A country’s culture is composed of a myriad of things: language, customs, history and lore. It encompasses food and attire, lifestyle choices, political and social elements, and more. When you live a long time in one place, the culture sometimes fades into the distance as everything becomes routine and commonplace.
If you take a log-hard look at a local or regional culture, you begin to notice wonderful aspects that shine forth with clarity. The word is often nostalgic as one remembers their roots and the values of their forebears. When asked, however, about Canada, many don’t have much of an idea of how diverse the culture is or how much it differs from that of the United States. Some say it is more forward-thinking and liberal with benefits like public health programs and progressive taxation. It has strict gun control and a strong respect for ethnic diversity. Capital punishment has been banned. Like America, European influence is strong, but Canada has its own distinct kind of melting pot society and residual customs.
For one thing, the government is quite different, although democratic. It is a parliamentary system with a Prime Minister. It is also a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as reigning sovereign (with no political power however). The legislature is bicameral divided into the Senate and House of Commons. Americans who live in Canada express respect and understanding of the system. They feel quite at home in this northern land.
Ottawa is the country’s capital city, located in southern Ontario on the Ottawa River. It is a good exemplar of metropolitan Canadian culture at its best. Stereotypes abound about Canada in general and about Ottawa by default. People imagine ice and snow (rightly so in winter), beautiful vistas, natural resources, and a new land of opportunity. There is something that says pioneer about the area, however centuries old it may be. The Indian and aborigine heritage and fur trapping industry associations add to the myths. It is a hybrid culture to be sure born and bred of native and European influences, American dominance to the south, and a new world-wide immigration—Chinese, Indian Vietnamese, Lebanese, Haitian, Jamaican, Filipino, among others. Ottawa, like many other parts of the country, is a diverse society par excellence. French Canadian culture is strongest in Quebec but lingers in neighboring provinces.
Canada still has an aura of “land of opportunity” much like the U.S. had (and still does). People assume there is a vast area of growth potential for the enterprising adventurer. This explains the attraction and the continual draw of areas like Ottawa, dominated by the municipal and federal government as the major employer. The sophistication of urban Canadian is unmatched except for a rare few US cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, or New Orleans. As such, it could be a new relocation destination as the job market changes direction regionally. For those looking for more than jobs, a wonderful lifestyle awaits in Canada as a refreshing alternative culture with distinctive features all its own.