I’m a Brit, lets make it clear right off the bat. A born and raised Southerner who grew up in sleepy villages and towns in the quite lovely county of Dorset (for you Canadians, Dorset is here). I moved to Canada, Montreal (for you Brits, Montreal is here) about 4-5 years ago and from day one, I noticed things where a little off. As the everlasting battle to keep my Britishness continues, where I accidentally pronounce words like Oregano wrong on the phone to my bemused parents. I started taking notes for the last few months, slowly building a list of all the main honest differences between the UK and Canada. More specifically the south of England (Bournemouth) and Canada (Quebec, Montreal). With the help of my friend Colin (a Northerner), we managed to come up with over 100 notable differences between the UK and Canada for you to enjoy. So just as a warning this post comes from a very British point of view, so lets jump right in:
I told you it was a British point of view. It honestly isn’t that bad. Once you drive around for a hour or so you’ll be used to it, no worries. Only around 30% of countries get this correct and drive on the left. Here is a map of countries that drive on the left and wrong side.
This might be specific to Quebec or Montreal but people here are pretty awful at driving. My main issue is the driving attitude and awareness. They seem to be able to handle the winter driving alright, even though there are tons of crashes. But it’s mainly the tailgating, lane hogging, horn beeping, and aggressive driving that’s so common everywhere. I’ve seen some pretty crazy stuff like a convoy of 4/5 cars driving in pouring rain about a meter from each others bumper. That kind of tailgate is pretty normal everywhere. If you don’t launch your arse away from that light the second it goes green, someones laying on the horn behind you.
This again might be a Quebec one but the roads here are honestly terrible. I used to complain about the odd pothole back in the UK on my commute. But here with the harsh winter the roads are like a rally stage in Wales. Every winter the roads get destroyed by the weather and the snow plows. It then takes until next winter to get them half fixed, or they’ll just leave it.
Roads are massive. Even country roads are the width of a good dual lane road from the UK with a hard shoulder. I grew up in a small town built for horse and cart, but even residential areas here have massive roads.
Oh man I miss these little guys! When it’s raining or snowing here it’s honestly really hard to see where the lanes are especially at night. But with the winter there is no way cats-eyes would last longer than 5 minutes before getting ripped up by the snow plows.
Imagine a dual carriageway, with shops either side of the street. Now imagine there is a third lane in the middle, no barriers, just another lane in the middle where everyone can drive in both directions and is for turning. It can get pretty hectic, with 2 people who want to to turn in the middle of the road nose-to-nose.
This one’s connected to number 2, but this specifically grinds my gears. In the UK you drive in the slow lane, and move to the middle or outside (fast) lane to over take. It’s actually illegal to undertake a car in the UK. Well forget that in Canada, it’s a free-for-all over/undertaking tailgating frenzy.
A lot of junctions in Canada just seem to be utter spaghetti. As if they didn’t have enough roads to maintain and clear snow from, they seem to love these huge slip roads and giant curving merging lanes. Where in the UK we would have a simple roundabout, over in Canada you have total spaghetti in all directions.
I’ve driven all around Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec and up to the Laurentian mountains (which are amazing). But I’ve seen about 3 roundabouts. They just don’t do them here, and when they do no one knows how to use them.
It’s actually really annoying and takes getting used to but the price you see in the shop is not what you’re going to pay. Tax is added at the till when you pay.
Just not the same.
Tip everyone, all the time, you literally have to. Most service people in Canada don’t get paid a full amount because tips are expected. So if you’re in Canada and getting your hair cut, ordering a coffee, fast food, eating out, you’d better be leaving that tip and it better be something like 15%. I still struggle with this.
Even a Taxi driver wants that tip. The cheek of it!
It’s massive, the UK easily fits within a province in Canada. But keep in mind people in Canada pretty much live as far south as they can, to get away from that arctic tundra called the Great White North.
One of my favourite expressions which is normally said about the US but applies to Canada; “In England 100 miles is a long way, in Canada 100 years is a long time” Compared to the UK, Canada feels very new. When you go out in the country side, the city and residential area it’s all new, people think houses that were made 50 years ago are old.
I actually miss the milder climate of the UK, here in Canada you get the extremes. Humid 40c in the summer and -40c in the winter, it’s intense. Winter also lasts a good 5 months and sits around -25c, it’s a real buzz kill.
In Canada it’s the law to put on Winter tires in November.
