'What time does the noon cannon go off?' and more hilarious tourist questions

Locals share their most amusing interactions with visitors

With sunny days and lifted COVID restrictions, the tourists are returning to Nova Scotia. Out of province (or country) license plates abound, cruise ships are docking, and the Harbour Hopper is making its rounds. Visitors from all over are once again flocking to our province, eager to see its landmarks, taste its food and experience Maritime culture. Taking a walk downtown during tourist season means you’ll likely be stopped by a visitor asking for directions or recommendations. Luckily, we’re helpful people. But sometimes, these questions make us wonder what planet our tourists are coming from, or if the guidebook got lost in the mail. We asked our readers about the funniest questions they’ve been asked by tourists, and you delivered. Here’s a roundup of some of the most bewildering visitor queries, submitted by readers.

Responses have been edited for clarity and style.

Geography trouble

Some people don’t understand how big Nova Scotia is, or Canada for that matter.

click to enlarge 'What time does the noon cannon go off?' and more hilarious tourist questions
Sacha Stephan

While on the waterfront someone pointed to George's Island and McNabs and asked if that was PEI and Newfoundland. —Lee-Anne Richardson

“Where is the bridge from Toronto to Nova Scotia?” —Christine Marsh

“'On a clear day, is it possible to see England?” —Jeff MacKinnon

Someone thought the Atlantic was on one side of the Canso Causeway and the Pacific was on the other. —Jake MacDonald

We would host international delegates for the Atlantic Film Festival. The best was, "we were really hoping you could hook us up on a day trip to British Columbia."—Jody Way

“Where in Halifax is the closest hotel to Toronto?” —Lauren Collyer

"'If Halifax is the English side then that Dartmouth side must be the Acadian side. They all speak French across the bridge right?' My answer, 'Mais oui!' That day I think I was in a mood, didn't tell them the truth and off they went. I wonder if they ever made it to Le Dartmouth. —Kelly Brindle

An American tourist that had just gotten off a cruise asked me once how far it was to the restaurant that looked over the falls. I asked them, “What falls?” to which they replied “you know, the big ones between Canada and the States.” She had made a lunch date with her sister in Niagara Falls. —Lucy Poutine

Pointing at Dartmouth, across the harbour, “Is that England?” —Amelia Chester

“Can I leave Halifax tomorrow morning, drive the Cabot Trail, eat lunch in Peggys Cove and then drive around the rest of the province and get back here before my 7pm dinner reservations tomorrow night?” —Beth Robincheau

“‘Which way to Vancouver? I’d like to go there for dinner.” —Perry Falconer

Weather woes

It seems some have taken the stereotype that Canada is a cold winter wasteland very literally.

click to enlarge 'What time does the noon cannon go off?' and more hilarious tourist questions (4)
Sacha Stephan

I live close to Ski Wentworth, and I was asked in the middle of July where the ski hill was—they had skis on the roof of their car! When told there is no snow here in July, they replied “But this is Canada!” —Rosemary Mattatall Carter

“You have no idea how hard it is to find winter clothing to come to Canada in July!” —Beck Camb

I used to work in a coffee shop on the waterfront. Had a Texan couple ask me where they could rent skis to check out the Cabot Trail before their ship left at 6pm. It was August. People constantly asked why it wasn't snowing. One guy asked if we had electricity all year long. A few people were surprised to see that we have paved roads. I tell ya, on cruise ship days I felt like Rick Mercer. —Angie Allen

Quite a few years ago I was involved with an international conference at the Nova Scotian Hotel. Some Texans arrived with snowshoes and asked where our igloos were. —Pamela L. Canning

Wildlife whimsy

There’s confusion about our native animals, both real and imaginary.

click to enlarge 'What time does the noon cannon go off?' and more hilarious tourist questions (5)
Sacha Stephan

I was asked one time when working at the visitors information centre how to hunt the tidal bore. —Kerstin Grzesik

Sitting in a plane at the Halifax airport and a guy from Florida asked “when do the Polar Bears come out?” I think he expected to see one on the runway. —Brian Gifford

Asked by a visitor from Finland: “Where are all the beavers? We thought they’d be everywhere, like all those pigeons.” —Susan Rank

I had a lovely couple from Quebec, who had just bought live lobster from the restaurant I worked at, ask if they could exchange them for “non sick looking” lobster. “We want the red ones like in the pictures.” —Mark Doiron

