14 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to Canada
There’s a lot more to Canada than maple syrup and ice hockey (as awesome as both those things are). From its staggering natural beauty to its vibrant cities, Canada has a whole heap to offer Australian expats.
Before you make the big move, check out these things you need to know before moving to Canada. You might be surprised!
1. Canada is one of the most multicultural countries in the world
Canadians have a strong history of welcoming citizens from all around the world. One in five of the population was born outside of Canada, and Toronto in particular is a real melting pot of cultures. Over 40 members of the Federal Canadian Parliament are either children of immigrants or naturalised citizens, and the country plans to welcome another million Syrian refugees before the end of 2017. All this makes for an attractive, liberal expat destination with the promise of fascinating cultural experiences.
2. You’ll need to wrap up warm
In most parts of Canada, expect perhaps the sunny British Colombian coast, winters are long, snowy and very, very cold. With temperatures dropping as low as -25°C on a regular basis, it can be quite a shock to the Aussie system! But playing in the snow is the best, and when the hot summers arrive, you’ll really appreciate them.
3. Tipping is a must
Back home in Australia, tipping is more of an optional extra reserved for great service. But service workers in Canada rely on tips to supplement their minimum wage pay packets. The standard tipping rate is 15%, rising to 20% for excellent service. The only time it is acceptable not to tip is if you receive exceptionally poor service.
4. Canadians drive on the right
If you plan on driving in your new home, you’ll need to adjust to life in the ‘wrong’ lane. You’ll also need to find out the rules about driving licenses in your province. Some, such as Ontario, allow drivers to obtain Canadian license by virtue of holding an Australian license. Other provinces will require you to apply and even get tested before granting you a license.
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5. Canada is a bilingual country
The official languages of Canada are English and French. Don’t worry if you don’t speak French though, the vast majority of Canadians speak either only English or both languages. It’s only rural parts of French-speaking Quebec where you might run into Canadians who don’t speak English.
6. Prepare for maple syrup heaven
It’s a total cliché but it’s true – Canada has amazing maple syrup. In fact, 80% of the world’s maple syrup is produced here, mainly in Quebec. You’ll soon be adding it to everything from breakfast to baking (drool).
7. Try not to mistake Canadians for Americans
Yes, to the untrained ear Canadian and American accents may sound similar – but a sure-fire way to offend many Canadians is to mistake the two. If in doubt, don’t comment or guess. Though they share a continent, Canadians are proud of having their own distinct culture and identity and don’t take too kindly to being lumped in with the US.
8. The animals are pretty fearsome
We don’t want to scare you, but if you’re lucky enough to be out exploring the vast and spectacular Canadian wilderness, you could come across any number of dangerous wild creatures, including polar bears, cougars and grizzly bears. While they are, of course, an incredible sight, make sure you take appropriate safety precautions.
9. Idiot strings aren’t just for kids
Remember when you were little and your mum would tie your mittens onto two ends of string and thread it through your coat sleeves? That’s an idiot string. And with the freezing Canadian winters to contend with, this practical way to avoid losing your gloves in the snow is used by people of all ages.
10. Poutine will be your new favourite food
Trust us, this sounds a little weird but it’s so good. Canada’s favourite dish is poutine, a dish of French fries and cheese curds topped with meaty gravy. It’s the ultimate winter comfort food and the perfect antidote to one too many strong Canadian beers. Originally from Quebec, you’ll now find delicious poutineries all over the country.
11. Canadians are a nation of sports fans
As well as internationally popular sports like soccer, basketball and baseball, get ready to enjoy Canadian favourites like lacrosse and ice hockey. And whether you’re spectating or giving it a go yourself, you can’t miss the quintessential Canadian winter tradition that is shinny – an informal ice hockey game played on your local frozen lake.
12. It’s all about the Great Outdoors
The outdoorsy life is a big part of Canadian culture. Even city-dwellers love to get out into the country’s vast countryside to indulge in some weekend adventuring. Activities like fishing, hunting and hiking are popular ways to unwind, along with skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking. For the most stunning scenery, head to one of Canada’s 39 National Parks to see everything from mountains and glaciers to forests and waterfalls.
13. Politeness is highly valued
Canadians pride themselves on being polite and courteous, so don’t expect the most direct communication. Manners are important and you might find work etiquette, for example, feels more formal than back home.
14. Don’t miss the festivals
Expat life in Canada is a fantastic opportunity to embrace some new festivals and traditions. The most famous highlights include the Calgary Stampede, the Quebec Winter Carnival and Canada Day, but you’ll also find a whole host of smaller events celebrating everything from poutine to fireworks.