It seems like Canada and the UK have opposite ratios of manual to automatic transmission in cars. I’m not sure why but everyone over here is driving autos even though they actually cost more, whereas back in the UK most people drive a manual.
Proper snow. None of this 1 day annual half inch sprinkling of snow like I had all my life in the south of England. In Canada you’re getting several feet of snow in a night and you need to dig your car out of with a snow shovel if you want to get to work. The country really deals with snow well, but even with the mad snow plows and clearing trucks it can still get crazy out there. In the UK the country basically almost shuts down when we get a quarter inch of snow. In Canada you’re potentially getting snow for 5 months over winter and those guys are out there clearing snow 24 hours to keep the country running. It’s impressive.
This is downright disrespectful weather. I didn’t even think it was real until I experienced it. It takes a special form of hot and cold weather fronts high up to generate the freezing rain in the winter. Simply imagine waking up in the morning, and outside everything it literally covered in an inch of solid ice. This is the only thing that will literally shut down a winter ready country like Canada. I have heard a ton of stories about the famous Montreal snow storm of 1998, where freezing rain basically bent and destroyed all the power lines to the city and surrounding areas. Montreal and surrounding areas were without power in -20/-40c temperatures for over a month.
It really is amazing, you will see it no matter where you go in Canada outside of a city. But if you get the chance to go up into the mountains or forests in the fall, do it! I always head out to the Laurentian Mountains in the fall and it’s just gorgeous.
This might be specific to Montreal or just the busy city, but it’s actually notably rare that someone would hold a door open for you. It happens, but when I compare it to back home, it’s noticeable.
I don’t think there is anything like an MOT test in Canada. If there is, it’s no where near as strict as the UK. I’ve seen cars with half the door rusted away.
Those classic American movie school buses, you know the ones.
Why do these people have pickup trucks? The amount of times I have seen someone actually use the back of their pick up is like 1 out of 100 and they are huge! At least the roads are massive.
I find it weird that there are no French cars here in Quebec, but the amount of mediocre Japanese cars is big. Kia and Hyundai are not very popular in the UK, but in Canada, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and Kia really kill it.
It’s HUGE here, it’s as big as football (soccer) is in the UK. On match day everyone is out, going to the game, watching in bars. I think it’s crap, but hey. 🙂
Big American 18 wheel trucks flying down the highway at 110kph, get out the way.
I really like this, they removed the 1 cent coin a few years ago and it really makes getting change a lot nicer. The western world hardly uses cash and coins these days so it’s a move in the right direction. Just round it up/down and be done with it.
Apparently this is the case for all of Canada, all packages and labels are in English and French.
It’s very common to hear people talking in English and French at the same time, swapping every few words. It’s a hot mess but it’s interesting to hear.
It’s part of being Canadian, going down to Timmy’s getting a nice double-double and some Timbits. For those out of the loop, it’s a coffee shop started by a hockey player. There is literally a Tim Horton’s every 5 minutes, free WiFi!
I want the damn coat hanger! Now I have to buy my own coat hangers from Ikea!.. at least they match… I guess.
Every year, you have to go through and do all your own taxes. I do miss the days of just leaving it to the government, it’s a proper hassle.
We honestly take NHS for granted in the UK. Canada has Medicare which you pay into with tax and is mostly free, but good luck getting a doctor. At least it’s not America.
Dreadful. This might be a Quebec/Montreal thing, but don’t be surprised to be in the emergency room for 10 hours, unless you’ve cut your arm off. From what I have heard doctors don’t get paid that well here but the Universities are good. So they get educated in Montreal then go off for careers elsewhere, leading to a shortage of doctors and nurses.
This is very much linked to a few points above about winter and the harsh conditions, but the roads are always under construction. As someone who commutes to downtown Montreal daily, it becomes part of life to see where the new detour is. It’s a double edge sword, pot holes everywhere or construction to fix them.. they can’t win.
I love this, I don’t know if this is all of Canada, but here in Quebec and on the south-shore of Montreal (not downtown) you can turn right at a red light. So if the road is clear and the light is red, you can sneak around the corner and save yourself some time.
No wonder everyone is driving automatics. Driving outside of the city, especially in residential areas, there’s a stop sign every 50 meters. It’s very rare to see anyone come to a complete stop, but if you don’t and the police see you… you’re in trouble.
There is a ton of cycling paths in Canada, and even if there isn’t the roads are wide enough that you don’t really have to worry as much about oncoming cars.
