10 things I never knew about Canada as an international student

Here’s what was shocking to a student from India

Image courtesy of Ali Tawfiq via Unsplash


By: Simran Randhawa, Peak Associate

1. Canadians are actually really polite

I never knew that Canadians are actually as nice as their stereotypes make them out to be. People apologize and say “thank you” like their life depends on it. Being in Canada has had me successfully saying thanks while exiting a SkyTrain; it seems to become a habitual reactionary response after a while. 

2. Education is harder than some people might think

I’m from India, and the common misconception is that the education system in Canada is comparatively easier. To some extent, that might be true. But that doesn’t take away from the hardships faced by students in Canada on a daily basis.

Educational hardship in Canada isn’t limited to the course load during the degree itself either. It extends to the pressures of post-grad job hunting and finding the money to pay for expensive post-secondary education.


3. Canada’s history of oppression

Through the art of colonization, the majority of historical accuracies seem to have been eliminated. We don’t get to see the history of Indigenous peoples taught at the same level as the rest of the historical content.

Unfortunately, I was as oblivious to said history in my first year in this country. I did not know anything about the land that I was benefiting from, nor did I know who this land truly belongs to. I never knew the truth of the beautiful land we now call Canada. Worst of all is the fact that the atrocities faced by the Indigenous population from the beginning of colonization and into today are still left out of history books and news. 

All this historical information (and more) is consistently being hidden or brushed aside, a common practice in all previously colonized nations. However, in a country like Canada, which boasts of its efforts to help Indigenous communities, I never knew that such methods of rewriting history still exist.

4. Forest Fires

I never knew that forests could spontaneously catch fire in 20-degree C temperature. Mind you, in India the temperature rises up to 50 degrees at least every summer, but the episodes of spontaneous combustion are next to none. In Canada, on the other hand, the forest fire incidents are very common. In fact, the 2018 forest fires engulfed up to 12,985 square kilometres in British Columbia alone, leading to a state of emergency.

5. Drinkable Tap Water

Drinking water from the tap: I NEVER knew that someone could drink water straight from a tap and not be riddled with typhoid. That’s something that only a small percentage of people in the world have access to, and I think it’s important not to take it lightly. Having access to safe drinking water every time you open the tap is rare, and unfortunately many places don’t have this luxury. 

6. Universal healthcare

I never realized that Canada has universal healthcare, nor did I know what that term entails. Universal healthcare is publicly funded and actually takes care of your day-to-day medical necessities.

This option saves people of all walks of life from losing their savings in times of  medical concern. It works on the model of equity, serving people based on their need rather than their ability to pay. I don’t understand why more countries don’t have this model, or something along similar lines.

7. Disparity in educational qualification

It saddens me to learn that educational achievements from different non-Western countries aren’t valued in Canada. People from my country (India) can be doctors or lawyers, but they are lost in the crowd in Canada and end up working at minimum wage jobs. 

8. Raccoons

I never knew that Canadians treat raccoons and other wildlife the same way they treat puppies. There is such fascination when it comes to viewing a wild raccoon that Canadians need to be reminded to maintain their distance. In Toronto, citizens once held an elaborate vigil for a dead raccoon forgotten by animal services which quickly was noticed as something that would occur “only in Canada.”  Even people around SFU seem to worship these animals. 

In fact, the SFU population has gone so far so to make a Facebook page called Raccoons of SFU, and petitions are passed along to make raccoons our mascot.

Note: Raccoons are a wild species, and so have the potential of being dangerous. Raccoons in B.C. are not a rabies vector. However, this does not mean that they don’t possess the danger of getting aggressive. Anyone coming in contact with them should bear that in mind.

9. Taxes

I never realized the amount of taxes attached to everything in Canada. My oblivious attitude to this factor could very much be because I didn’t have to deal with taxes when I wasn’t an adult. However, when you earn minimum wage and work towards paying for living and education, every tax burns like a pain never felt before. 

Nevertheless, the funds collected from these taxes, at various levels of our government, go towards bettering our lives as a community. This is seen in our transportation services, like the SkyTrains and busses which make traveling so much easier and more environmentally friendly.

10. Discrimination

As mentioned above, Canadians are nice, polite, and all around welcoming. However, Canada isn’t immune to the virus infecting our entire planet: discrimination. 

Although we might not see this discrimination as outwardly portrayed as in the United States, it is nonetheless here. It’s of a systemic form. You see it in the slight undermining of your identity through comments like, “How can you speak English if you are from India?” or the constant lack of effort people put into trying to pronounce your name correctly.