Canada is that vast country just a little above the US, looming... but I do realize that not everyone knows about Canada, so I will endeavour to write a few messages on the subject in hope that it will help people...
Type: Constitution Monarchy (Bicameral parliamentary democracy - Bicameral) in a federation and part of the Commonwealth.
Head of State: Queen of Canada (Elizabeth II) represented by the Governor General (currently Michaëlle Jean.)
Prime Minister: The leader of the party holding majority in the house of commons. Currently Stephen Harper of the Conservatives. Lives at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa Ontario.
National Capital: Ottawa, Ontario. Chosen because it is right on the Ontario/Quebec border. Known for the world's second largest tulip festival.
Population: About 33 million people, give or take a few. Generally pleased with their country but not always their government, like everyone else in the western hemisphere.
Language: 60% Native English, 23% Native French, 17% Other. Both English and French have official status. New Brunswick is officially bilingual. Quebec is officially French speaking. Ontario and Manitoba both have large Francophone (French-speaking) minorities. Quebec has a large Anglophone (English-speaking) minority, especially in Montreal. All Federal government services are guaranteed to be offered in English and French.
Canadian Dollar: Abbreviated CAD or C$. The exchange rate changes daily. ATMs dispense CAD (though a few specialized ATMs dispense USD as well.) Credit cards from American Express, MasterCard and Visa are generally accepted, Diners Club is accepted as well. Discover is accepted only by tourist outlets since it is not generally available to the Canadian public. In Quebec an ATM is called a Guichet Automatique or GAB. If you need the current exchange rate you can go to http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&q=1+USD+in+CAD for USD in CAD or http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&q=1+CAD+in+USD for CAD in USD.
Bank Notes (common):
$5 Blue with a picture of Sir Wilfred Laurier, Canada's first French Canadian Prime Minister.
$10 Purple with a picture of Sir John A MacDonald, Canada's first Prime Minister.
$20 Greenish Orange with a picture of the Queen of Canada. (She is apparently also the Queen of England, we don't mind sharing.)
$50 Red with a picture of William Lyon MacKenzie King, Canada's longest service Prime Minister.
$100 Brown with a picture of Sir Robert Laird Borden, Prime Minster during WWI.
GST (Goods and Services Tax, called VAT in many other countries) is 5% in all of Canada on almost everything except groceries. Replaced with HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) at 13% in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
PST (Provincial Sales Tax) ranging from 0% in Alberta up to 10% in Prince Edward Island. In some provinces services are also taxed. Quebec and Prince Edward Island charge their sales tax on the total including GST. Prices generally do not include the taxes. Some provinces/cities have special tourism taxes on hotel rooms and they vary from region to region.
The GST exception list is a bit odd for people coming from other countries. The definition of groceries can be confusing. Snack, snack food, ready-made food and sweetened beverages are all not exempted.
Health Care: Universal Medicare, provincially administered. 100% of Canadians are covered by this medical plan (and it costs about half of what it costs per capita in the US). We aren't all happy with it, but we generally wouldn't give it up either. And we know that it works because Canadians live longer and healthier than countries that don't have national health care. We all complain about it and we all have suggestions for how to make it better.
Visitors to Canada must be prepared to pay immediately. Generally a doctor's visit for non-Canadians is in the range of CAD$100. Most Canadians don't know the cost of any medical care because we have never paid for it and don't realize that there is a cost. It's one of the least of our worries.
Food: Generally more expensive because fresh food needs to be imported in the winter and we have more controls on our food supply and our employees.
Tipping: Generally about 15% of the total before taxes. Drinks are usually about $1 to $2 a drink.
Discrimination: Canadians may get upset at open displays of discrimination. Generally followed by the stare of death! The right to be free of discrimination under Canada's constitution comes before the right of free speech. Which is why hate-speech can be prosecuted in Canada. Corporations are not entitled to discriminate in Canada.
Alcohol: Strictly controlled by each province. Drinking age varies from 18 (Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec) or 19 in all other provinces. Alcohol taxes can be heavy in Canada and in most provinces sale is limited to specifically run government stores. In some provinces wine and beer are sold in separate locations or stores.
Police: Generally municipal, outside municipal you have provincial police. In the absence of provincial police, the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) have jurisdiction. The RCMP are a national police force, generally considered the equivalent of the US FBI. CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) is Canada's equivalent to the CIA/FBI (MI5/MI6 in the UK). Don't expect to see the RCMP is red uniforms on horseback, that's for show!
