Society - Culture
By: - at April 29, 2014

15 Ways Americans are Different than Canadians

While Canadians and Americans are viewed to be similar culturally by people living outside of North America, the two countries do not exactly see eye to eye on how things should be run or how people should live. Therefore, one could say that a friendly rivalry exists between Americans and Canadians. Just like the British and French, both countries can tolerate the differences even if they are geographically adjacent to one another.

United States Canadian Relations

If you refer to a U.S. citizen as a Canadian, he will not be any happier than a Canadian who is mistaken for a U.S. resident. The following information supports the variances in lifestyle of these countries and their governments.

15)  States and Provinces
If you live in the U.S., you will reside in one of the 50 states. Canadians, however, do not live in states, but, instead, cohabitate in provinces. The provinces that make up Canada include Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and one province that is named Newfoundland and Labrador.

canada political map showing provinces

Like the U.S. each of these provinces are regulated by the federal government. However each region also has its own jurisdictional powers, all which gives each locale more legislative control. States in the U.S. have less control when it comes to establishing laws. That's because they can lose state funding if they don't abide by federally established mandates or laws.

map of the united states
By MissMJ via Wikimedia Commons

14)  Average Weights of Citizens
In addition to the distinctions between states and provinces, the U.S. has more of a problem with obesity than Canada. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, data shows that 34% of Americans are overweight compared to 25% of the Canadian adult population.

Obesity in the United States:
Obesity in the United States

Studies support findings that reveal that 36% of American women are obese compared to 24% of the females in Canada too. Statistically, men in the U.S. have an obesity rate that is 8% higher than men living in Canada. However, all that being said, data also reveals that Canadians have experienced a gradual increase in obesity over the past three decades.

Canadians Culturally Go for More Walks and Get More Physical Exercise than Americans:
Canadians Culturally Go for More Walks and Get More Physical Exercise than Americans

13)  Currency
While the U.S. and Canada both use dollar bills for currency, the Canadian dollar is not used outside the country and is the seventh most traded currency in the world.

Canadian Dollar Canadian Currency

U.S. bills, on the other hand, are used for for purchases in a number of countries, including the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Ecuador, the Bahamas, Cambodia, Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Belize. So, if you are traveling and are a U.S resident, you won't have to exchange your currency if you visit one of the aforementioned U.S. dollar-friendly locales.

us dollar us currency

12)  Law Enforcement
When it comes to law enforcement, Canadians and Americans also utilize different authorities for keeping the peace. In Canada, police, called Mounties, or, officially, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), are officially sanctioned officers for the country of Canada as well as the provinces.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Corporal in Riot Gear:
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Corporal in Riot Gear
By Legal Observers via Wikimedia Commons

Although some large cities in Canada make use of city police, the RCMP polices the provinces and country, except Quebec and Ontario, who have their own police force. While the RCMP does have a presence in these two provinces, their influence can be equated to that of the FBI in the U.S. Newfoundland also utilizes the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to police a portion of its area.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Wearing Dress Traditional Gear:
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Wearing Dress Traditional Gear

The U.S., on the other hand, breaks down its policing agencies to city police, county police, state police, sheriffs, and national entities, such as the FBI, CIA, or DEA. Nevertheless, despite their differences in this regard, both Canada and the U.S. do cooperate with each other in "catching" the bad guy or working on international crimes.

The police power in Canada is initiated from the Crown. Therefore, an officer of the peace is given power over the country, although he may work in a separate jurisdiction. As a result, he can extend his police power past his assigned base to other parts of the country.

U.S. Capitol District of Columbia Police Cruiser:
U.S. Capitol District of Columbia Police Cruiser

In the U.S. any policing authority originates from the voting public. So, residents in a specific area, such as a state, city or county can choose to appoint or elect their police. If a policeman is assigned to work in a county then, he only maintains his police power in that area.

Typical U.S. Highway Patrolman:
Typical U.S. Highway Patrolman

While a county policeman might pass over his designated boundary in the event of a high-speed chase, he is still considered powerless to investigate a crime that falls just outside his jurisdiction. The RCMP do not have this concern in Canada.

11)  Health Care
While Obamacare in the U.S. has been developed to provide affordable health care for Americans, the public health care system in Canada has been in force for a number of years. Public health care in Canada is supported by the guidelines that were established by the Canadian Health Act, which became a part of Canadian law in 1984.

American Demonstrator Using Single-Payer System as in Canada:
American Demonstrator Using Single-Payer System as in Canada

Therefore, each Canadian is issued a health card who enrolls in a program, with everyone receiving the same basic care. However, some provinces may have variations in what services are offered for free and which ones are not. Therefore, health care costs for certain therapies may not be covered under the public system.

rising international health care costs

For the most part though, Canadians pay for their health care coverage through the guidelines established by the Canadian Revenue Agency. As a result, Canadians pay for most of their care with taxes while Americans pay for coverage through insurance plans.

