1. Pass the maple syrup.
We don’t know who had the patience to boil down the first 40 liters of liquid siphoned out of a maple tree to make just one liter of maple syrup, but the French Canadians seem to have had a hand in it, and we’re inordinately proud of the finished product. Ok, it’s sugar, but it has a special flavour, and with a little imagination it can be considered healthy. So, go ahead and drown your pancakes in it, try it in coffee, on your bacon — the possibilities are endless, and we’ll love you for it.
2. Comment on something you liked by Margaret Atwood.
That’s not to say I recommend you actually read any of her books, especially if you’re prone to depression. But she definitely has a lot of talent, and we’re proud of her.
3. Understand hockey.
Canadians love their hockey, and we want you to love it too. We’re very conservative by nature, and about the only thing that can rile us up to riot level is a loss in the finals. If you have to actually attend a game be sure to dress warm, because heating the stands around the frozen rink is a challenge even for flamboyant fossil-fuel burners like us. It’s a fast game, with little actual scoring, but the monotony of watching the puck being chased around is almost guaranteed to be broken by at least a few rousing fistfights. The rules are simple, and the beer stays cold, so snuggle down under your blanket and enjoy the enthusiasm of the crowd.
4. Talk about the weather.
For a country that has such a brief summer, and three other seasons divided into almost winter, winter, and still winter?, it may seem unusual that the favourite small-talk topic is the weather. I mean, who’d even want to think about it most of the time? It’s just cold, but we remark and agree on that fact frequently. Just ignore the insaneness and join us: “Cold out there, eh?” You’ll fit right in.
5. Forgive us for Justin Bieber.
The teenage heartthrob-turned-bad-boy has made enough embarrassing headlines that we’d rather just forget him and his hairstyles. A sympathetic nod at his mention will suffice, or, better yet, pretend you think he’s American.
6. Order poutine.
The French Canadians come by their culinary expertise honestly, right? Not to be confused with the Russian dictator, this tasty Canadian wonder is made of French fries smothered in gravy and topped with a generous helping of grated cheddar cheese. Sure, it’s every bit the bomb it sounds like, but, remember, it’s cold in Canada, and we need that kind of ‘nutrition.’
7. Pretend you believe the oil sands are clean.
They aren’t, and we know it. We have a collective guilt about it. But there’s just too much money in it to pass up, and we need something to power the pickup truck. Canadians like to think they’re ‘green,’ and thanks to our small population and huge natural resource base it’s relatively easy to pretend we aren’t one of the very worst polluters per capita on the planet.
8. Bash the Americans.
Our neighbours to the south may be our main trading partner, favourite shopping destination, and protective big brother on the world stage…but we’re much better than they are, and we know it. It’s not an inferiority complex; it’s just the way it is — and we appreciate other people respecting our superiority.
9. Apologize — especially when you aren’t at fault.
Try it next time someone runs over your ankle with their grocery cart: “Sorry! Excuse me!” Isn’t it fun? Canadians are outrageously polite — we even say, “Thank you!” in unlikely situations, like when accepting the traffic violation for not wearing your seatbelt. It doesn’t mean we’re really nicer than other people, though sometimes reversing cause and effect really works, kind of like laughter therapy. Give it a try…please.
10. Find Neil Young philosophical.
He is, isn’t he? Our version of Bob Dylan may have a rather nasal voice, but he’s an incredible musician that just doesn’t quit. The guy’s almost 70 and still touring and creating new stuff. He’s also an environmentalist and an activist and gives us reason to be proud.
11. Punctuate your questions with, “eh?”
We’re very agreeable here in the Great White North. We prefer to avoid controversy, a fact easily recognized by the constant need for reassurance in typical everyday speech. Adding this simple appendage to just about any statement will no doubt win happy agreement from your new Canadian friend. Sounds good, eh?