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Imagine a bowl of fries, dappled with cheese curds and then smothered in rich meat gravy. Sounds like a very South African thing to do actually, now that I think of it. In Canada this is a tradition and part of the culture. It is amazing comfort food, especially when it's cold and you need carbs and fats to keep you going in the winter. This is it the bomb people. There are franchises that specialise in poutine only!


Some say tartan, some say "Burberry" (which is a brand synonymous with a form of this pattern). In Canada, plaid is a thing. Look out for the plaid shirts - they are super popular and timeless. Plaid blankets, dog jackets, cushion covers and tablecloths too! The flannel plaid shirt is basically what I am talking about. This is the go to for the cottage - fires at the lake - cooler evenings, even warm ones - you need this to cover your body from the mosquitos! They look cool and available in so many awesome colours.


This is obvious. Thing is... did you really know where maple syrup comes from? It is the essence or fabric of Canadian culture! The country's Aboriginal peoples taught the early settlers how to harvest the sap, boil it to make maple syrup. I am so grateful right now for their hard work. Here are the stats from the Canadian Government website on agriculture -

"Canadian maple syrup industry accounts for approximately 71% of the world's maple syrup production. As such, Canada is the leading global producer of maple products, with 91% originating from within Quebec, 5% from Ontario and 3% from New Brunswick."

Basically, its Xylem sap harvested from Sugar Maple, Red Maple, or Black Maple. In winter, you will find places where they make maple syrup taffy (very much like toffee). They roll the syrup over fresh ice and it sticks to the stick! Maple syrup is so good over bacon and waffles.


There is only one type of hockey in Canada and that's ice hockey! If you are immigrating from a country where hockey is played, you might be thinking of field hockey. Hockey is a culture here. Kids are in their hockey kit from as young as 5 years old playing hockey games but are on the ice at a much younger age of course. Here is a list of all the NHL (National Hockey League) teams for you to check out depending on where you live or will be living:

The National Hockey League (NHL) is the men’s professional ice hockey league and known as the world’s premier hockey league. There are 31 franchises of which 7 are in Canada and 24 in the United States. Here are our Canadian teams: Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. The teams compete annually for the Stanley Cup, the most famous and oldest professional sports trophy in North America. You can see the Stanley Cup at the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto, where it lives amongst an amazing tribute to hockey, definitely a must see. There is a mind-blowing store inside the Hockey Hall of Fame where you can shop everything hockey from puck collections, memorabilia, clothing to face masks.

If you have never been to a live hockey game, I recommend you go - it is incredible. It is completely different to watching it on TV. There is so much action (players slamming each other into the side walls), great spectator value and participation! The food vendors and interesting sights along the way to the game are another reason to be part of the live game.


Interesting fact: curling is mainly a right handed sport. Kevin and I are both left handed! Lefties do play but they need to make huge adjustments to play. There is a Left Handers World Championship held at the Oakville Curling Club annually. So it is a thing! I am not so sure about all that low lunging on ice!!!!


It is not often that I handle cash since our lives have become so card driven. When you do have Canadian money in your purse, you will come across a loonie and toonie! These are real Canadian terms and people use these words often. A loonie is a one Dollar coin and a toonie is a two Dollar coin! The word loonie is used because it has a Loon on it (bird). The word toonie is because it is two Dollars (the word "two" is combined with the sound of the word "loonie". Like smog is smoke +fog or brunch is breakfast + lunch, you got it.

Toonie, Loonie, Quarter, Nickel (5 cents), Dime (10 cents)


Just when you ploughed through a bowl of poutine, you find BeaverTails...! BeaverTails is a Canadian chain that specialise in fried dough pastries, individually hand stretched to resemble beaver's tails and topped with either sweet or savoury ingredients. There's banana & hazelnut chocolate spread or cinnamon & sugar (my fav), Triple Trip (chocolate hazelnut spread, peanut butter and Reese's pieces). Imagine? There are loads more options. I remember the first BeaverTails we bought for our girls. We were at Canada's Wonderland. The best day ever.


Canadians do a lot of things very well and cottaging is one of them. Nature, walking trails and lakes are all part of what comes to my mind when I think about Canada now after living here for sometime. You have probably seen the iconic pics of the bright blue lakes juxtaposed against majestic snow capped mountains (most likely Lake Louise in Banff). Now, not all lakes are like that one, but lakes are something I get so exited about, especially after our very first visit to a cottage in Gravenhurst, Muskoka. Muskoka is an iconic area of Ontario’s cottage country located approximately 200 km north of Toronto. Muskoka's largest lakes are Lake Joseph, Muskoka and Lake Rosseau, which are all interconnected. Muskoka includes the towns of Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Huntsville, as well as the townships of Georgian Bay, Lake of Bays and Muskoka Lakes. The Wahta Mohawk and Moose Deer Point First Nations are also located within Muskoka’s boundaries.

