7 Cliché Things Tourists Do In Ottawa That Prove They're Not A Local

It's okay to venture outside of downtown.

Ottawa Staff Writer
Posing in front of Parliament Hill. Right: The maple leaf "Obama cookie" in Ottawa.

Posing in front of Parliament Hill. Right: The maple leaf "Obama cookie" in Ottawa.

This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.

As the capital city of Canada, Ottawa is a destination for many and it's pretty clear if you're a visitor and not a local. As someone who was not born and raised here, I know I was a total tourist when I first started visiting, and looking back I bet it was pretty obvious.

I still love to play tourist in my city, but after a few years of living here, it's pretty evident when it's a local enjoying some hot spots or someone who is visiting. Ottawa is a massive city and locals typically hang out in lesser-known neighbourhoods other than the Byward Market, whereas tourists generally stick to the downtown core.

At certain times throughout the year, especially around Canada Day or the Winterlude festival, you'll find people rushing to take their photos in front of Parliament and other monuments. To be fair, I did the same thing! Even so, here are some hilarious things that make it clear you're a tourist in Ottawa.

Posing in front of Parliament 

Sure, most of us living in the capital likely have a photo of us on Parliament Hill, but it is usually from when we first moved here, a special event, or if out-of-town friends came to visit. It's pretty clear you don't live here if you're taking multiple posed photos in front of the Parliament buildings, and other buildings downtown. We totally get the appeal though, you need to have undeniable proof you were in Ottawa.

Slowly admiring the Byward Market 

There is a certain doe-eyed look people have when they're visiting the market area for the first time. Unless you live downtown, Ottawa locals living in the East or West end don't venture downtown very often, and when we do, we have a specific restaurant or destination in mind. If you're taking endless photos as you walk aimlessly along the streets, it's pretty clear you haven't been here before.

Not stopping at crosswalks

As an outsider coming to the city of Ottawa, you soon realize that the locals, in general, are rule followers. Most people that are from here will fully stop at crosswalks when the light is red, even if there is no traffic in sight. If you're someone who is ignoring the "don't walk" signal and jaywalking, you're probably not from here.

Wearing winter clothes in the spring

Many tourists, especially if they're not from Canada, are surprised by how cold it gets here. If you end up visiting in March or April even, there is still a chance of snow and it doesn't feel close to summer yet. Those who come during the winter usually don't have enough layers and will end up having to buy a new sweater or toque. The weather can also change drastically from one day to the next, so if you plan on visiting, layers are your friend.

Taking a pic with the Obama cookie 

The former president of the United States, Barack Obama, enjoyed a maple leaf-shaped cookie from Le Moulin de Provence during a visit to Ottawa. The popularity of the cookies skyrocketed and if you visit the bakery downtown, the sign will indicate "Obama cookies" above these patriotic treats.

I have personally never had one, and to my knowledge, neither have any of my close Ottawa friends. If you're taking a photo with this specific cookie, you definitely scream "tourist."

Trying to get a daytime coffee downtown 

Besides the Byward Market, which is considered more of a tourist area, the rest of Ottawa's downtown is pretty quiet during the week, especially since many people now work from home. Sparks Street for example is almost dead unless a festival event is going on. Since it's a commercial area and not residential, a lot of nearby businesses are not open during the day, and if you need a coffee on a Monday, it's best to hit up the market or a neighbourhood outside of downtown.

Pronouncing street names like maps

If you see words like Dalhousie, Gloucester or Elgin and aren't sure how to say them, it's immediately clear you're not a local. Elgin Street is pronounced with a hard "g" more similar to a "k" sound than a "j", for example. Lyon Street, on the other hand, is pronounced like the giant cat, not like the city in France. Non-locals seem to even struggle to say the name of our infamous waterway the Rideau Canal. For reference, think French, it's not said like "Rid-oo", it's more like "Ree-dow".

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