I wish you could meet my girlfriend, But you can't because she is in Canada. I love her, I miss her, I can't wait to kiss her, So soon I'll be off to Alberta! ...I mean Vancouver! (Shit, her name is Alberta, she lives in Vancouver...)
A convenient way to imply that a character is in the closet, or covering for social ineptness: have them mention their girlfriend. InCanada. She doesn't visit very often, but when she does they just spendall day in bed. No, you can't see a picture.
A subtrope of The Beard, the Girlfriend in Canada is convenient for writers as she doesn't actually exist, and thus doesn't require casting or characterization. Does not strictly need to be in Canada, but for works set in the U.S., Canada has the advantage of being far enough away to plausibly explain the girlfriend's persistent absence without being so exotic that her nationality requires much elaboration.
In the case where the girlfriend is actually fake, it is almost de rigueur that any discussion of her living situation more detailed than "in Canada" be comically inconsistent with any real Canadian geography or culture.
Though still played straight, subversions are growing much more common, especially in television. If the character making the claims gets called out by his friends you can expect the girlfriend to show up before the episode ends.
This trope is closely related to Operation Jealousy.
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Knights of the Dinner Table, Brian Van Hoose claimed to have a girlfriend named Alexis Marie. He sometimes pretended to call her or even booked motel rooms. He even once claimed they were engaged and sent out wedding invitations.
And Bob once claimed to have been caught in a Fatal Attraction situation with a co-worker at the Harness & Hoe Insurance company. Dave found this claim hilarious.
In one issue of The Simpsons comics, Milhouse's dad claims to have a girlfriend onboard the cruise ship everyone is on, and he always uses some excuse whenever anyone asks where she is. Subverted in that he actually does, and she really was just in the bathroom or tired every time he wasn't with her. Used later in a Romeo and Juliet parody, where Romeo (Nelson) claims that Tybalt (Jimbo) is just jealous because he has a real girlfriend. Jimbo replies with the trope.
Destra of The Intimates claims to have a boyfriend in Niagara Falls when Dead Kid Fred approaches her. Destra is incredibly sexy and could easily get a real boyfriend at the drop of a hat, but none of the boys at her boarding school interest her, hence the lie.
Anthony Michael Hall's character in The Breakfast Club claims to have a girlfriend living up in Niagara Falls, in addition to having had sex with several other girls. When pressed, he admits he made the whole thing up because he's embarrassed to admit he's a virgin.
His character also has a distant girlfriend in Weird Science from later in the same year, 1985.
Played with in Donnie Brasco. Donnie is an undercover agent is infiltrating The Mafia in New York. He tells them he has a girlfriend "back in California" (because he actually has a wife, and doesn't want to cheat on her). The mobsters buy it hook, line, and sinker, despite never seeing him call, speak of, or show around photos of his alleged girlfriend.
In Napoleon Dynamite, Napoleon uses a sample modeling picture Deb gave him to convince Pedro that he has a girlfriend who lives in Oklahoma.
The Mayor in Chocolat uses this to attempt to cover up the fact that his wife has left him by claiming that she's on an extended holiday and will come home soon.
Possibly director Corky St. Clair's wife Bonnie in Waiting for Guffman, though she supposedly lives in town with him, not in some distant locale. Nobody ever seems to have met Bonnie, and there are hints ("I buy most of her clothes") that "Bonnie" may be a cover story for crossdressing or some more peculiar activity.
In the movie Prom, mega-dork Rolo claims to have a Greek-Canadian girlfriend named Athena who looks like a model and who he's taking to prom. Everyone is certain she's fake until Rolo arrives with the lovely Athena on his arm.
Lisa: Oh wait, I didn't tell you the best part: he loves the environment. Ooh wait, I still didn't tell you the best part: he's got an Irish brogue! No no, wait wait, I still didn't tell you the best part: he's not imaginary!
Older Than Print: In Mary de France's 12th-century poem, Lanval, Sir Lanval responds to Queen Guinevere's insinuation that "women are not what you prefer, but that there are very many pretty boys with whom you prefer to take your joys" by saying that he does have a girlfriend... she's just... a mystical being... who Guinevere doesn't know... and whom Guinevere can never meet.... yeah, that makes sense. Made all the more amusing by the fact that it's true.
In The Extinction Gambit, the first novel of The Extraordinaires, Evadne claims to have a fiancé named Clarence and shows Kingsley a picture of him she keeps in a locket. At the end of the book, Evadne admits that Clarence does not exist and the picture is one she cut out of a postcard.
