Culture Shock in Canada

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Moose crossing sign as a symbol of culture in Canada
Much like the US, Canadian culture derives from an amalgamation of various immigrant groups. Expats arriving from many countries may be surprised to find remnants of their own culture reflected in the different Canadian characteristics.

While culture shock in Canada is not a problem that most expats are likely to have to deal with, there are still a few things worth knowing.

The cultural mix in Canada

The large cities, especially Toronto and Victoria, reflect a strong British heritage; Montreal is proudly French, and Vancouver mixes Indian and Asian cultures. Where America prides itself on integration of cultures in a said 'melting pot', Canada encourages coexistence in an 'ice cream swirl' or, as it is commonly referred to, a cultural mosaic.

While various cultures are encouraged to flourish; by and large, mainstream culture is very similar to that of the US – which will be largely familiar to expats as a result of the globalisation of the film and television industry. An exception is Quebec, a French lingual and cultural province that feels so at odds with the rest of Canada it sporadically tries to secede.

The language barrier in Canada

Unless expats are moving to Quebec they won't experience an issue when it comes to communication as everyone speaks English. Quebec is distinctly different culturally from the rest of the country and expats moving to Montreal will benefit significantly if they can speak French.

Geographical distances in Canada

What may come as a surprise to expats is more geographical than cultural. The incredible size of Canada makes driving to the next town easily as far as driving from one coast of England to the other. Driving across Canada itself is almost equivalent to the distance between the UK and Saudi Arabia. Most of the north isn't driven to at all. Even within towns it is difficult to get around without a vehicle, although larger cities have public transport similar to Europe.

Attitude towards foreigners in Canada

A bit of self-deprecating humour with a friendly 'howya doin' cheerfulness is the norm and, despite – or because of – the cold, the people are generally warm and welcoming to strangers. Canada is a popular destination among immigrants and is largely unaffected by the resentment towards ethnic groups that immigration can bring in the US and Europe.

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