Canada converted legally to metric in 1972. That means that temperature is in Celsius (also called Centigrade), scales are in kilograms and distances are in kilometres, etc. Before that we used Imperial measure, which differs slightly from US measure.
Temperature: 0c is the temperature at which water freezes, 100c is the temperature at which water boils, 37c is body temperature and 22c is about room temperature (72f). To convert, take Fahrenheit, subtract 32 then divide by 9 and multiply by 5.
Distances: A mile is about 60% more than a kilometre. The speed limit in Canada is generally 100 km/h, about 62 mp/h. People generally know inches/feet when it comes to measuring bodies (or body parts), but long distances and speed are always in metric.
Volume: Gasoline is sold in litres, so are milk, water and other liquids.
Weight: Supermarkets usually post prices in both pounds and kilograms, though prices in kilograms are the official price. They seem to like to post prices in pounds because they are smaller.
Need help with the conversions? Google can help. Type: 72 f in c and you get the calculation done for you.
Canadian English is a hybrid of British and American spellings. Most spellings are like the British in regard to the usage of ou (as in colour) and re (as in centre). Canadians use the -ce ending (as in defence) instead of -se. Canadians tend to use -ize instead of -ise (as in realize) but both are correct. Nouns will use -ice (as in advice) and verbs -ise (as in advise). Canadians, like Americans use tire and curb instead of tyre and kerb. And of course, Canadians write cheques and not checks.
Some words are pronounced differently or different words are used. My two favourite examples of this are lieutenant (/lɛfˈtɛnənt/) and the last letter of the alphabet, zed. Canada doesn't have "the draft" but instead has conscription.
Here is some examples of Canadian English:
Anglophone - Native English speaker
Francophone - Native French speaker
Allophone - Native Foreign Language speaker
Bloc - Quebec only party because Quebec just has to be different. (Light Blue)
Governor General - Ceremonial head of state, representative of the Queen of Canada.
Greens - Green party. Hoping to eventually get some votes. Centrist & Environmental (Green)
Grits - Liberal Party of Canada (Red)
NDP - New Democratic Party of Canada, the Social Democrats in other countries. Sometimes called knee dippers. (Yellow)
Prime Minister - The fool at the head of the government
Premier - The man in charge of a province (US Governor)
Tory - Conservative Party of Canada, then the Progressive-Canadian Party of Canada, then the Conservative Party of Canada again (though seen as co-opted by the Reform Party of Canada.) Did you really want to get into Canadian politics anyway? (Navy Blue)
Argooooooooooos - Called out in any sports arena when the action gets boring. To fans of the Argos, this means "I would rather be watching the Argos." To all other Canadians, this means, "Looooosers."
Argos, Boatmen = Toronto Argonauts (Canadian football)
Bonspiel - a curling tournament and an excuse to drink
Canucks - Vancouver Hockey team
CFL - Canadian Football League. Longer, wider field. Three downs, one more player, no fair-catch rule. Annual trophy is the Grey Cup.
Flames - Calgary's hockey team
Habs - (short for "Les Habitants"), Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge (the Blue, White & Red) Montreal's hockey team
Hurry hard - What you hear during bonspiels. The captain yellling at his underlings to sweep harder to make the curling stone glide well.
Icing, boarding, slapshot, wrist shot, spin-o-rama, hip check, cannonading drive, neutral zone trap, power play, five-on-four, five-on-three, five-hole, short side, deke, Stanley Cup - all hockey terms.
Jays - Toronto Blue Jays (MLB - American East Division)
Leafs, Buds - Toronto's hockey team (longtime rivals of The Habs). Also known as the guys that like to watch the Stanley Cup on TV because they know they aren't going to be there.
Oilers - Edmonton's hockey team
Raps - Toronto Raptors (basketball)
TSN - The Sports Network... cable channel with sports
ATM/ABM/GAB - Automatic Teller Machine / Automatic Bank Machine
Bachelor - A happy man who is unmarried or a studio apartment
Bill - Something that no one wants to pay at the end of dinner at a restaurant. Daffy Duck has one too.
Billion - A thousand million and not the British million million, which Canadians call a trillion.
Brown Bread - Whole Wheat Bread, hopefully mold-free
Bum - Your backside or someone homeless and begging for money.
Bunny Hug - A hoodie in the Prairies.
