The Culture and Languages of Canada

canadian language and culture

Canada is a multicultural nation. Its customs come from its various cultures and rich history, from its indigenous First Nations to the French and British colonies that marked the beginning of the country as we know it.

Canadian culture is a melting pot of all of these factors, sharing similarities with the UK, France, and the United States, with which it shares a border. The result is a unique Canadian identity, which is typified in the friendliness of its people, dishes such as poutine, and the national love of ice hockey.

Discover what you need to know about Canadian culture as a visitor in order to fit in with the locals and experience everything Canada has to offer.

What Is Canadian Culture and Identity?

Canada is the second-largest country in the world. It is home to people from a diverse array of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, which have come together to create a distinctly Canadian culture and identity.

Canadian cultural influences come mainly from its colonial past as part of both the French and British Empires, as well as its proximity to and close relationship with the United States.

Canadian People and Society

Most of its population are of European origin. There are also significant populations of indigenous Canadians, people whose families come from India and China, and other people of different ethnic origins.

The First Nations and Arctic peoples are a very important part of Canada’s heritage. The First Nations represent the Amerindian tribes living south of the Arctic circle, while the Inuit people represent those living in the Arctic. These groups were the first inhabitants of what is now Canada.

Canadian society is highly influenced by western European cultural values. People tend to be friendly and courteous. While many people are religious, Canada has a tolerant secular society, where everyone is free to practice whichever religion they choose, or no religion at all.

32.3% of people in Canada identify as simply “Canadian”. High percentages of the population identify as the following:

  • English
  • Scottish
  • French
  • Irish
  • German
  • Chinese
  • Italian
  • First Nations
  • Indian
  • Ukrainian

What Is Quintessential Canadian Food?

Canada is a country made up of many cultures and culinary styles from all over the world are popular. The idea of “Canadian food” often brings to mind maple syrup and Canadian bacon, but there is a lot more to Canadian cuisine.

One truly Canadian dish is poutine—french fries covered in cheese and gravy. Poutine originated in Quebec and has become popular throughout Canada.

Another unusual invention is sushi pizza. While sushi came from Japan and pizza from Italy, the idea to put them both together came from Toronto.

What Is the Main Sport in Canada?

Canadians enjoy many different sports, but perhaps the most popular is ice hockey. Canada has a competitive domestic league and also competes internationally. Ice hockey is recognized as the national winter sport of Canada, while lacrosse is designated the national summer sport.

Since Canada experiences long, cold winters, with heavy snowfall, other winter sports, such as curling and skiing, are common.

Canadian football, baseball, and soccer (association football) are also popular.

What Languages Are Spoken In Canada?

Various languages are spoken in Canada as a result of its multiculturalism. The main languages are English and French.

There are significant numbers of people who speak the following languages:.

  • Mandarin
  • Cantonese
  • Punjabi
  • Spanish
  • German
  • Italian
  • Tagalog (Filipino)
  • Arabic

There are also a great number of indigenous languages spoken by First Nation and Inuit people, including Cree, Inuktitut, and Ojibwe.

Many Canadians are bilingual or multilingual.

What Are the Official Languages of Canada?

While many languages are spoken across the country, there are only 2 official languages in Canada. Both are official at a nationwide, federal level. The official Canadian languages are:

  • English
  • French

In the majority of the Canadian provinces’ constitutions, only English is official. Conversely, in Quebec, only French is considered an official language by the provincial government. New Brunswick is the only province where both languages are official in its regional constitution.

How Many People Speak English in Canada?

The most widely spoken language is English, due to its past as part of the British Empire, significant immigration from Britain and Ireland, and the country’s close relations with the neighboring United States of America.

56% of Canadians regard English as their mother tongue, while 86.2% can speak it competently.

How Many People Speak French in Canada?

French is also widely spoken, particularly in the province of Quebec, where French-speakers vastly outnumber English-speakers. Quebec was once part of the French Empire and the people, known as “Québécois”, are fiercely proud and protective of this heritage.

20.6% of Canadians consider French their mother tongue and 29.8% have a working knowledge of the language. In Quebec, around 80% of the population regard French as their language and 94.4% can speak it.

What Are the Top 5 Languages Spoken in Canada?

The 5 most-spoken languages in Canada according to the most recent data are as follows:

  • English
  • French
  • Mandarin
  • Cantonese
  • Punjabi

There are also significant numbers of Spanish, German, and Italian speakers. Until recently these outnumbered the speakers of Chinese languages, but over the last decade, the proportion of Chinese-speakers has increased.

Age of Majority in Canada

The age of majority in Canada is the age at which a person is considered an adult and has the right to vote, among other things. This age varies by province, as follows:

  • Alberta: 18
  • British Columbia: 19
  • Manitoba: 18
  • New Brunswick: 19
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 19
  • Northwest Territories: 19
  • Nova Scotia: 19
  • Nunavut: 19
  • Ontario: 18
  • Prince Edward Island: 18
  • Quebec: 18
  • Saskatchewan: 18
  • Yukon Territory: 19

In states where the age of majority is 19, individuals who are 18 years of age are considered minors and must comply with the requirements for children traveling to Canada.

The age of majority is not the same as the legal drinking age. This, again, depends on the province. An individual is legally allowed to drink alcohol from the age of 18 in Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec, and from the age of 19 in the other provinces and territories.

Canadian Customs for International Visitors

When visiting Canada, it is a good idea to try and fit in Canadian customs.

Canadian people are generally known for their friendliness and politeness, so visitors should try and return the favor with good manners, such as always saying “please” and “thank you”. It is also advisable to try not to confuse Canada with the US, as people are likely to take offense.

Other important things to remember include:

  • Tipping is customary: generally 15–20% of the bill in restaurants and 10% for other services (including bartending)
  • Cars drive on the right in Canada
  • In French-speaking areas like Quebec, it is normal to kiss on both cheeks as a greeting, as in France.

Advice for International Visitors with a Visa or eTA

It is essential that visitors do not overstay the time that their Canada eTA or visa permits, as this could lead to them being deported from the country and receiving a ban on returning.

Check the eTA requirements for Canada to see if you are eligible and make sure to note how long you can stay.

Likewise, if international travelers arrive with the wrong documentation or incorrect information on their eTA or visa, they may be refused entry to the country.

The online Canada eTA application form is quick and easy to complete and helps to ensure that the information you provide is accurate before submitting it.


Apply for Canadian eTA