Canadians may take out a policy, as stated, for certain treatments not covered by the public insurance. Also, U.S. citizens who move to Canada to live may have to take out insurance if they move to British Columbia, Ontario, Brunswick, or Quebec. Public coverage can't be accessed for three months if you've relocated from the U.S.

10)  Population Density
Population density also is different in Canada and the U.S. This calculation compares the people living in a specific area with the people living in an entire nation. Therefore, the measurement provides an insight into the condition of crowding. While one country's population may be larger than another country's, one of the two countries may also have more in the way of available space.

Satellite Image of North America Depicting Geography of U.S. and Canada:
Satellite Image of North America Depicting Geography of U.S. and Canada

The country of Canada has a population of approximately 33 million people and a land area that includes 3,559,294 square miles. Therefore, statistically, the country's land mass is designed to hold about 9 people for each square mile. On the other hand, the U.S. has a population density of 76 people per square mile.

population density

So, while the U.S. has a larger population, Canada has more land. Many families live on farms in Canada and much of the land has not been developed commercially. Therefore, a good portion of the geography is occupied by mountains and snow.

9)  Birth Rate
While both Canada and the U.S. have variances in birth rates, both the countries are experiencing a surge in the aging populace. In the recent past, birth rates have declined in the U.S. for three years straight, with a notable drop of 4% between 2007 and 2009.

2008 World Birth Rates:
2008 World Birth Rates
By Dwrcan via Wikimedia Commons

Canada did have a short increase in its birth rate in 2011. However, that figure has now since declined. Canadian fertility research studies show that between 2009 and 2011, the fertility index (FI) in Canada dropped from 1.67 to 1.63 in 2010. That figure took a nose dive again in 2011 to 1.61. The FI must be at least 2.1 to balance out the number of younger and older people in an area. Researchers attribute the decline in both countries to a poor economy.

Birth Rates Worldwide are Growing at Alarming Rates:
Birth Rates Worldwide are Growing at Alarming Rates

8)  Life Expectancy
When it comes to life expectancy, Canadians, on average, live longer than Americans. Life expectancy, itself, is a measure that is determined by a calculation that figures the number of years a baby born today will live in his lifetime. Such factors as lifestyle, health care, and diet all contribute to the number of years. Evidently, the free health care offered to Canadians can be credited for the longevity rating. Research suggests that the life expectancy for Canadians is 81 years while the average life expectancy for Americans is 78 years.

Global Life Expectancy 2008 Estimates - Click to Enlarge:
Global Life Expectancy 2008 Estimates - Click to Enlarge
By User: Panos84 via Wikimedia Commons

As a result, Canada holds sixth place in the world in terms of life expectancy. Canada has a life expectancy rating of B while the U.S. rating is lower, or categorized as D. During the 70s and 80s, the U.S. life expectancy ranking was classified under the category of C. However, since the 90s, the status has taken a noted plunge. Factors affecting life expectancy in the U.S. include such conditions as cancer and heart disease and interrelated habits, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and the abuse of drugs.

life expectancy at birth for males and females
By Rcragun via Wikimedia Commons

7)  Dialects
Between Canada and the U.S., the U.S. has a broader range of accents and dialects. Each state seems to have its own specialized form of speech, and the areas within a state can even show slight variances. For example, In eastern New England, people speak with what is called a Boston accent, with the "r" being dropped at the end of a syllable.

Coal Harbor Vancouver, Canada:
Coal Harbor Vancouver, Canada

You won't find that type of difference among Canadian speakers, but dialects certainly prevail, depending on the province or the area. Famous linguist Charles Boberg performed an analysis of Canadian speech in 2008. From his findings it was shown that Canada does indeed have a variety of dialects, most of which were represented by various vowel sounds. Yet, one still can't dispute that both Canadians and Americans speak the same language, regardless of how it is pronounced.

Old Montreal Quebec, Canada:
Old Montreal Quebec, Canada

Further the Province of Quebec holds French and English to be their national languages making Canada technically have two primary national languages. The United States has only English and has much less French influence throughout history. 

6)  Climates
Neither the United States or Canada have a fixed climate, given that both nations represent large land areas. However, because of Canada's northern location, winters in many provinces can be described as harsh. In some areas of the country, the average day temperature can drop as low as minus 15 degrees on the Celsius scale. What's more, the wind chill temperature can feel like it is minus 40 degrees. Not only that, in the non-coastal regions of Canada, snow can be seen six months at a time.

climate map
By Peel via Wikimedia Commons

On the east and west coasts of the country, the average high during the summer sits usually around 20 degrees Celsius or between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius toward the mid-section of the country.

Banff National Park and Glacier Fed Lake - Alberta, Canada
Banff National Park and Glacier Fed Lake - Alberta, Canad

While the northern parts of the U.S. can exhibit very low temperatures during the winter, you'll also find a temperate climate in areas such as the west coast of California and in Florida, and the Southwest. On the other hand, summer temperatures can be downright chilly in states such as Alaska. So, if you want to avoid the chill of winter in the northern U.S., you can always escape to warmer temperatures in the south.

