Canada. Much of the country is uninhabited, winters here are notorious, and the entire country has a reputation of being super polite.
These are all things we know about the country. But despite the fact it’s a major tourist destination and a very modern country, there is a lot that you can only find out about lifestyle in Canada by living there.
So, are Canadians really that nice? Is ice hockey as important as they say it is? What is the lifestyle in Canada really like?
We’ve got some answers for you.
1. Yes, Canadians really are that nice
It’s one myth about Canada that is actually a fact. Many people think Canadians cultivate a reputation of being super friendly and tolerant to separate themselves from Americans.
While this is partly true (never mistake a Canadian for an American), they are, on the whole, genuinely nice.
Most people joke that it was to do with the bears and the harsh winter weather. When getting stuck outside could literally kill you, it puts things in perspective.
Canadians have a habit of being very welcoming and friendly because who wouldn’t rather make a new friend than face the fact that stepping outside your front door in winter could bring you face to face with a grizzly.
You will find that life in Canada as an expat is no different. Canadians are more than happy to welcome others into their community. The more, the merrier.
2. Canada is really big
It sounds very obvious, but Canada is massive. And it does have some impact on the lifestyle in the country.
For people in the US, it’s only a small adjustment because although Canada is larger than the US by a decent gap, most of the population live closer together.
For people from the UK and Europe, it’s a huge change.
People in Canada think nothing of driving for five hours to get somewhere. A day’s drive is very common.
Perhaps the most significant thing you’ll have to get used to is the method of transport.
If you want to travel a long distance and don’t drive, trains are generally the transport of choice in the UK. In the US, it’s aircraft. In Canada, it’s buses.
Greyhound bus services crisscross the country and are very popular with Canadians of all ages. They can take several days to cross a province, but that’s totally normal. Probably best to pack a good book.
3. Winter is a serious business
Winter in Canada is harsh, and it’s long.
The Canadian winter can be a shock for people who are used to just a few cold months around the New Year. Often, people aren’t prepared for how negative it can make you feel.
Short days that get dark at 4 pm can be mentally draining. You wake up, and it’s dark; you finish work, and it’s dark again.
If you’re planning to move to Canada and you don’t love the cold, try to find an indoor hobby you really enjoy. It’ll help keep the long evenings busy. Make sure you surround yourself with friends and family to help get you through.
4. Summer feels like a dream
Unless you’re in the far north, where summers are short and chilly, you’ll probably get a decent summer season. And it will feel like a weird dream.
After the long winter, temperatures of 30-35°C feel strange. Suddenly everything opens, and it’s all about rooftop parties, trips to the beach, sunburn, and outdoor activities. It’s very surreal.
Canadians will start wearing shorts and t-shirts in May to make the most of the warmer weather.
For the first year, you’ll think they are insane; there is still snow on the ground! The second year, you won’t judge them, but you won’t join them. By the third year, you’ll be dusting off your summer clothes with the rest of them.
5. The price tags aren’t telling the truth
Not a big shocker for people in the US, but for people in the UK or Europe, it can be a nasty surprise. The price sticker on items in shops usually doesn’t include tax.
This means you need to do some quick mental maths to work out how much you actually need. It can be awkward when you get to the till to find out you’re a few dollars short.
Speaking of dollars, most people know that Canadian dollars are not the same as American dollars, and the exchange rate is not 1:1. It’s pretty easy to buy from a store, but online shopping can be complicated as prices could be shown in USD.
It’s also worth noting that although you can use a one-cent coin in Canada, they are no longer made, and most businesses don’t accept them. Although many items are priced in cents, shops tend to round up, and you’ll end up spending an extra cent compared to the price tag.
Super confusing until you get the hang of it!
6. The lifestyle in Canada is as amazing as they say
Most Canadians are what you’d call “outdoorsy.”
If you enjoy life outdoors, Canada really is a giant playground. It’s got beaches and lakes for water sports as well as hills, mountains, plains for hiking, trails, biking, running, and winter sports.
Most Canadians have hobbies that involve being outside, even in the depths of winter.
Nature in Canada is a whole other level of beautiful which means even city-folk spend time in the countryside.
Even if you aren’t one for the extreme wilderness, life in Canada makes being outside pleasant.