As someone who is from the south of England and never lived further than 30 minutes from the beach. I really miss that fresh sea air, the smell of seaweed and sound of seagulls. You can get this if you go to some parts of Canada, such as British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick, but here in Montreal the air is pretty stale and humid. Lakes and rivers are not the same as the sea. There could be pros and cons for both, but I do miss going for a nice walk along Bournemouth beach.
Unless it’s your bank, you’re getting a charge.
They use KPH here, where as in the UK we use MPH. Even the US uses MPH.
It feels pretty slow, everyone does 110kph anyway.
Don’t know why they are not tarmac (asphalt) like the roads, but all pavements (sidewalks) are solid concrete.
During winter and after a lot of the road markings get ruined by the weather and snow plows, on a wet night you won’t even see where the lines are. Which can be really unpleasant on a 5 lane road with a middle turning lane.
This could be a Montreal thing, but a lot of people you meet are from other countries, and even if they where born in Canada they might consider themselves “Italian” because their Grandad came from Sicily. It’s very cool to meet people from all over the world in one place.
Can’t really complain about the transit, you can get to downtown Montreal from any of the surrounding areas via bus or train as well as a good metro system that covers all of the city.
This is one of the best parts of Montreal, not that I love shopping but walking to work or just getting out of the winter cold is really good when I can walk underground across most of downtown Montreal.
Quite a lot of homeless people in Montreal. Vancouver has the most. There is a well known street called Hastings (skid row) where a very large number of homeless people live.
You can’t beat a British plug. If you’re not sure why, I will let Tom Scott explain here.
If drinking cow’s milk wasn’t weird enough, Canadians keep in it bags.
You’ll never get a good chip like Long Johns or down Spoons, it’s all fries in Canada.
Pretty gross to see fur coats and Canada Goose jackets, but I see them all the time in the winter and never saw them back in the UK.
Never saw these in the UK but they are pretty common over here in houses.
I used to love going to do my weekly shop at Asda at 2am when I was a lad, so peaceful. No such thing here in Canada, not sure why.
They have some weird rules here about drinking outside, you can if you have food I think, like a picnic. And maybe you can if you have it in a paper bag? I’ve not tried. But if you’re out sipping on a nice chilled beer in the summer outside, you’ll probably get pulled aside by the police.
It gets crazy cold here in the winter, but it’s really cute to see the dogs with jumpers and boots. If you have a dog in the winter, boot up!
Normally like a little lumberjacks hut, where you can buy all things made from maple syrup. They also do this thing where they spread maple onto ice in a thin line, then using a stick roll it up for a pretty nice snack.
Poutine is to Quebec what Fish and Chips is to the UK. Poutine is basically fries, covered in gravy and curd cheese.
Kind of crazy to think that Canada has half the population of the UK given the size of the 2 countries. But honestly most Canadians live as far south as they can to get away from the arctic north.
Feels very plastic and kinda fake, but at least it has the Queen on it so I guess it can be called legal tender.
You can learn to drive at 14 in some provinces, and go for a driving test at 16/17. As opposed to 17 and 18 in the UK. I’m honestly not sure if I like the idea of having 16yr old kids driving around on the road crashing into who knows what.
I think this is normal for a lot of people to see, but being from the UK is very off to me to see every police man with a gun on his hip.
Without a doubt you’re going to have a bigger house and land for your money than in the UK.
Every year a few weeks before your birthday in Quebec, you get a letter from the SAAQ (DVLA in UK) where you have to pay to renew your driving license. Mine costs around $100 a year.
In the UK the plate goes with the car, in Canada the plate is registered to you and can be moved from car to car.
You can’t just go to the pub, walk up to the bar and drink a nice pint. You’re going to need to sit down as if you’re ordering a meal, it’s weird.
This is tricky to explain but they just try too hard. You go to a normal pub in the UK, they feel cozy, warm with a good atmosphere. There might be some old crap on the wall like a horse shoe or some billows from the 1800s, as well as the local old bloke at the bar. The British style pubs over here just try too hard, Queen Lizzy on the wall, Liverpool shirts, Irish flags, it’s just a mess.
If you call an ambulance in an emergency, you’ll have to pay for it.
This makes no sense to me whatsoever. Why do I have to pay to have a bank account open makes no sense. Banks will do things like if you maintain a certain balance there is no fee, but still… so unnecessary.
Lazy bastards! 🙂
Forget next day delivery or next-next day delivery, I have Amazon Prime and get stuff pretty quick but not like the UK. In the UK you can order something from Amazon on Saturday and it will arrive on Sunday.