5)  Military
The United States Armed Forces includes the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard while service personnel in Canada are part of the Land Forces, Maritime Command, Canada Command (homeland security), and the Air Command.

Canadian Military Police:
Canadian Military Police

Of the two, the U.S. military is more often engaged in international conflicts. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that armed services in the U.S. feature a larger number troops. In fact, Canadian army personnel only number around 20,000 while the U.S. has close to 1,370,000 troops. The U.S. Air Force has 370,000 troops while the Air Command in Canada has around 15,000 enlistees.

Alpha Company - 3rd Battalion - Royal 22 Regiment - Canadian Army:
Alpha Company - 3rd Battalion - Royal 22 Regiment - Canadian Army

Neither the U.S. nor Canada practice conscription currently - a process that forces qualifying men and women to serve in the military. If the U.S. did practice conscription, the number of people serving in the armed services would be massive - approximately 9 times the number of the current count.

4)  Governmental Leadership
Despite both being democratic countries, the United States and Canada are both fundamentally different in terms of their forms of government. Both countries are federally-based. However, the head of the government in the U.S. is the President while the head of state for Canada is the Queen of England. The head of the government is the Prime Minister.

Supreme Court Building in Ottawa, Canada:
Supreme Court Building in Ottawa, Canada
By D. Gordon E. Robertson via Wikimedia Commons

In the U.S., the government is formed so that there is a separation of powers. That means that the executive, legislature, and judiciary branches are divided equitably. Therefore, in the U.S., the President cannot act as a member of either of the two houses of Congress--the House of Representatives and Senate--nor can any member of Congress sit on the President's cabinet.

Canadian Parliament Buildings Ottawa, Canada:
Canadian Parliament Buildings Ottawa, Canada
By D. Steven W. Dengler via Wikimedia Commons

Canada is ruled by a parliamentary government, which is based on a concentration of powers. Therefore the acting Prime Minister and all other ministers in the government must also be a participant in one of the one of the Houses of Parliament, or find a seat within the House shortly after their appointment. Government-sponsored bills are either introduced by the Prime Minister or a member of another house. Both the Prime Minister and other house members are elected for the same term. The U.S. differs in this respect as the President's term in office may not be the same as other elected officials.

3)  Crime Rates
Another difference between Canada and the U.S. is reflected in the crime rate. Facts show that assaults occur more often in Canada. In fact, Canada ranks 5th in the world with regards to this kind of crime while the U.S. ranks down the line, or in 11th place. Approximately 87% of Canadians believe in the efficiency of their police while almost 90% of Americans think the police are dependable - proof that a slight more number of Americans trust in the efforts of law enforcement overall.

staggaring jail rates

However, that all being said, Canada, statistically, has far fewer crimes. In fact, the United States has four times more crimes than its Canadian neighbor. Approximately 12 million crimes occur in the states each year while Canadians tally 2.5 million crimes per year. The incarceration rate is even more staggering and only further depicts the United States as having quite a serious crime problem.

Chart Depicting Who Really is the Leading Global Jailer:
Chart Depicting Who Really is the Leading Global Jailer

2)  Spelling
Spelling in the United States is often very different than the spelling of Canadians. That's because Canadians spell words using the Queen's English. Therefore, Canadian spellings of such words as behavior, caliber, canceled, catalog and centimeter are spelled as ‘behaviour’, ‘calibre’, ‘cancelled’, ‘catalogue’ and ‘centimetre’.

Queen's English Cartoon:
Queen's English Cartoon
By Fedcom via Wikimedia Commons

1)  Gun Culture and Crime
Perhaps one of the biggest differences between Canadians and Americans is their attitude towards guns. Because of the Bill of Rights, Americans hold to their Second Amendment right to bear firearms. Therefore, Americans may own guns for self defense at home as well as carry a gun in public. Canada, however, enforces gun restriction laws to protect innocent people from gun attacks.

friends of nra national rifle association

Yet, the Criminal Code of Canada still recognizes the need for firearm defense. As a result, some individuals may carry a restricted weapon to defend themselves if police protection proves to be insufficient. Over the years, Canadian legislation has become more and more restrictive, thereby making it difficult for people to carry a weapon without a good reason for the practice.

array of assault rifles and legal fire arms in united states

Many U.S. citizens are traditionalists. As a result, many people go back to the Revolutionary War period and consider their Second Amendment rights when making a decision to own a gun. The Second Amendment to the Constitution states that . . . "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." That's why many gun owners in the U.S. cannot support legislation that controls or restricts their use of firearms. One of the organizations that enforces the right is the National Rifle Association or NRA. Their influence extends to the right to own all kinds of weaponry, including assault rifles and similarly designed arms.

While Canadians and Americans seem similar, their laws and preferences reflect their social, cultural, and historical orientations. Regardless of their histories or cultural leanings though, both countries have a cooperative attitude when it comes to working together politically or for the greater good.





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