In Marco Denevi's noirish novel Rosaura at 10 O'Clock, a young man whose nosy neighbors get on his case about not having a girlfriend tells them he's having a secret affair with a married woman named "Rosaura", and sends himself perfumed letters. (Therefore, he's very surprised when one day his landlady tells him, "Rosaura was here this morning asking for you"...)
In the Georgette Heyer novel The Unknown Ajax, Hugo invents a fiancée back in Yorkshire as a way of gracefully getting out of an Arranged Marriage to Anthea. She's already told him that she doesn't want to marry him, but apparently he feels that he must be more tactful. They change their minds.
Chuck: Emmett Milbarge claims to have a girlfriend named Henrietta in Ontario.
Until it became the real thing, Chuck's relationship with Sarah was a variation of the trope in that Sarah existed, was not only in on the lie but came up with it, and everybody actually believed it.
In the pilot episode of Glee, Sandy Ryerson claims that the scandal that got him sacked almost cost him his long distance girlfriend in another city. Will does not look convinced.
Bohort's wife in Kaamelott is an interesting example in that she's mentioned by Bohort as getting very sick whenever she goes anywhere, and is thus never seen. Everyone goes "Sick. Riiiiiiiight.", but at the end of the episode, we do see his wife. It should be mentioned that she shows up to enforce the character's heterosexuality, as Bohort's very... refined nature ended up putting the actor on the cover of a gay magazine.
In How I Met Your Mother, Ted regrets that he didn't know the Canadian Robin in highschool. "You could've been the Canadian girlfriend I told everyone I had!"
Subverted in "Mr. Monk and the Employee of the Month". Randy's girlfriend appears to be one of these: the picture he shows Sharona is the one that came with his wallet ("She's a wallet model!") and he gives what appears to be a Line-of-Sight Name... except that at the end of the episode, we actually see her waving to him from a taxi (and shouting that she loves him).
We do. Unfortunately for Randy, none of the others do before she leaves, leaving her existence in Cassandra Truth territory.
On 30 Rock, Liz Lemon's man-bashing comedy book causes serious damage to her male friends' relationships, including Lutz, who complains that his girlfriend is very upset, in Canada. Lutz's girlfriend in Canada also has a website specifically dedicated to proving she exists.
Lampshaded with Liz's real boyfriend:
Liz: I'm actually seeing someone right now. And he's never around because he's a pilot. His name is Carol.
Ritchie: That sounds really fake.
Liz: I know how it sounds!
And again with her next boyfriend with a throwaway line about having a "boyfriend in Canada" when Frank claims to have a girlfriend, conveniently explaining why he didn't show up in that week's episode.
Liz: Seriously, Criss is in Canada this week.
The O.C. did this twice. In Season One, Oliver Trask mentioned his girlfriend Natalie Bishop who "went to Pacific". Natalie Bishop was a middle-aged woman who worked in the hotel Oliver lived in. She says she'd "known him since he was a little guy", which adds to the creepiness. In Season Two, The less crazy Zach Stephens mentioned a girlfriend he met in Italy named "Francesca".
Subverted in the Grounded For Life episode "Space Camp Oddity", where Brad says that he had a girlfriend at Space Camp, and brings up several lame excuses when people want to meet her. Eventually, she appears, played by Mila Kunis.
Nathan: Errrr... Mon... Eiiiik... Ka. Moneeka. She's French.
Simon: Well, you should invite her to the party.
Nathan: Oh well, she's in France, on account of being French.
In an episode of The Brady Bunch, Jan pretends to have a boyfriend named George Glass. She also does the same thing in A Very Brady Sequel, and at the end of the movie, ends up finding a real boyfriend with the same name.
On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dick wants to invite Nina and her boyfriend to dinner, but Mary suspects that Nina's boyfriend doesn't actually exist. The quickness with which Nina turns down the invitation to a double-date does not assuage that suspicion.
Harmony on Buffy and Angel did this a lot according to Willow. "Oh, he goes to a different school, you wouldn't know him." But when Willow cites this, Harmony is actually in a relationship with Spike.
In The IT Crowd episode "Jen The Fredo", Moss talks about a girlfriend he had "on holiday", causing Roy to snap "They're always on holiday, aren't they Moss?".
