I’m a born and raised Canadian. I say about like “a-boat,” regularly use the term “loonie” in everyday conversation (even if it’s not the right currency), and am constantly saying sorry (heavy on the “o,” of course).
That being said, I haven’t lived in Canada for over 2 years now. And I don’t see myself moving back anytime soon.
My degree (and future jobs) are in the UK. Even if it wasn’t, my wanderlust would keep my drifting around the globe.
I wouldn’t be able to settle in Canada. Not now, anyway.
But that doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t live there.
It’s a pretty awesome country. I sometimes wish I wanted to live there – it’d make my life a lot cheaper with the lack of visa applications alone.
Who better to tell you about the pros and cons of living in Canada than a born and bred Canadian?
- 1 Pro: Canada has 4 Distinct Seasons
- 2 Con: 1 of Those Seasons is Winter
- 3 Pro: Canada is Stunning
- 4 Con: But Flights Are Expensive
- 5 Pro: Canada Has Universal Healthcare
- 6 Con: Which Can Mean Slow Treatment
- 7 Pro: Canada’s Economy is Booming
- 8 Con: But Our Dollar is Low
- 9 Pro: In Canada, Primary and Secondary Education are Free
- 10 Con: But Costs of Living and Taxes are High
- 11 Pro: Canada is a Very Multicultural Country
- 12 Con: With Costly Visas
- 13 Pro: Canada Doesn’t (Currently) Have an Insane Government
- 14 Con: But You May Need to Know French
- 15 Pro: Canada Has Well-Spaced National Holidays
- 16 Con: But Jobs Favour Canadian Work Experience
- 17 Pro: Canada’s Crime Rates are Low
- 18 Con: But Outside Cities, Resources can be Scarce
- 19 Pro: We’re the Friendliest People You’ll Ever Meet
- 20 Con: But We Have Less Stores
Pro: Canada has 4 Distinct Seasons
Living in Canada means living with 4 distinct seasons: Summer, Fall/Autumn, Winter and Spring.
Each of those comes with it’s own pros and cons. Summer can get outrageously hot, but it’s generally sunny and beautiful. Fall brings the changing leaves that brighten every Canadian forest, but it brings cold winds. Winter is freezing. But I guess the snow is pretty, and people who like winter sports will enjoy this time of year. Spring is rainy, but it really does spawn May flowers that brighten the country with blooms.
The seasons are one of the things I miss most about my homeland. No where else in the world does them quite as well as Canada – especially fall. We rock those changing leaves.
Con: 1 of Those Seasons is Winter
And winter in Canada is COLD!
I grew up in Toronto, which is probably the second best place to be in the winter. The best is Vancouver, where it rarely snows and averages around 0-5C.
Toronto isn’t that lucky.
Montreal and the Prairies get it even worse. Montreal regularly has snow higher than cars. Calgary often gets snow in August (why do people even live there??).
When I lived in Nova Scotia, every year we’d get a weekly blizzard. The entire city would shut down. I was lucky to be on the hospital’s power grid so I never had to worry about losing power, but some people often had blackouts (called “whiteouts” in Canada if it’s from the cold).
If you decide living in Canada is for you, invest in warm clothes and (potentially) a generator!
Pro: Canada is Stunning
Canada is one of the most gorgeous countries in the world. Our natural landscapes are breathtaking. From national parks to the Rocky Mountains to expansive lakes to the rugged Canadian shield, Canada is an Instagram dream!
We have impressive cities, like Toronto, with iconic cityscapes. We have small towns that still carry the spirit of the first British settlers. The majority of our land is unencumbered natural space, with rolling plains and towering mountains.
Whether you’re a city or country or middle-of-nowhere kind of person, you’ll love living in Canada.
Canada is also teaming with wildlife. Growing up, we regularly got raccoons in our backyard, squirrels running amok and saw foxes on our drives north. Deer, coyotes and moose are less common spots in the city. Outside of the city, you’ll even see black bears in Ontario.
In BC, they get wolves and grizzlies, as well.
In the territories and northern prairies, you’ll find polar bears, seals, walrus and arctic foxes.
I know nothing about birds, but I’ve seen a lot of different ones around Canada. Hawks and eagles are a magnificent sight, soaring above the forests.
We also have lots of fish – making it a cheap dinner option. Salmon jump backwards up waterfalls once a year. Dolphins and whales frequent our shores.
It’s amazing to grow up with that kind of wildlife at your doorstep.
Con: But Flights Are Expensive
This is only a problem if you like to travel. …but who doesn’t like to travel??
Unfortunately, flights in Canada are very expensive. The 2-hour flight from Toronto to Halifax that I regularly took for university averaged $400 CAD round trip.
