Common Canadian Words and Manners

Canadians are very polite. They often joke that they are always saying ‘sorry!’  Here are some other common Canadian manners….

  • Greet always – every time you meet – always say you’re good.  “How are you?”  “I am fine.”
  • Stop your car when people are waiting to cross at a pedestrian crosswalk.  It is polite!
  • When people eat together they do not always wait for everyone to have food before starting to eat.  Watch what others do, as this varies from family to family.

And here are a few common Canadian words to help you get started….

Loonie – A common euphemism for the Canadian one-dollar coin that has a picture of a Loon on it.

Toonie – A common euphemism for the Canadian two-dollar coin, pronounced “two-nee.”

Garburator– Electric grinding device meant for the drain of a kitchen sink, to finely grind biodegradable substances so they can be washed down the drain. Known in the U.S. as a “garbage disposal.”

Kerfuffle – a chaotic situation which is usually negative in nature; a loud or heated dispute. “There was a kerfuffle in the Village after the bars closed.”

Hoodie: A hooded sweatshirt with or without a zipper. Common wear in Whistler!

Toque: (pronounced “too-k,” like Luke.)  A knit hat usually worn in winter, but often worn year round and indoors by young people in Whistler!

Flip-Flops: Summer sandals with a pair of straps anchored between the big and second toe, then across the toes.  They are also called “Thongs”.  Thong can also refer to a style of ladies underwear, so be careful.

Runners: Running shoes or casual shoes. (U.S. term is “sneakers”, the UK term is “trainers”.)

Muni, the Muni: in British Columbia, a municipal government and its bureaucracy. “The Muni won’t allow that to go through”, “He works for the muni”.

Brutal: Something excessively harsh or unfair.  “The ski conditions were brutal.”

Serviette: A paper napkin. Not slang, simply ‘napkin’ in French.

Eh: (pronounced “ey”, as in “hey” or “hay”) A suffix some Canadians add to the ends of sentences, to ask for a response of agreement or disagreement, similar in meaning to “don’t you think” or “right?” (e.g. “Looks like a storm comin’ in, eh?”).  It is a way of being polite – to ensure that the other people in the conversation are feeling included. It is also sometimes used with “I know,” as in, “Wow, the Canucks really kicked butt tonight!” -“I know, eh?”

Two-Four: A blue-collar euphemism for a case of twenty-four beer.

Mickey: A flask-sized bottle of hard liquor, as opposed to a Twenty-Sixer (26 ounce bottle), and a Forty-pounder (40 ounce bottle).

Toboggan: A long, typically wooden, sled, used in winter recreation, to carry one or more people down a snow-covered hill very fast.

Sled: a snow transport that has metal runners on the bottom such as a dog sled, but the word sled is used for almost any children’s snow sliding toy.  For adults, a sled is usually referring to a snowmobile.  “Sledheads” (those that love to go sledding on a snowmobile) are common in Whistler.

Klick: A euphemistic term for a kilometer. “I have 260,000 klicks on my truck and she still runs great!”

Hydro: A reference to electricity, not water. “The hydro is out,” means there’s no power, not that there’s no water. This phrase extends to things like ‘hydro poles,’ ‘hydro wires,’ and having a ‘hydro bill.’   Your rent may include phone and hydro.

The States: The United States of America is often referred to as “the States,” except in writing, when it becomes “the US.”

The Island: in BC, this refers to Vancouver Island.

Lower Mainland: the Greater Vancouver-Fraser valley area of BC, including the Sea to Sky region, and part of the south coast.  Other regions of BC are the called the Interior, the North Coast and the North.

Sea-to-Sky: usually referring to the region of Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton, and areas surrounding them.  It is the commonly used name of the portion of highway 99 that runs from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver to Lillooet.

Washroom: Refers to a place where one would find the toilet, sink, and maybe a bath tub. “Where is the washroom?”  Also called restrooms, especially in restaurants.

Chinook: (Pronounced “shinook”) A warm, dry wind blowing down the eastern slopes of the Rockies across Alberta and the prairies. Chinooks can cause the temperature to rise by 20°F to 40°F within 15 minutes.

Pineapple Express: a stretch of mild very rainy weather originating in Hawaii.   Not a positive thing for ski slopes!

Peameal or Back bacon:  Bacon obtained from the flesh of the back of a pig, rather than the more common side bacon. It is pickled in brine and then rolled in cornmeal. It’s also known as ‘Canadian Bacon’.

Pop: sweet, carbonated beverages such as cola, 7Up and root beer. They use the word soda in the United States.  These drinks are also called “soft drinks”.

Poutine: (pronounced poo-TEEN) French fries served with cheese curds, and covered in gravy. It originated in Quebec but now is prevalent across Canada, including in Whistler.

Shinny: ice hockey played outside on a frozen pond or lake.  “We played shinny on Alta Lake”.

Wheels: A vehicle, usually a car. Tire is usually used when referring to the actual wheels. “I had to walk as I have no wheels.”

Mountie: a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).