I'm an American who visited Costco in Canada. It may look identical, but it's not the same.

I'm an American who visited Costco in Canada. It may look identical, but it's not the same.
  • Costco has more than 100 locations in Canada.

  • On a recent trip there, I visited a Costco in Niagara Falls to see how it compared to US locations.

  • The Costco I visited looked identical to those in the US, but there were a few key differences.

Last year during a trip to Canada, I went to a Costco store and saw firsthand how it compares to locations I've been to in the US.

The author takes a selfie outside of a Costco in Canada
The author stands outside of a Costco in Niagara Falls, Ontario.Joey Hadden/Insider

Growing up, my parents loved Costco because they could purchase foods for our family of four in bulk for low prices. I remember spending Saturday afternoons exploring the warehouse with my brother while my parents shopped for produce, snacks, and everything in between with their membership.

While Costco started in the US — its first location opened as a Price Club in 1976 in a converted airplane hangar in San Diego, California — the wholesale outlet is now in eight countries, including Canada.

As I learned on a recent trip there, Canada is home to more than 100 locations, according to Statista. While I was there for the first time, I stopped by a location in Niagara Falls, Ontario, to see how it would measure up to US stores.

Turns out, it's pretty similar — but there were a few things that I found to be different.

The store looked mostly the same as the ones I've visited in the US. For starters, it was huge.

Wide shot of a Costco in Canada
A Costco store in Niagara Falls, Ontario.Joey Hadden/Insider

The largest Canadian retailer is Loblaws, a supermarket chain, according to Statista. Costco surpassed Sobeys, Metro, and Walmart, according to the same source.

I thought the inside looked the same, too. Like in the US, the warehouse had an open layout with stands of products in the middle and floor-to-ceiling aisles stacked with groceries along the perimeter.

Inside of a Costco in Canada
Snapshots show the inside of a Costco store in Niagara Falls, Ontario.Joey Hadden/Insider

When I walked into Costco, I was immediately transported to my home country because the inside of the warehouse looked exactly like its counterpart stores in the US.

Ramsey Monroe, a Costco fan who has been to more than 200 locations around the globe, previously told Insider that the layout is similar in every store she's been in.

"If I ever feel homesick, I can just go to Costco," Monroe said. "I just feel at home at Costco so no matter where I am in the world, it's just comforting."

The first difference I spotted between the US and Canadian stores was the addition of French labels on products in Canada.

French labels at Costco store in Canada
Pitted dates and speakers, sold with French labels at Costco.Joey Hadden/Insider

According to a report from Statistics Canada, more than 20% of the country's population speaks French as their first language.

While French is the primary language in Québec, according to the report, it's the minority language in Ontario — the province where I visited Costco.

In the clothing section, I noticed a wider variety of jackets than I've seen in US stores. They ranged in price from $50 to $100.

Clothing at a Costco store in Canada
A clothing display inside Costco.Joey Hadden/Insider

Since winters are colder in Canada, I thought this made sense.

Canada has one of the harshest winters of any country in the world because of its high altitudes and location up north, according to the Government of Canada. Dressing for the weather is essential to combat frostbite, windburn, and hypothermia.

While many of the products looked familiar to me, each Costco has locally sourced products. So I scanned the store for Canadian labels to find foods I can't get back home.

frozen meats available at a Costco in Canada
Frozen fish and chicken sourced in Canada and sold at Costco.Joey Hadden/Insider

All Costco warehouses locally source vendors, as Insider previously reported.

During my visit to the Niagara Falls store, I spotted maple leaf cookies, orange mango quinoa cookies, and Hungarian beef sausage among other items that I haven't seen at Costco in the US.

In the meat section, I noticed that most of the products were also sourced in Canada.

Meat selection at a Costco store in Canada
A selection of meat from Canada sold at Costco.Joey Hadden/Insider

From bison burgers to Wagyu beef, Costco stores in Canada have a wide variety of locally sourced meats.

The US has a variety of locally sourced meat and seafood as well, from Chicago steaks to bone-in pork cutlets.

I also saw dessert items locally sourced in Canada. And there was some candy that I rarely see in the US, like Aero — my favorite chocolate.

Dessert options in Costco in Canada
Frozen yogurt bars sourced in Canada and UK-based candies, sold at Costco.Joey Hadden/Insider

I see Aero chocolate bars — a popular treat in the UK and Ireland — in the US every so often, but they're not widely available in my experience. According to Mashed, they're hard to find outside of Amazon.

So I was surprised to see them being sold in bulk in this Costco. As I learned later reading Nestlé's website, it turns out the bars are widely sold in Canada, Australia, South Africa, and Japan.

In the coffee section, I noticed the store carried coffee from Tim Horton's, where I got breakfast just hours before.

Tim Hortons coffee at a Costco in Canada.
The author's breakfast (L) and Tim Horton's coffee sold at Costco (R).Joey Hadden/Insider

Tim Horton's is a popular coffee brand and fast-food breakfast joint based in Canada.

I got a breakfast sandwich and an iced coffee drink when I visited the chain, and thought the food tasted fresher than that from most fast-food restaurants I've been to.

On my way out, I noticed the food court was selling poutine, a Canadian dish I haven't seen in US Costco stores.

Polish sausage and poutine in the costco food court in Niagara Falls, Canada
Poutine from a Costco in Canada.Michelle T./Yelp

Although I didn't get a chance to try it for myself without a membership, I noticed that the food court carried poutine, a popular Canadian dish that has three ingredients: fries, gravy, and cheese curds.

Later in my trip, I went to La Banquise, a restaurant in Montréal known for poutine, and I really enjoyed it. The fries were crispy and greasy — just like I like them. I thought the gravy was reminiscent of Thanksgiving dinner, and the curds added a unique texture without adding too much flavor.

Ultimately, I found that the Costco I visited in Canada was similar to its US counterparts. Next time, I'd go back with a member so I can try the products unique to Canada.

The outside of a Costco in Canada
Costco in Niagara Falls, Canada.Joey Hadden/Insider

Although I was outside of the US, visiting Costco in Canada felt like a taste of home. With a nearly identical layout to the American stores I've been to, I felt transported to my childhood as I strolled the aisles.

If I ever find myself in a Canadian Costco again, I'll pick up some Aero, Tim Horton's coffee, and poutine.

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