If you’re from Canada, that might not seem insane. But when you go to Europe and find out you can travel 5 hours for $20GBP on Ryanair, it’s a shock.
One of the reasons flights are so expensive is because we don’t have discount airlines. We’ve tried, but they never seem to stick.
Our “cheaper” (not always) airline is Porter, which flies from Toronto Island rather than Pearson airport. It’s a great option for short-haul flights to the US or certain places in Canada.
If you’re going to Europe or Asia, be prepared for a hefty price.
Living in Canada will mean saving a bit longer for your dream trips.
Pro: Canada Has Universal Healthcare
I had no idea how amazing universal healthcare was until I moved away. Sure, I’d gotten sick abroad before, but I figured the costs were just because I was foreign.
In Canada, emergency healthcare and seeing a doctor are free. Certain tests are also free.
That time I thought my appendix was about to burst but it was just gas? Yep, that was free! (And super embarrassing.)
Things like dentists, optometrists, therapists, prescriptions and optional surgeries aren’t covered by our universal healthcare. But most workplace health plans will have some sort of benefit package to reduce those costs.
When I moved to New Zealand and asked my job about the benefits, they were so confused. They told me about the free coffee and tea in the break room.
Healthcare is completely separate from work there.
In Canada, it is expected that (most) employers provide their employees with a health care benefit plan. These vary from job to job, and province to province.
Con: Which Can Mean Slow Treatment
Living in Canada can mean a lot of waiting in doctors offices.
Because everyone has access to healthcare, everyone goes to the doctor.
Our doctors aren’t privately paid like in the US, so they make less money (but still more than most people). Many of our doctors leave for the US to take advantage of the extra money, or work fewer hours since they don’t have the incentive to work overtime.
So there aren’t enough doctors to meet the demand.
This is a minor irritation if you’re waiting for a physical, but it can be a real problem if you need a significant surgery.
Unfortunately, wait times for major surgeries are long. Even trying to get and MRI or CAT scan that isn’t a strict emergency can take months.
If you can afford it, there are some private clinics in Canada that will take you. Or you can go to the US for treatment.
But if you’re tight on money, that isn’t an option.
Pro: Canada’s Economy is Booming
Canada is the 10th largest economy in the world. Our main industries are service, oil and agriculture. But you wouldn’t know that in the cities, where businesses like law and banking are thriving.
There are lots of industry sectors in Canada, giving lots of options for work. Many of these options are location specific (i.e. businesses being based in major cities, fishing being coastal). If you plan on living in Canada, make sure to research your area of work before deciding where to settle.
Con: But Our Dollar is Low
Historically, our dollar has always been under the US, UK and EU. On average over the last 10 years, we have been about $0.90 to the US’s $1. Exchange rates for the UK (before the Brexit issues) were 2x the Canadian dollar and 1.5x for the EU. We’re usually on par with the Australian dollar.
This isn’t to say our money has no value. In fact, you can go pretty far with it.
However, this makes some of the items we import more expensive.
Apparently our groceries cost more than the US. But, having lived in Britain and New Zealand, it’s really not that expensive in Canada. Shopping locally helps cut these costs.
If you’re considering living in Canada, be sure to check exchange rates before you go on holidays. Although it may benefit you when you move here: your money could be worth a lot more!
Pro: In Canada, Primary and Secondary Education are Free
I honestly thought this was the case around the world. It seems like such a basic requirement.
Living in Canada means that your children (or you – depending on your age) will get a free, quality education. Unlike the US, our public schools are not massively different than private schools (with the exception of specialities like sports and uniforms). Going to public school (which we don’t even refer to it as – it’s just “school”) isn’t seen as negative or low income.
While curriculums vary from province to province, they don’t seem to change very much.
Lately our biggest debate in Ontario has been sex ed. In Canada, we don’t allow religious schools – except Catholic ones. (It’s weird, I know.) The Catholic schools sometimes class with our politicians on what should/shouldn’t be taught in health class. Our public schools do, too, but the Catholic schools make it newsworthy.
So consider upping your birds and the bees talk if you decide to live in Canada.
Also our higher education is cheap. I paid $16,000 CAD per year for my undergraduate degree. However, scholarships often knock this down. While you have to apply to some, others – like mine – are based on your grades. Mine covered almost half of my tuition – and I kept it all four years.
College and trade programs can cost even less.
However, our fees are higher for international students. The UK and the US definitely charge this way as well, so it’s not unusual. But it does add to the costs of living in Canada if you’re studying.