Typical majestic lake and snow-capped mountains (Photo by Charlie Gallant on Unsplash)

Interesting facts: Canada has more lake area than any other country in the world with 563 lakes that are larger than 100 square kilometres! The province with the most lakes is Saskatchewan with approximately 100 000 lakes! Muskoka has 1600 lakes alone.

There are many privately owned properties along the lakes, many of which are often rented out. Check out Air B&B for cottages to rent or search "Muskoka rentals" and see how much stock is available. It is a great weekend getaway for any season or even a summer holiday unless you have a cottage of your own (lucky)! Summer time can be murderous with the mosquitos and black flies at the very start of summer, so wait till they've eaten everyone before you arrive (so end of July onwards). The lakes are clean and warm, I never get out of that water. You are either sitting on a floating deck all day or on a pontoon or in the water.

Bring your floaties of every kind (lilo's) and chill with your favourite cooler, in the water, all summer. Jet skis, water skiing, paddle boarding, kayaking, pontooning, ATV's - come and savour it all amongst the best backdrop of nature you will ever see. Take a walk into the quaint little towns for coffee or ice cream or whatever takes your fancy. There are also breweries to visit, tree top trekking, walking trails and hikes... it's endless.

As for winter, the whole trip to the cottage becomes a completely different experience. Sometimes access to the cottage is not possible because of the snow. Most main roads are cleared but if the cottage is nestled somewhere deep in the terrain, it is mostly likely not ploughed. We have been to a cottage like that. Let the adventure begin. You will park your car at a spot as close to the cottage as possible (always reverse park so you can exit easily). Walk to the cottage (you will have knee high snow boots on of course, gloves & toque (say "tooq"), this is a beanie). Find the sled inside the cottage or it may be lying around outside. Pull the sled to the car and load up your bags and pull the bag-laden sled back to the cottage! If you are very lucky, you can use the ATV to pull the sled for you. Excellent little work out after at least a 3 to 4 hour drive if you live in Oakville. Isn't it great? Like I said, the Canadians have got it waxed when it comes to winter. All activities are snow or ice related; ice fishing, ice skating, skiing on the slopes, cross-country skiing, mulled wine, fireplaces, fetching wood, it's magical. There is a dog sledding experience in Huntsville at Northridge Ranch. It's a 3 hour event, take your kids too. After you meet the dogs and have an intro to dog sledding, you mush out for 1 hour, stop for hot chocolate and head back with the hounds at the lead. Too wonderful. Can't get more Canadian than that. Picture yourself sitting in an armchair with your coffee in hand, staring out at the ice and snow covered lake, you may get to see deer, moose, bears, otters, beavers ... it is such a completely different landscape to summer and it is amazing. See my pics below of the cottages we've been to. My friend Steph is there trying to ice fish! Look for the pic where the snow has been cleared for pond hockey! Notice the top right pic is exactly the same lake and pic as the pic bottom right (the floating deck is removed in winter).


Who has not been to Niagara Falls when they land in Toronto? It is the done thing. Niagara Falls is a short hour to two hour drive from Toronto. The falls are spectacular no matter what the weather is doing. I have been in summer and winter and both times it was a different experience. If it is raining it can be a bit disappointing, so wait for a clear day. Wear your comfortable walking shoes, you will find parking (everything is accessible and well organised and wheelchair friendly), but you may need to walk a bit and sightsee! There are numerous gift shops in the little mall right at the falls.

Visitors and Canadians alike make the trip the to Falls and often make it a weekend getaway with family or friends. Many stay over at the surrounding skyscraper hotels to watch the famous fireworks at night and experience the busy Clifton Hill buzzing with restaurants, haunted houses, putt-putt, a "Mario Kart" race track called Niagara Falls Speedway, ice cream shops and Ripley's Believe it or not. The kids (and adults) love it.


Timmies, as it is fondly known, is the Canadian chain that is usually the very first pitstop as you place your feet on Canadian soil. Tim Horton was a famous NHL player. He helped the Maple Leafs win 4 Stanley Cups and also founded the Tim Hortons franchise. The first store opened in Hamilton in 1964. It is all about coffee, donuts and fast food items. Look out for Timbits, bite-sized donuts, that is what you want to try first (smallest box is 10, or you can opt for 20 or 40)! It is $1.99 for a box of 10 Timbits. This is why this is a problem! There will always be a Tim Hortons wherever you go in Canada - almost every corner!!


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The South African Girl Living in Canada

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