Endless expanses, extensive forests, crystal clear lakes and icy cold winters. Bears, beavers, bison and elk. Maple syrup, poutine and fast food. Parliamentary monarchy, mounties and multiculturalism. Like every country in the world, Canada is associated with certain ideas and clichés. Anyone planning to spend some time in Canada while studying abroad should also prepare for it culturally. Anyone who has dealt with the cultural differences between home and host country before starting their studies can avoid a possible culture shock.
For a long time Canada, especially in cultural terms, was only perceived as the little brother of the USA. There is nothing worse for Canadians than being constantly compared to their southern neighbors. For historical reasons alone, there are at least as many, if not more, cultural similarities with Europe. In addition, one should not forget that Canada is an independent state with its very own turbulent history and its very own culture. Canadians are proud of their country and their culture, especially their health and education systems. Diversity, tolerance and social responsibility are very important.
Determining and describing the culture of a nation is generally not easy, but capturing the culture of Canada is particularly difficult. This is not only because Canada is a classic immigration country and also a relatively young nation. In Canada, multiculturalism is a political and social reality and diversity is encouraged. Such a “mosaic” of many different cultures naturally makes it particularly difficult to identify a “typically Canadian” culture. A look at the origins of Canadian culture will certainly help to fathom the cultural characteristics of Canada.
Origins of Canadian Culture
The reason why Canadian culture and society is so differentiated and extremely diverse lies in the origins and political and social developments of the country. Fundamental cultural influences are France, Great Britain, the culture of the First Nations and Inuit, the cultural elements of immigrants of various ethnic origins, and pop culture from the United States.
Ultimately, the British emerged victorious from the colonial wars between France and Great Britain in Canada. So Canada remains one of the Commonwealth and Queen Elizabeth’s official head of state. The province of Québec emerged from the former New France. To avoid further conflict, the British Parliament granted the French Canadians French civil law, the freedom to practice their religion and French as the official language. Nonetheless, the following decades were also marked by a culture war between Francophone and Anglophone Canadians. To this day, this has caused tensions in the country.
Contrary to expectations, Francophone Canadians have not become part of the mainstream Anglophone majority over the years. Instead, they pushed for more independence, especially in the areas of education and culture. The desire of some separatists in Québec to split off completely from the rest of the country culminated in the “Silent Revolution” in the 1960s, and Canada has been an officially bilingual country since 1969.
There are now over 200 ethnic groups in Canada and over 100 different languages are spoken. In general, the Canadian population is made up of four main groups in order of immigration to the country:
- The indigenous people: First Nations, Inuit and Métis (the descendants of French and Scottish fur traders who formed relationships with First Nation women). They make up around 3.8% of the total population. Nunavut is the first Canadian territory with a predominantly indigenous population.
- The Anglo and French Canadians, the descendants of the pioneers, conquerors and settlers of the founding nations of France and England.
- The later immigrated European minorities from countries such as Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Hungary, the Ukraine or Poland.
- The so-called “ visible minorities ” who have only come to Canada since the 1970s. The Canadian government defines “visible minority” as people who are neither indigenous nor “Caucasian” (ie of European origin) and who are not fair-skinned. The term is primarily used as a demographic category by Statistics Canada.
Canada is therefore an amalgam from many cultures – starting with the indigenous people. The country’s laws and political structure are based on values “imported” by settlers from Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the United States and Scandinavia. A new perspective comes from immigrants from India, the Philippines and China.
The Aboriginal culture has left a lasting impact on the national culture. Countless indigenous words, inventions, concepts and games have found their way into the language and culture of Canada. Many places are names of indigenous origin. The name “Canada” itself comes from the Laurentian (Iroquois language family) and means village or settlement. The name of the capital of Canada, Ottawa, comes from the Algonquin language and means “to trade”. Even if the First Nations had a formative influence on today’s Canadian culture, it must not be forgotten that the indigenous people of Canada were also oppressed for a long time. Even today they are still dissatisfied with their situation and position within Canada, a major country in North America listed on healthvv.