Howard tells the others this in The Big Bang Theory. When he actually does get a girlfriend, she's out of town when Leonard's mom comes over... which is unfortunate, since Leonard's mom is convinced he and Raj are in the closet.
Howard: She had to go out of town, her grandmother died.
And Amy Farrah Fowler admits she once told her family she had a boyfriend who was a miniature horse breeder. The lie unravelled when she was asked where they met. She panicked and said "Woodstock".
In So Random! on the "Learning Spanish" sketch, the Spanish "teacher" (Nico) remarks that Peter (Chad) is ugly, to which Peter replies, "I have a girlfriend.", then Nico says that his girlfriend is fake, to which Peter replies, "She lives in Canada."
In Victorious, it's subverted in the episode "Prom Wrecker". Cat tells Robbie she can't go to the prom with him because she already has another date, who's from a different school. When Robbie accuses her twice of lying during the prom, she gives him an excuse as to why her date's not with her at the moment. But the second time, we learn her date actually is real and her stories were true after all.
According to Stephen Colbert, this is what North Dakota is to South Dakota. It's a long story.
In Community, Pierce, during his accidental phone call, tells his mother that he has one.
In The Inbetweeners, Jay claims to have had tons of sex with the girls at Caravan Club. When his friends call his bluff and agree to accompany him to Caravan Club, their suspicions that he has been lying are quickly confirmed.
In The Office (US), when Dwight is calling various people out for having had sex in the eponymous office:
Dwight: As has Angela, as has Ryan, as has Kelly, as has Meredith...
In one arc in the Alex comic strip, Alex and Clive end up in Narnia where they meet all kinds of creatures that only exist in 'make-believe'. This includes the 'girlfriend in London' Clive claimed to have had while at university.
In Warhorses Of Letters. the surreal BBC Radio 4 series about the relationship between Wellington's horse Copenhagen and Napoleon's horse Marengo, Marengo's Stalker with a Crush, Marcie, claims he's got a girlfriend that no-one's ever met. Then she dies, and he goes through the Four Stages of Grief: Denial, Following Marengo Around, Sexual Promiscuity and Acceptance. Copenhagen isn't convinced.
Avenue Q: Possibly the most famous example, Rod sings "My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada", which provides the page quote.
A slightly bowdlerized version of the show used "boink her beaver", which adds another Canada, Eh? joke.
In Sonic Chronicles, Amy will go on and on about her boyfriend Dexter, who's smart and funny and kind and resourceful and heroic and basically everything she ever wanted Sonic to be, minus the habit of telling her to buzz off when she's trying to be affectionate. Yet we never get to actually meet Dexter, because Sonic happens to have rolled into town when Dexter's away on business. If you choose enough "nice" dialog choices over the course of the game, she'll eventually own up that she made up Dexter in an attempt to get Sonic jealous so that he'd acknowledge that she is, in fact, "his woman".
In the Mass Effect series, Conrad Verner occasionally makes reference to an unseen wife who puts up with his obsession with Shepard. The third game reveals that he just made her up.
In Questionable Content, Dora mentions that Sven actually had a Canadian girlfriend, and that his resulting screaming fight with the enraged Quebecoise was "the best Thanksgiving ever".
Deathbot 9000, on the other hand, apparently plays this trope entirely straight.
In addition, Raven briefly has a boyfriend in Canada. He eventually appears in person... and turns out to be a hobo.
Ash in Misfile doesn't want to deal with the awkwardness of a boyfriend while being a girl or having to explain who Rumisiel is, so she claims that he's her boyfriend from Canada who is visiting through a foreign exchange program.
And so is his visiting brother. Who both live with her.
A non-relationship variant/parody in a Narbonic "Continuity Repairs With Rob and Andy" strip. How did Dave get a 1984 action figure in 1983? From his cousin in Canada, of course! "You wouldn't know him, since he's from Canada."
In Shaenon's X-Files parody webcomic Monster of the Week, Pheobe Green from the episode "Fire" is introduced by Mulder saying "Hey, Scully. Remember how I told you I did so have a girlfriend but she lives in England and you wouldn't know her?"
Referenced in 8-Bit Theater, after Drizz'l claims to have summoned the Four Fiends.
Black Mage: I mean, where'd he get them? From his girlfriend, she's from Leflein, we don't know her?