Con: But Costs of Living and Taxes are High
Again, I never realized this – partially because I haven’t had to pay proper taxes yet (thank god for not earning any money! … wait, maybe I shouldn’t be so happy about that).
Cost of living is high in cities due to rising housing costs. Toronto especially has INSANE house prices. Most people I know are still living at home because of this or they have to rent.
The further you get from downtown, the lower these prices go. But then you have to deal with a commute.
As I mentioned above, some people consider our groceries to be expensive. I’m not sure where they’re from, but I want to go there. They must get half of their produce for free!
But honestly our prices aren’t terrible. It’s definitely manageable with a stable income.
Canadian tax rates are higher than most countries. That’s partially because of our universal healthcare. These tax rates go towards maintaining our country, supplementing education and allowing everyone treatment for illness.
Personally, I think that’s worth the higher dollar amount.
Admittedly, if I made more than the pennies I currently do and I had to give half of it away, I might be crabbier about it. But I still believe it’s a fair trade.
It also seems like things cost more than they do because, like the US, tax isn’t included in prices. It’s so silly!! I love New Zealand and the UK because I know exactly how much everything will be.
To me, that’s worse than the actual cost of the taxes.
Pro: Canada is a Very Multicultural Country
This is one of the most positive things about living in Canada. I grew up in such a multicultural country, with people of seemingly every race and creed coexisting.
Toronto is especially known for this. We have sections of the city where each community first arrived and developed. Nowadays, there aren’t strict boundaries, but you’ll still find people of similar origins sticking together to share their culture with others.
I grew up in the Ukrainian area, even though that’s not my lineage. And it was fantastic! Like other districts, there were annual celebrations of their culture, amazing food and interesting people that built a vibrant community for everyone to enjoy.
Unfortunately, as is the case with most of the world now, we do have some negative pockets. But we’re working on that. Years ago we fought Quebec when they tried to ban the burka. And we continue to fight for the everyone’s rights to express their culture and their religion freely.
To me, the multiculturalism and the “mixing bowl” style we have (where everyone can maintain their heritage without melting into one homogenous blob, like the US) is the greatest thing about living in Canada. Sure the trees are pretty in the fall, but I’m proudest of our multiculturalism.
Con: With Costly Visas
I’ve never had to go through this here, but I have had to do it with a number of other countries.
The price tag can definitely be a deterrent. Apparently it costs up to $1,500 CAD for a Canadian work visa.
My New Zealand visa cost a scarce $500 NZD in comparison. However, my UK visa cost over $1,200 CAD (potentially more with all the extraneous costs) – but that was for a student visa.
We do let in a lot of immigrants every year. The process is said to be a lot easier than in the US. And some countries or jobs don’t need a work visa.
You need to prove that you can provide something to the Canadian economy to get a work visa. If you’re a skilled worker, it’ll make the process a lot easier.
Pro: Canada Doesn’t (Currently) Have an Insane Government
Thank the gods!
We just re-elected Trudeau for his second term. While he’s not a miracle, he is a godsend compared to what’s happening in the rest of the world.
I just endured the UK elections (which I got to vote in, but unfortunately it didn’t swing the vote) and have been watching the nightmare in the US. It makes me so happy that Canada chose not to elect the Trump/Johnson-esque option in October 2019.
This has kept many of our liberal policies safe. Abortions, gay marriage, weed, and many more things are still legal here.
Even though I love the UK, I sometimes wish I was still living in Canada for the simplicity of our current government.
Con: But You May Need to Know French
This isn’t the case for most jobs. So don’t worry if, like me, you’re incapable of saying more than three words in French.
You’ll really need to know French if you live in Quebec or Ottawa, where being bilingual is more common.
Certain jobs in these areas will require you to get a certification in both languages. This is especially true for government work.
But remember, this is Quebecois French. It’s different from France French or Acadian French (all of which also exist in Canada). Jobs don’t usually discriminate between them, but you may have to adapt to fit the company’s type of French.
Make sure you know what language requirements you need for your career of choice before you decide to live in Canada.
Pro: Canada Has Well-Spaced National Holidays
I miss this so much!
Because our vacation time is no where near that of the UK or New Zealand, our government has thoughtfully provided a long weekend roughly every six weeks.
These are national holidays that require most businesses to close down. If you have to work on them, you are paid 1.5x as much.
Some of these holidays are global, like Christmas or Easter. Others are nation specific, like Canada Day. A few we just made up to get a day off, like Family Day.
These well laid out breaks are great for mental health and travel (and I guess spending time with your family). They help with the monotony of work in the dark days of winter and let you enjoy the warm summer weather.