Caisse Populaire (or Caisse Pop) - Co-operative "bank" (Trust) mostly in Quebec and some in New Brunswisk. Co-op in the rest of the country.
Chesterfield - A comfortable place to sit, sometimes also called a couch or a sofa depending on what part of the country you are from
Chocolate Bar - A bar of chocolate (not a candy bar as in the US)
Click - A kilometre by any other name
Close/Open - Quebec usage for turning lights on and off
College (CEGEP) - Above high school but below university in stature. CEGEP in Quebec, because life isn't as much fun without acronyms.
Cow town - Calgary
Cutlery - Silverware for eating food
Dépanneur or Dep - A convenience store in Quebec
Double-Double - Coffee with two sugars and two cream
Eh? - Basically Canadian for "what do you think?" Preferable to "uhm" as far as we are concerned.
Entrée - Often what you are served before the main course (from the French word for "to enter")
Expiry - When items go bad. Short for Expiration date
Gallon - Not the same as the American gallon. 160 oz. or 4.546 litres, not 4 quarts or 3.785 litres. Also the main reason we think we are getting gypped when we buy paint and gasoline
Garberator - A garbage disposal
Guichet - See ATM/ABM but in Quebec. Also sometimes a GAB.
Hogtown - Toronto also known as T.O. or T-Dot
Holiday - A day off from work, like Thanksgiving, Boxing Day and Canada Day.
Homo Milk - Homogenized whole milk, discrimination free! (And you can buy it in bags or cartons.)
Housecoat - Please put yours on before stepping out for the newspaper. A bath robe by any other name.
Humidex - Humidity Index. How hot it feels instead of actually is.
Hydro - Electricity (derived from water turbines)
Jacked - Stolen. Now get your mind out of the gutter!
Keener - A brown noser by any other name.
Kerfuffle - An argument or a strained situation.
Loonie - A single dollar coin (it has a picture of a loon)
Mickey - Not a mouse! A half Twenty-Sixer. 375ml of hard alcohol
Mountie - An RCMP (GRC in Quebec) officer
Newfie - Someone from Newfoundland and Labrador
Packsack - Backpack
Pepsi or Pepper - Derogatory term for someone Francophone from Quebec
Pissed - Angry or drunk, depending on usage
Pogey - Unemployment (or welfare) see UI
Prairies - Grasslands in Canada, called "the plains" in the US.
Pur Laine - Pure wool. Somewhat equivalent to saying that you came over on the Mayflower but for Quebec. Can be mildly offencive when used to denote racial purity. (And rebuked with a remark about the relationship of the Filles du Roi and their impure origin.)
Railways - A railroad by any other name
Riding - When used as a noun, an electoral district
Runners or Running Shoes - Sneakers in some other countries. Shoes for sports
Screech - When used as a noun, a drink in Newfoundland and Labrador based on Rum and often moonshine
Separatist - Quebecer who wants to separate from Canada but still somehow wants to keep all the advantages of being Canadian
Squeegie - Guy making your windshield dirtier in the guise of cleaning it and expecting you to pay for it at a traffic light.
Tap - We buy faucets, but we turn on the tap. Got it?
The States - Neighbours to the South when talking, on paper it's the US except in Quebec where it's the EU
Toonie (or Doubloon) - A two dollar coin by any other name.
Traveller's cheque - Travel money that is now out of fashion (note the double ll, the apostrophe as well as the spelling of cheque.)
Tuque - Funny Canadian winter had, but cheap and effective.
Twenty-Sixer - Old name for a 750ml bottle of hard alcohol. Most alcohol in Canada is sold in 750ml bottles instead of 1 litre bottles so we don't realize it's so expensive
Two-fer - As in two for the price of one. They used to do this on Tuesdays for movies, but now they charge more than half price and call it Cheapie Tuesday instead.
Two-Four - A case of 24 beer in the Maritimes where a case is oddly only 12 beers, unlike the rest of the country.
UIC - Sometimes also called UI or EI now. Unemploment insurance which is oddly called Employment insurance not. Short for Unemployment Insurance Corporation, the government crown corporation that administered the program.
Vacation - Time off from work. We get at least 2 weeks a year, often more, by law.
Washroom - A WC, no bath needed.
Wind Chill - How damn cold it really feels because of the wind.
Yak'ed - To vomit.
Yank - A loving term used to refer to our neighbours to the South.