10 Major Differences Between the USA and Canada [2024 Edition]

From hockey madness and maple syrup on one side of the border to NFL obsession and hot dogs on the other—Canada and the U.S. have their fair share of unique quirks!

For instance, while a Prime Minister leads up north, a President is elected every four years in the south. Also, apart from the polite apologies galore, Canada also boasts universal healthcare, while most U.S. citizens have to cover their medical insurance.

What else sets them apart, eh? Read on to find out!

Major Differences Between USA and Canada

Despite their shared history, these neighbouring countries differ quite a lot! And in more ways than poutine and burgers. Curious to know what else is different? Keep scrolling!

1. People’s Nature

When it comes to people’s nature, Canadians are famously polite—ready to apologize and smile no matter what! Meanwhile, their American neighbours are known for their outgoing and often brash nature, without a side of heartfelt sorries and thank-yous.

Americans are outspoken, they say, while their next-door neighbours are considered shy and more reserved, with friendly gestures all around.

2. Geographical Distinctions

Compared to the U.S., Canada covers a slightly bigger area: 9.98 million square kilometers, compared to the 9.83 million square kilometers of the U.S. and its territories.

The border these two countries share is the longest in the world, stretching 8,891 kilometers over very diverse terrains and bodies of water. Also, they have some of the most varied topographical features anywhere—from massive mountains to vast deserts.

As for the climate, Canada has a predominantly cold and snowy climate in its subarctic regions, while the U.S. has both arid regions and humid tropical climates in the south.

3. Social System

While the U.S. is driven by capitalism, Canada follows a more European mindset with a strong social welfare system, which includes publicly funded education, healthcare, and social programs (employment insurance, pension, and social assistance).

Gun control is another aspect in which Canada differs greatly. Canada implements very stringent licensing requirements, background checks, and limitations, and their criminal justice system emphasizes rehabilitation instead of incarceration.

What about their social values? People in the U.S. are viewed as individualists that value their personal freedoms and self-reliance. In contrast, Canadians put a strong emphasis on their collective responsibilities, social cohesion, and equality among all.

4. Healthcare Industry

Most U.S. citizens are jealous of the free healthcare insurance all Canadians get instead of having to resort to debt to cure an illness or a condition.

Yes, it’s true! Canada has a publicly funded healthcare system known as Medicare, which covers every Canadian citizen. On the other hand, U.S. citizens have to resort to rather expensive private healthcare, with some public options.

Those needing this insurance coverage are often left stunned by the massive bills they have to cover out-of-pocket, which can very easily plunge them into debt.

5. Political System

Politically, Canada is more liberal than the US. Even though Canada has a conservative party, its political landscape is less divided than its southern neighbour’s. 

For example, in Canada, abortion is not only allowed, but the country funds it publicly. Moreover, legal cannabis use is allowed countrywide. Their forward-thinking nature also made them the fourth world nation to permit same-sex marriages (July 2005).

On the contrary, the U.S. is very divided when it comes to all of these issues.

6. Schooling System

There are several differences between the educational systems in Canada and the U.S., from a structural level to the manner public schools are funded.

For instance, while Canada has a more centralized education system, the U.S. manages it on a state (or local) level. Also, unlike the standardized SATs in the U.S., Canadian provinces may utilize different testing methodologies.

The greatest difference of all, however, is the source of funding: the Canadian provincial governments provide consistent financing across the country, but U.S. schools are funded differently by state budgets and/or various taxes.

Not to mention that Canadian higher education students rarely go into debt since their fees are much lower than what U.S. students would pay for private schools.

7. Work Environment

In Canada, employers must provide workers with a written notice two weeks before terminating their job. In comparison, U.S. employers are not typically required to notify their employees if they are eliminating their positions in the near future.

In addition, a maximum of 15 weeks of Employment Insurance (EI) maternity leave benefits are covered in Canada and up to 35 weeks of standard parental benefits. 

The situation in the U.S. is grave: new mothers that work for a company with more than 49 employees are allowed to take 12 weeks of unpaid parental (family) leave.

8. Shopping Trends

With the e-commerce market boom and the whopping US$58 billion turnover in 2021, Canada is set to become the ninth-largest market in the world. Their e-commerce sector grew 26%, making online shopping more popular than ever.

E-commerce is also on the rise in America, where 70% of consumers shop online. Moreover, mobile shopping is gaining a lot of momentum as Americans are ditching their computers and buying on their smartphones at an increased rate.

The numbers of different e-shopper groups continue to grow as millions of people jump on the online-shopping bandwagon, with the 25–44 age group leading the charge, while the 65+ seniors continue to embrace traditional shopping sprees. 

9. Personal Debt

It’s no secret that many Americans are in debt: credit cards, student loans, mortgages, you name it. But are the Canadians any different? In short: yes. Canadians tend to take a more conservative approach and use half the credit cards U.S. citizens do.

Homeownership differs, too. Nearly two-thirds of Canadians own their homes, and many homeowners use fixed-rate mortgages. On the other hand, the American mortgage landscape varies, and the APR for 30-year mortgages is 6.42% on average.

10. System of Measurement

When it comes to measuring things, Canadians and Americans stick to different systems. While the U.S. relies on inches, pounds and degrees Fahrenheit, Canada embraces the international metric system that uses centimeters, kilograms and degrees Celsius. So, if you travel to the other side of the border, don’t forget to bring your conversion calculator.

Bottom Line

There you have it: the inside scoop of what makes Canada and the U.S. so beautifully unique! We’ve covered almost everything from the metric and government system to education and healthcare disparities, arming you with first-rate knowledge on why these countries shouldn’t be lumped together. So, next time you debate maple syrup vs hot dogs and baseball vs hockey, you’ll know the score and be able to win your argument!

Florence Desiata
We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply