Living in Canada can be a life-changing experience. It is a nation that boasts beautiful countryside that is interspersed with modern cities. It is a popular living location with people who are looking to bask in natural beauty whilst enjoying all the modern conveniences that are found in the Western world.
Canada is also frequently ranked number one in the United Nations annual Human Development Index, which considers factors such as job opportunities, quality of schooling, life expectancy, and living cost. It has one of the world’s strongest economies and is a member of the G8, the world’s most prosperous nations.
Whilst Canada covers a vast area, the majority of people live in cities that are positioned within 200 km of the US border, leaving the larger part of the country less inhabited. Northern and Western Canada are popular with nature lovers worldwide, and these areas are also home to the last Inuit (Eskimo) communities.
Canada as an expat destination
First nation aboriginal tribes originally inhabited Canada, and it wasn’t until the 17th and 18th centuries that the Europeans started to establish settlements there.
Canada remains part of the British Commonwealth and is subsequently very popular with expats from both the UK and France. However, despite its European background, Canada shares much more economic and social similarities with the US. For this reason, it is highly popular with US expats who are looking for experiences outside their home country.
Today Canada’s strong economy means that they can accept more immigrants from around the world than any other western nation (per capita). For people from the US and the UK, the legal requirements for living in Canada and gaining acceptance are relatively straightforward compared to other places in the world.
Cost of living in Canada
Many expatriates find that the cost of living in Canada is much lower than that in their home country. The housing costs are much cheaper than other countries, and people who relocate to Canada looking to purchase property will find that they can get more for their money here.
Mercer’s 2011 survey of expatriate living costs Toronto (59) overtook Vancouver (65) to become the most expensive Canadian city in the ranking, followed by Montreal (79) and Calgary (96). Ranking 114, Ottawa is the least expensive city in Canada.
For the full information you will need to compare the cost of living in your home country with that of popular cities, please see our relocation guides. They contain full sample costing for all popular goods and services in cities throughout the world.
Canada’s population consists of approximately 32 million. The main languages spoken are Canada’s official languages, English (59%), and French (23%), with the remaining 18% consisting of other languages.
Canada experiences four distinct seasons, with long, cold winters and warm summers. Coastal temperatures are often warmer than that inland, especially during the winter.
Expat job & career opportunities
The Canadian government has demonstrated a willingness to employ foreign workers and has historically been quick to recognize that skilled immigrants are important to the Canadian economy’s growth.
The majority of expats living in Canada find work through insurance, catering, or production industries, and there tends to be good availability of office jobs for ex-pats. In the past, Canada has suffered from a deficit of skilled engineering candidates. For this reason, expats who work in the field of project management, process, and engineering are in higher demand.
The unemployment rate in Canada, as of September 2009, was 8.4%. The country is currently experiencing a shortage of positions for students, but rises are being observed in the retail and wholesale trade sectors.
It is worth noting that some expats are legally able to work in Canada without a work permit. A list of exempt occupations can be found at http://www.cic.gc.ca. The Government of Canada website also provides useful information on moving to Canada as a foreign worker http://www.workingincanada.gc.ca/content_pieces-eng.do?cid=1.
Key facts every expat should know about Canada
- If you wish to apply for an immigration visa for living in Canada, make sure you plan well ahead; they can take up to three years to process.
- If you do successfully secure an immigrant visa, you will be required to produce a large amount of paperwork when you first arrive in Canada. You will need evidence that you have sufficient funds to cover all your living costs for at least six months, a detailed list of ALL the personal or household items you are bringing with you in your luggage, and a further list of all those that will be following by shipment.
- Even though British Columbia is renowned for its marijuana culture, it is actually illegal in Canada. While there are special bars and restaurants where smokers can go, it is unwise to flaunt it.
- Some expats can legally work in Canada without a work permit.
- If you ship your belongings to Canada, you must be present in Customs to clear them. If you are not there, they will be “held in bond” by the Customs Office.
Expat Info Desk currently has city guides available for living in Toronto and living in Vancouver. These exhaustive relocation guides contain everything you need to know about living in these Canadian cities and will assist you to:
- relocate efficiently and effectively with minimum stress.
- Settle into your new life quickly and easily and find the help and assistance you need when you need it.
- Identify areas to live in that suit your lifestyle and budget.
- Find the right places to meet like-minded people.
- Find schools that are suitable for your children and their learning needs.
- Ensure that your family gets the most of their experiences abroad.
- Prepare for the new culture in advance and avoid any cultural traps.
- Deal with any transition challenges.
- Cut through red tape and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.
Unlike a book, the guides are regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that the information is accurate and reliable. Because it is written by real expats who live and work in Canada, you can be assured that you are accessing the information you need as written by people who really are in the know.