Not sure if it’s because of the scale of the country but phone contracts are really expensive. Data plans are extremely over priced. For example you could get 1GB data for £10 on a pay as you go card in the UK. Whereas on my Pay As You Go card I pay $1 for 10mb data, so that would be like paying £10 and only getting 150mb.
Hydro Quebec is the only Energy provider in Quebec as opposed to the hundreds you might find in the UK. And we all know competition is good for the consumer. I don’t like the Hydro monopoly.
The sense of humor is definitely a bit different here. Brits love a bit of self deprecating humor and throw-away insults. Canadians take themselves a little more serious so be careful.
I have found that the typical Canadian/American humor and jokes just doesn’t ring as funny as what I’m used to in the UK.
The best you’re going to get here is “that’s what she said”. Other than that.. nothing. I love a good bit of banter and a good impromptu pun battle.
It’s TWAHT… not TWOT… Americans can’t get it either.
I really like these, especially with the crazy drivers you get in downtown Montreal.
This might be a Montreal thing or maybe it’s because I work in the web industry. But at a previous company I saw a guy come to a job interview in shorts and a backwards hat. Even more amazing is that he got hired. If you did that in the UK you wouldn’t get in the door.
It can be hard to get where you’re going using highway signs without a wrong turn somewhere. Whereas in the UK I feel like you could get almost anywhere without getting lost. I will also mention that most of the time the sign is really close to the actual junction, with no sign before it to warn you of your turn. Get a Sat-nav, or as they say here GPS. They make finding your way easier.
Downtown there are 4 signs for the street you’re parking on and most of the time they seem to contradict each other. At least it’s easy to pay for your space even though the price is extortionate. Tip: I have heard but not tested it, but apparently a 2p coin will be registered at a $2 coin. Let me know.
Apparently it’s illegal. I still do it, I have my foreigner get out of jail free card.
Forget Gregg and a cornish pasty, instead it’s all donuts with all kinds of toppings.
Tim Horton’s, Starbucks, I think Canada would melt without this stuff.
So the few who don’t drink the coffee find themselves drinking some kind of weird tea. Go into a cafe, ask for tea, they’ll ask you “what kind?” “normal?” They have all kinds of weird teas over here, it’s like potpourri in a bag. Nothing like a proper brew my Nan used to make.
I’ve only seen this on American TV shows and now here in Canada, guy stood outside a shop flipping a sign or dressed up in a costume trying to lure me in… not today mate, not today.
They slaughter horses for consumption and sell it here and they even export their horses for slaughter to other countries. It’s pretty horrific.
Declawing cats is legal, even though it’s banned almost everywhere else.
There’ll be no “aaaah…bisto” here.
Street signs are up high on the lamppost or traffic light, unlike the street signs in the UK where it’s a little sign on the ground probably behind a car or someones wheelie bin.
The only time you’ll see a British or English flag is the World Cup or some kind of royal celebration. You do tend to see Quebec and Canadian flags all year round, people seem to be very proud to be Canadian which is good.
Used car market here in Canada is dreadful, you could buy a used car here but chances are it’s a rust bucket. The winter really takes it’s toll on cars. So everyone just leases cars. In the UK you could pick up a decent hatchback for a few thousand and you’ll be good for a few years. Those MOT’s really do pay off for the overall used car market economy.
The worst thing you’ll see in the UK is a squirrel or hedgehog, not exactly a big problem. Where as in Canada you have the following to watch out for:
Never saw people commute to work or just generally travel via skateboards and roller blades until I came Canada.
They have it on a different day to the US, it’s not as big of a deal but they still celebrate it.
They just eat pancakes whenever they want… Barbarians!
Pretty much all shops and banks are different, one of the best shops for a man is Canadian Tire. It’s a mix of B&Q, Argos and Halfords, it literally has almost everything you need. Walmart and Asda are very similar, they both have the George clothing line and low prices.
This is a Quebec tradition, you stay up until midnight on Christmas Eve to open your presents. Then on Christmas morning you open your stockings, I tried it once.. it’s weird.
People really love it over here, and the decorations you see on peoples front gardens are really cool. Almost as much as Christmas.
Cars in Canada don’t need front number plates, which looks way better.
Food is a lot cheaper in England than in Canada.
I hope you found this list interesting and funny, I might release a video with a friend to talk about each one in the coming months. I will add more to this list over time as I think of them. If you have your own you think I should add or some feedback, drop a comment down below.