most basic medical services (doctor visits, tests, hospital surgeries, etc.) are fully covered by this insurance. Some medical procedures are only partially covered – these include physical therapy, eye exams, and emergency dentistry. OHIP does not cover plastic surgery, manual therapies, and scheduled dentistry.
But in case of headaches, it is quite easy to queue up for a planned MRI. In case of any ailment, it is simple to pass all the necessary tests on the day of visiting a doctor. The level of free medical institutions and the quality of services at first amaze the imagination. Each office was equipped with the latest monitoring devices.
In addition to the basic insurance that all citizens and residents have, there is also OHIP +, which covers everything for people under 24. This extended version allows young people to get most of the drugs either for free or pay an additional 5% of the cost. The list of covered drugs includes not only essential drugs, antibiotics, and pain relievers, but also birth control pills and creams for acne or other skin problems.
And, of course, there is insurance from universities and employers. They cover such services: psychotherapist appointments, massages, physiotherapy and eye glasses. Some companies also support healthy lifestyles among their employees and cover their expenses for fitness classes and even sportswear.
Although education in Canada is not free, the state significantly helps all citizens and residents to get a higher education without great debts. In Ontario, this is handled by OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program). Students apply for a grant and/or study loan every academic year, and OSAP allocates funds in accordance with the financial situation and academic status of the student. For example, if a student from a low-income family with a total income of less than 50,000 Canadian dollars per year – is awarded generous grants, often covering the full cost of education. If a student takes a loan, he must start paying it off six months after graduation.
In addition, there are also their own scholarships at universities – they are called “bursaries”. You can get them in different ways – for example, if you are a representative of the first generation of your family, receiving education in Canada; for good grades or having the same status of a poor family.
Most of the classes are held in a discussion format. Disputes with the teacher and defending one’s opinion are not only not forbidden here, but are actively encouraged. In Canadian universities, they very strictly monitor cheating on tests and plagiarism in work. But despite a number of strict rules, teachers here are always ready to meet the student halfway, discuss his problems and difficulties and suggest ways to improve his academic results.