So you want to move to Canada – 13 practical tips

1) Apply for a working holiday visa

If you are considering moving to Canada for any period of time, it is easiest to apply for a working holiday visa. This is a requirement if you want to live and work in the country. Canadian working holiday visas for either 12 or 24 months depending on your nationality. Having one of these is infinitely less stressful than subsisting on a 6 month holiday visa.

So where do I start, you may ask. To apply, you first need to create a profile on the IRCC ( Immigration, refugees, and citizenship Canada) website. You are then entered into a series of draws, which take place throughout the year. The IEC working holiday programme has the most draws, so it is most practical to enter into this one. A link to the site is below.

2) Pack for the season

The weather is one of the main reasons to move to Canada,it makes it a stunning country of extremes. In summer, you can expect temperatures to reach 30 degrees, whereas in winter they can easily drop to minus 30. When packing, it’s easiest not to try and bring everything you will need for a calendar year, you will end up paying a small fortune in baggage fees. Take seasonally appropriate clothing, and then purchase what you will need later in Canada. 

3) Think about winter before it arrives

If you move to Canada, you will soon discover what a real winter feels like. It’s easiest to prepare for it beforehand then being caught short. Here are some essential requirements:

  •  A winter jacket:  During a Canadian winter, it is not uncommon for the temperature to drop below -20 Celsius.  Head to Mountain Warehouse to pick up good quality jackets at a reasonably cheap price.
  • Winter tyres:  Canadian roads in winter become significantly more treacherous. In some provinces, you are legally required to fit winter tyres by a certain date, in others it is just recommended.  If you want, or need to purchase them, do so online and pay a mechanic to fit them. This costs in the region $400 as opposed to the $700 it would cost to buy the tyres in person.  Below is a link providing information on winter tyres by province.

  • Rust proofing: Winter will take its toll on your car. Left untreated, the cold and salt will ensure your vehicle will be coated in rust come the spring. If you have any intention of recouping some of the cost by eventually selling your car, then rust proofing is a prudent idea. It typically costs between $100 – $150 and will ensure your vehicle retains more value.
  • A shovel: You will have a legal obligation to ensure you keep your driveway clear when it snows. Make sure you have a shovel or you could be susceptible to a lawsuit if someone slips and injures themselves on your property.

4) Phone plans are expensive

One of the first things you will notice following your Canadian move is how expensive phone contracts are. Canadian hone companies are (quite reasonably) obliged to provide everyone in the country with network coverage. However, building the necessary equipment and maintaining it in the far north is very expensive, and the consumers foot the bill. Expect to pay upwards of $30 for a contract that gives you 250mb of data and 100 texts a month. The best policy for those on a budget is to stick to Wi-Fi and forsake data.

5) Long-distance calls aren’t so long-distance

In the good old United Kingdom you can make a call to next door or to Scotland and they will cost you the same. Canada is somewhat larger and a call between two different cities qualifies as long distance. Once again, consider using the Wi-Fi to Skype or Whatsapp to call someone instead of your precious data or cash.

6) Tipping

Yes, tipping in North America is a thing. You didn’t think the servers were being friendly because they fancied you, did you? The general consensus is that you leave 15% after meals. With drinks, you can get away with 10%. Servers in Canada often rely upon their tips to make their salary up to minimum wage.

7) Cheap petrol

There are few things more infuriating than paying a disproportionately large amount for petrol. Dotted around Canada are reserves, where people of with First Nation heritage can live and work. These communities are not taxed on certain products such as petrol and tobacco, so it is significantly less expensive to purchase them there. If you are taking a road trip, check to see if there are any reservations en-route.

8) Slang

As with any country, Canada has a whole host of colloquialisms. Here are some of the more practical ones that you can expect to hear.

  • Looney: Meaning a $1 coin
  • Tooney: Meaning a$2 coin

9) Don’t forget the tax

 In certain Canadian provinces, the price of listed items does not include tax. This means that things are slightly more expensive than they look (something this writer found out the hard way when trying to buy his shopping with the exact amount of cash). Remember to factor this in when making a purchase.

10) Cottages

One of the main reasons to move to Canada is the spectacular nature on offer. Canadians aren’t immune to their countryside’s charm either.Many have a countryside getaway.If someone invites you to their cottage, the chances are they are not trying to murder you, but rather show you some of the country’s breathtaking natural beauty. Be sure to take them up on their offer.

11) Cannabis

Cannabis has been legalised in Canada. This means that you can purchase and possess it legally. Different provinces, however, have different laws on where you can smoke it, so do your research before you go lighting up. Oh, and a statement of the obvious, you can’t drive or operate machinery when under the influence. Here is a link to the Canadian government’s official website.

12) Helpful Terminology

Britain does not contain groups of people who can claim to have indigenous heritage; Canada however, does.  For someone coming to a country, it can be difficult to keep up with the correct terminology used. People of a Native American background are now referred to using the term ‘First Nation’.

13) Quebec

The chances are, if you are considering moving to Quebec, you will already be aware that it is a Francophone province. If not, surprise. In order to preserve its French culture, there is strict legislation which states that all street and shop signs must be in French. In most places, residents will speak English as well as French. If you are in a particularly rural location, or Quebec city though, expect to be addressed in French.

For those of you who do not parle Francais, Quebec is rather keen on teaching immigrants how to speak French. The ministry of immigration provides free classroom courses. Check out the link below.