“What type of meat is lobster? Is it like cow, pig, like what animal is it?” —Andrea Lorraine Richard

Monumental misunderstandings

Our landmarks have inspired some real head-scratchers.

click to enlarge 'What time does the noon cannon go off?' and more hilarious tourist questions (2)
Sacha Stephan

I used to work for tourism. I was once asked if Halifax was owned by the queen, “because all of the signs say HRM: Her Royal Majesty.” Also, regarding the masts at the Citadel, “is that where the Bluenose is buried?” —Kelly Durnford

I was walking up Citadel Hill and was asked: “What time does the noon cannon go off?” —Deb Lohrenz

At Peggys Cove: “Where do you store the rocks in the winter?” —Erin Hume

“’Is that the Titanic?" *points to the CSS Acadia* —Brittany Page

“Where does the lighthouse go in the winter?” Referring to the Peggys Cove lighthouse. We told them; “we fold it up and store it in the basement of the Sou’Wester Restaurant.” —Louisa Adamson

While working the bar at Propeller a few years back a bunch of cruise ship guests heard the noon gun. I told them what it was and they asked who we were at war with. Then said “you won’t win any war if your military still uses cannons.” —Josh White

How to get to the water. They saw the poles and flags on top of Citadel Hill and wondered if the ocean was uphill... Thought it was a ship. —Kaitlyn Billard

Currency confusion

Our colourful bills can be bewildering.

click to enlarge 'What time does the noon cannon go off?' and more hilarious tourist questions (3)
Sacha Stephan

I was asked if I knew anywhere that accepted “real money,” i.e. American dollars. Sorry man, we only got Monopoly money up North. —Amanda Rooney

I worked at a drug store and Americans always asked if everything was in American dollars. No, because you’re in Canada. —Lorrie Herbin

I worked at the airport currency exchange. Was asked by a woman to change US dollars to Euros since she was traveling to PEI. —Michael J. O’Hearn

“’Do they take this damned money in Dartmouth?” (in a thick Texas accent while holding a Canadian five like it's poisoned). He clarified that it wasn't an unreasonable question because the Halifax tourists’ map shows that the bridge crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Dartmouth, England. —Morgan MacDonald

Bonus round

Even more tourist stories that don’t fit the above categories.

My mother-in-law owns a small inn. Some American tourists staying there asked how they could drive to PE-ONE. They thought the 'I' in PEI was a 1. —Kathleen O’Leary

My first summer job was at the visitor information centre. In the first week I had a tourist come up to me, point to the Canadian flag and say, "I really like the flag, does it come in any other colours?" —April Hubbard

A tourist came up to me on Gottingen Street once and asked where they could find Celtic music. I said they should go downtown to the Triangle. They got angry with me and yelled, "Isn't there supposed to be Celtic music everywhere? Find me somewhere closer!" —Eli Gordon

I used to work at the Westin hotel, people in harbour view rooms used to ask me to turn off the fog horn on foggy nights. —Phil Tea Holmans

Tourist: Where is the race track? Me: The race track? Tourist: Yes. "Grand Prix,” the race track. Me: Grand Pre. Sorry, no race track. Evangeline. Acadians? Tourist: (Rolls eyes at me) You people shouldn't advertise a race track if there isn't one. —Deborah Randdall

One lady from England asked me, “are native people extinct?” I said you’re talking to one. —Connie Gould

When do we get to the "downtown"? Baby you're here, this is it. —Kate Blakeney

I was on Duke Street in front of Scotia Square nearly 40 years ago when some American tourists with strong southern accents asked me if we had post offices in Canada. I had to bite my tongue not to say we still used the pony express but like a nice little Canadian, I gave them clear and concise directions. —Pam Griffin-Hody

When I was working at a spa on Spring Garden, I had a family off a cruise ship ask me where they could find American food. “You know, something like McDonald’s. Do you know what American food is?” —Tabby Whalen

About The Author

Kaija Jussinoja

Kaija Jussinoja is a news reporter at The Coast, where she covers the stories that make Halifax the weird and wonderful place we call home. She is originally from North Vancouver, BC and graduated from the University of King’s College in 2022. Jussinoja joined The Coast in May 2022 after interning at The Chronicle...

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