Canadian Girlfriend Unsubstantiated: "And he said Audrey couldn't come here because she didn't get any time off from school for Christmas, since they don't observe it in Canada. At least not in the French-speaking parts like Alberta." Dates from 2000, making it the oldest Canada-specific example on this page, and therefore possibly the Trope Namer.
Al Bruno III'sBinder of Shame, a series of satirical stories about a tabletop gaming group. One character claims to have a girlfriend in Canada. No one believes him, of course. He leaves for a year or so. In the meantime, a second fellow gets a girlfriend who actually shows up to gaming sessions. When the first fellow returns, he is very upset that the girl (yes, his girlfriend) has been cheating on him, and the second fellow gets upset that the girl failed to tell him she was Canadian.
Strong Bad claims to have many, many girlfriends... who we never see because they're supposedly visiting other planets.
Strong Bad: And she was a very, very special lady. And she loved me so much and had skinny blonde hair and was always hanging out at the beach, gazing at a photo of me... Too bad when she had to go to another planet for reasons too complex to elaborate on. I'll probably never see her again. And neither will any of you.
A more literal example occurred in "Marzipan's Answering Machine Volume 4", in which he says his girlfriend "lives up in the other country."
ThisLoadingReadyRun skit, complete with highlighting the issues of this problem if you live in Canada.
One Vampire Reviews episode opens with Maven/Elisa wearing a shirt that says "My Boyfriend is a Vampire."
"What? He is! So what if he lives in Canada? Our love is pure!"
Todd had earlier joked about this trope in his review of Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)", when he suggested that the Jerk Ass ex-boyfriend she was singing about wasn't real.
Spends a lot of time in Canada, does he?
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Mr. Collins claims to have a fiancée in Canada, which Lizzie is distinctly skeptical about. Charlotte refuses to confirm or deny the existence of said fiancée and implies that Mr. Collins has made her sign non-disclosure agreements about it.
Mission Hill: Played straight with both Kevin and George. When told by Toby that George had a girlfriend in Singapore, Kevin mentions that he claimed to have a Girlfriend in Canada ("because it's so far away, no one could ever check"). When he asks George if he's also lying, George responds "It's a more believable ethnic variation."
King Julien claims he has girlfriends in Canada, but you can trust him that they are made up... with lipstick and mascara, he means, but tastefully.
The Simpsons: At an ice-skating event, Moe insists that all figure skaters are gay. One of the skaters points out that this is a common misconception as he has a girlfriend in Vancouver, to which Moe retorts, "Made up girlfriend, made up city."
Subverted in The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror XI segment "Scary Tales Can Come True" which parodies the story of Hansel and Gretel. Captured in the witch's gingerbread cottage, Lisa mocks her for not having a social life. The witch claims to have a boyfriend named George Cauldron (a riff on The Brady Bunch episode mentioned above) but Lisa and Bart are less than convinced. At the end of the segment, after Homer cooks the witch in her own oven, a handsome and real George Cauldron arrives and asks for her.
One episode had Lisa bemoan being unable find a date to a dance, even among the nerds. Turns out their claims of having girlfriends at other schools were true.
Family Guy: Meg Griffin occasionally pretends to be in a relationship, although none of her family members ever believe her.
Meg: Don't mind me, guys, I'm just writing a letter to my boyfriend. (reading aloud as she types on a laptop) "Dear My Boyfriend, thank you for making out with me, recently, on purpose. That was cool. Those flowers that you totally sent me were really pretty, just like you say I am."
Chris: You're so full of shit, Meg.
Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, "Impostor's Home for Make-'Em-Up Pals": Frankie spent most of an episode trying to expose a new imaginary friend as a real human pretending to be imaginary. The friend claimed his maker lived in Canada. Then it was revealed he really was imaginary and his maker really did live Canada.
Total Drama Island had Beth claim to have one at the start of Action, her constant prattling about him drove everyone crazy until they finally chewed her out about it... then comes the after show after she's booted off, where it turns out she really does have an incredibly hot and talented boyfriend, to the utter shock of everyone else.
In an episode of King of the Hill, Connie is upset that Bobby didn't get their tickets to the school dance early because all the nerds who claimed to have girlfriends from different schools were telling the truth and the dance was already sold out because of it.
A non-gay version was done by undercover FBI agent Joseph Pistone AKA Donnie Brasco. Pistone was married but was posing as an unattached jewel thief, and so needed a plausible reason for the other mobsters why he didn't put the moves on other women, or was away to see his real family. So he'd pretend to have an out-of-state girlfriend.