Clearly (Not) Canadian: How to Fit in as an American

The idea of British Columbia as a place to escape is nothing new; in fact, the Kootenays’ status as an enclave for draft-dodging Americans and pacifist Doukhobor Russians explains as much of the region’s adrenaline-hippie status as its big mountains. In fact, part of the welcoming vibe inherent to the province is the knowledge that most everyone here is from somewhere else.

Nonetheless, sometimes it’s best to blend in—or at least not loudly out yourself as a Yank. Here’s a bit of info to help you act at least a little more like a local.


Photo of snowboarder at Red Mountain.
Red Mountain // Photo: Aaron Theisen


  1. It’s not a beanie, it’s a toque (rhymes with spook). And no one will balk at you wearing your toque in a restaurant.


  1. See that woman pushing a stroller down Nelson’s Baker Street? She’s probably a much better skier than you. In five years, the kid in the stroller will be too. If you want to blend in, step your ski game up.


  1. The national cuisine is poutine: French fries slathered in brown gravy and cheese curds. It’s such a perfect cold-weather comfort food that it’s a wonder Americans haven’t claimed it as their own the way we did with Neil Young.


  1. A Caesar is the Canadian counterpart to a Bloody Mary, substituting Clamato for the latter’s tomato juice. Like a Bloody Mary, its salty snap works just as well as après-ski rehydration as a morning-after hair-of-the-dog tonic.


  1. Canadians drive in the snow the way they ski—that is, faster than you’ll probably be comfortable with. There’s no shame in pulling over and letting them by.


  1. Restrooms are called washrooms, which, you have to admit, sounds a bit fancier.


  1. Nothing screams “American” like ordering ranch dressing with your salad or fries. Waitstaff will even lay a trap for you by asking “Let me guess, you want ranch with that.” Resist. Even better, ask for more brown gravy.


  1. C. skiers can party as hard as they charge on the slopes, but they manage to do so quieter than the average American’s library voice. Dial back the volume a bit.


  1. Curling is the sport with the broom. Beyond that, you’re on your own.


Despite your best efforts to blend in, you won’t. So go ahead, order those fries with a side of ranch dressing. And if all else fails, say you’re from Alberta. //


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