Canadian words and phrases to get used to

When you move overseas and start talking to people in your new community you soon realise that South Africans have some odd and unique sayings, and sometimes a weird way of pronouncing things. I think, as new comers, we all have that story of walking into a store and asking for something, only to be greeted with a blank stare by someone who has no clue what you’re talking about.

Hare are a few of the random things South Africans say, and their Canadian equivalents that you’ll need to get used to:

Robot Traffic light
Petrol stationGas station
Bottle storeLiquor store
Boot (of car) Trunk
Bonnet (of car) Hood
Trolley – Cart
TV remote – Clicker
It’s a pleasureYou’re welcome
Ja Yes/yeah
Braai Barbeque
Take awayTake out
Cold drink/soda
Biltong – Jerky (similar but not the same)
Mince – Ground beef
Biscuits – Cookies
Swimming costumeBathing suit

South Africans tend to also use the word “shame” quite a lot, and this is definitely something Canadians don’t understand. While South Africans use this as a way to show sympathy for someone or a situation, this is seen as an odd expression here.

Here are a few other common Canadian terms to get used to:

Loony – one dollar
Toonie – a two-dollar coin
Poutine – a local dish consisting of fries, gravy and cheese curds
Double-double – when you want double cream and double sugar in your coffee
Eh – a common phrase equivalent to “ya know”, “huh”, “right”
Timmies – Tim Hortons
Canuck – a Canadian
Two-four – a case of 24 beers
Klick – a term for kilometer

So that’s a little overview of the Canadian language. Now don’t get us started on the units of measurement used in Canada. It’s Imperial, no it’s Metric. NO, it’s a combination of both. It’s messy, it’s weird, and it’s confusing!


2 thoughts on “Canadian words and phrases to get used to

Add yours

  1. Hi Catherine

    Good list, so true. Another one I’ve come across numerous times is that Canadians don’t say “Excuse me” when they didn’t hear or understand you, it is mostly “Sorry, what’s that?” This in BC, not sure if Calgary is similar.

    PS: I enjoyed your blog of Cape Town to Calgary, we’re from Cape Town too.

    Robin Woods

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Robin, this is one I’ve also struggled with – whether to say “sorry”, “pardon me” or “excuse me”. Another one I find funny is they will always say “Hi, how are you?” and when I respond with “I’m good thanks and you?”, they often won’t respond to say how they are but will just carry on with the conversation about other things.


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