Con: But Jobs Favour Canadian Work Experience
Unfortunately, we are very Western-focused when it comes to jobs. Canada prefers Canadian work experience when hiring applicants.
Secondarily, we’ll accept Western work experience. But this could require additional testing, recertification or more extensive interviews.
We do it on a lesser scale than the US, to my knowledge, but it still negatively impacts immigrants.
One of our family friends was a Serbian engineer, who had to spend years trying to get the same respect for her qualifications here. To this day she has to supplement her income.
It’s very unfortunate and can put people off moving here.
Research your profession before moving to Canada. See what they require and if your skills are seen as transferable. If they’re not, look into what additional work you’ll have to do or research other employment options.
Most people I’ve met say living in Canada is worth the hassle, especially since it can help their children. But it’s good to know what you’re getting into ahead of time.
Pro: Canada’s Crime Rates are Low
I’m a true crime junkie. It’s a recent development, but like everything else in my life I’ve gone all or nothing.
So I’m now way more aware of crime than I ever was before.
Growing up in Toronto, I never heard about any crime. That’s not because there wasn’t any – I just wasn’t looking for it.
Meanwhile my sister and our nanny were cataloguing all the Amber Alerts and theorizing about break ins.
But Canada really is a safe place. We have city police, provincial police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (“Mounties”) – they’re our CIA.
I’m not going to spout off statistics, but you can certainly find a lot that prove that our crime is lower than many other countries.
The fact that we don’t allow guns is a huge part in this (compared to our southern neighbours).
Big cities like Toronto have the most potential for crime. You’ll always find stories on the news – like anywhere else.
But growing up, I always felt safe here. I would often go out at night with friends or go for walks with my mom in the dark.
As long as you’re reasonably careful, you’ll be ok.
Con: But Outside Cities, Resources can be Scarce
This is partially because Canada is so giant. A lot of our northern spaces are uninhabited. It’s difficult to get food to small, rural towns – especially if there aren’t many people.
This drives up the price significantly. In many small towns in the Prairies, the price of lettuce is in the double digits.
Skilled workers’ salaries usually reflect this inflation. But don’t be fooled by the higher income – you’ll be spending almost all of it on necessities.
So plan ahead before you deciding on living in Canada. Figure out the costs of food and housing before you get sucked in by the large salary.
Pro: We’re the Friendliest People You’ll Ever Meet
I stand by this.
Some Canadians are so polite they’ll deny it. But I’ve been outside of Canada for long enough now that I’m brash enough to say it: Canadians are delightful!
It’s not just that we apologize for everything (seriously, “sorry” is probably my most said word of 2019 … and every other year). It’s that we take the time to be polite and to help other people.
We smile at people on the street. We offer a helping hand with the door. We give up our seat to people in need – or even groups that want to sit together. We say “please” and “thank you” for every request, no matter how small. We chat with everyone – even if we don’t want to (I would have at least 200 hours of extra time if I took back all the unwanted chats I’ve had – often with strangers).
Sure, there are some grumpier people. I grew up in Toronto – which is known as the meanest place in Canada. But even then, we do all those things I just mentioned.
But, unlike the INSANELY friendly Maritimers, we don’t hand over money to (literally) every homeless person we see. We don’t say “good morning” to everyone we pass. And we’ve learned how to ignore some people – if only to save us time because Toronto is ginormous and we’d never get anywhere.
Living in Canada will mean adjusting to our friendliness and falling in love with how kind our citizens are.
Con: But We Have Less Stores
This seems like a very minor con compared to the last pro, but it is a huge annoyance.
Somehow, every shop seems to skip Canada. UK and US brands will cross the pond, but jump over Canada. Some even head to New Zealand before they come here! (I’m looking at you Pret a Manger!)
As I teenager, I was pissed. It meant all the cool stores were vacation visits. Or would cost an additional $40 CAD for shipping – and I don’t like online shopping.
Nowadays, more stores have crossed over. Things are slowly becoming more similar – even their stocks are largely the same.
But a number of unique brands still haven’t moved over here.
So, if you’re a shopaholic or a devotee of specific stores, check if they even exist here. Or else your life may get a lot more expensive.
Even though I don’t plan to live in Canada for (at least) the next 5 years, I do love it. It’s a really wonderful country and Toronto was a great place to grow up.
There are a lot of unique pros to living in Canada that I’ve never found anywhere else. Even the friendliest kiwis didn’t have the same charm as a Maritimer in the morning. And the leaves in the UK never crunch beneath your feet from all the rain.
It’s not any one thing that makes Canada great: it’s all of them.
You have to experience it to understand. And it’s worth experiencing.
What’s unique about your homeland?
All photos sourced from Unsplash.