All things considered, Canada and the United States have a lot of things in common - in some areas they share a language, the cities are organised similarly, and they're both in North America. However, although Canada is very similar to the United States technologically and financially, don't be fooled! Canada has a lot of unique things to offer - a split immigrant base of English and French people and a pride for their British heritage. In 1867, Canada became a self-governing entity, becoming fully independent of the UK by 1931.
Canada's strong identity has earned it the reputation for being very diplomatic, kind of like the 'Switzerland of North America'. Its strengths lie in its ability to negotiate cross-culturally and linguistically, as these characteristics vary drastically throughout the country.
In its vast diversity, Canada refers to itself as a 'mosaic' rather than the United States' 'melting pot.' There are a wide variety of ethnicities and cultures present throughout Canada and most residents have become accustomed to this wide mixture, especially in the hugely populated urban areas. In many cities, these cultures manifest themselves in the neighbourhoods, entertainment, shops, and restaurants that the area has to offer.
Because of Canada's diversity, people are usually respectful of different cultures and lifestyles. Canadians do not at all tolerate racism, sexism, and homophobia, and these things are usually met with hostility and disapproval. No matter who you are, what you look like, or where you're from, you'll be welcomed into Canada without prejudice or preference. Similarly, most Canadians generally do not judge based on outward characteristics - a Chinese girl may not speak any Chinese or even have visited China in her life. Assumptions based on outer characteristics are not well-tolerated in many areas, and often prove untrue in one way or another.
Politics can be a very sensitive topic, especially since Quebec has such a strained relationship with the rest of Canada. The best thing to do is take caution when discussing anything political, since it may offend or hurt someone who disagrees.
Typical etiquette rules still apply in Canada, like taking off your shoes when you enter a household. It's best to remember the golden rule: don't do anything to others you wouldn't like to have done to you.
Canada has a prominent indigenous population who live in rural communities, which are typically not used to having tourists visit. Canadians refer to these groups typically as 'Aboriginal' or 'First Nations.' In some places, there exist some cultural tensions between the Aboriginals and other Canadian cultures. For tourists who are interested in learning more about the aboriginal customs and history there are a few Aboriginal cultural centers located in the cities.
There are a few different groups of indigenous populations. There are the Indians, which are divided into tribes much like Native American Indians. A few of these tribes are the Métis, which are descendants of European fur traders and Indian women found in the prairies, and the Inuit, or the Alaskan Natives, found in northern territories. Some people are offended by the terms 'Indian,' 'Eskimo,' and 'native,' so to be safe use 'First Nations' when discussing these peoples and their cultures.