Canada has a way of encouraging you to spend time outside no matter what. It’s an incredibly healthy lifestyle with people walking everywhere.
Being physically active and outdoors is a staple of the Canadian lifestyle. Can you imagine, if you live in Calgary, in winter, you can commute to work by skating on channels?
7. Tolerance is an integral part of the lifestyle in Canada
Canadians also embrace multiculturalism in a way their American neighbours haven’t quite managed.
Many of Canada’s biggest cities have thriving neighbourhoods for different cultures, but rather than staying isolated, you’ll find traces of different nationalities and traditions everywhere.
Canadians are generally very welcoming of new cultures, meaning you should invite your neighbours to celebrate their holidays and festivals and eat their food.
8. Don’t expect to work at the same level right away
Unless you are emigrating for work and you’ve already secured a job with a company, be prepared to take a small step backward in your career.
You may need to get qualifications specially certified to be recognised in Canada. Other certificates might not be as well respected as similar Canadian qualifications.
The more documentation you can provide of experience and what you actually do, the higher your chance of entering the Canadian job market at your current level.
But don’t panic! It’s not a permanent step back. Canada is commercially and economically a considerable power, so if you’ve got the experience, it’ll be recognised eventually.
You’ll also need to check that your Canadian visa lets you work in your chosen field.
This varies by province, but some jobs are highly desired (engineers, IT guys, etc.), and you can get special visas for this type of work. Other job markets are saturated, and, in these cases, the step backward can be a big one.
9. Canadians are fiercely proud
We’ve already touched on the fact that under no circumstances should you confuse a Canadian with an American, but it’s worth repeating.
Canadians are very proud of their country. Canadians are proud of their homeland, from their love of ice hockey and poutine to its two national languages and Tim Hortons.
And so they should be: the country is beautiful.
The landscape is gorgeous, the people are friendly and very multicultural, and they pride themselves on not being American (Sorry America).
If you move to Canada, you’ll need to embrace all the locals’ charming quirks, slang, and habits or risk being excluded.
We recommend starting at Tim Hortons; there is literally one on every street.
10. Banking can be a pain
Be prepared to pay for opening and maintaining a checking bank account in Canada. The fee might be as small as CA$5 and is based on how many transactions you make monthly.
Somewhat bizarrely, you might have to pay for not using your credit card- yes, really! You should use your card once a month in a store, or you might have to pay up if you don’t.
It’s worth factoring these things into your finances before you move, so you’re 100% sure you are covered when you arrive.
Getting this right from the start is super important as it helps establish a credit score (something you’ll have to leave behind in your own country and start afresh in Canada).
Bonus things worth remembering
- You might not be able to drive immediately. Check your province’s rule. You may need to retake your driving test.
- Milk comes in bags. Odd.
- Smoking is illegal in public. Many outdoor areas such as parks and pedestrian streets are non-smoking.
- But social smoking of marijuana is legal as of 2018.
- Maple syrup is a religion.
- Shinny, informal ice hockey, is played more frequently than you’d think. It’s like a weird old-fashioned movie with kids playing it in the street and on the local frozen pond. Truly charming and quaint, even in downtown Toronto.
- Tim Hortons really are everywhere, and Tim Bits really are as good as everyone says.
- Canada has a flourishing wine trade, and it’s actually decent wine and a reasonable price. Try it before you turn your nose up.
- Poutine is slang for “mess.” It’s drunk food and hungover food for people of all ages.
- If you go skiing and you’re used to skiing in Europe, check the grading of each slope. There are no red runs, and gradings vary from resort to resort.
- Canadians have some strange slang: Toonies means two dollars. 6ix is the Toronto. Double-Double is coffee with two milks and two sugars. A toque is a hat.
But the main thing you need to know about the lifestyle in Canada before you move is that it is truly epic. From the landscape and scenery to the people, Canada is an incredible place to live.
The lifestyle in Canada is perfect for outdoorsy active people who love community and fun.
If you can get over the small culture shocks, every day is an adventure, and you’ll certainly never get bored!
You might find useful:
- Living In Canada – a detailed guide for expats on moving and settling down in Canada;
- Best Places To Live In Canada;
- Canada Visa – How To Move To Canada As A Skilled Person;
- Visit our Canada Country Guides page for more information on living in Canada.