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Canadian culture derives from an amalgamation of various immigrant cultures. Indeed, many newly-arrived expats may be surprised to find remnants of their own culture reflected in Canada’s various customs. While culture shock in Canada is not a problem most expats are likely to deal with, there are still a few things worth knowing.
Language barrier in Canada
Language barriers are unlikely to be an issue for expats, as the majority of the country is English-speaking, apart from Quebec whose population is mostly Francophone. Quebec is culturally and linguistically distinct from the rest of the country and expats moving to its capital, Montreal, will benefit significantly from learning French.
Cultural differences in Canada
The large cities, especially Toronto and Victoria, reflect a strong British heritage, while Montreal is proudly French and Vancouver hosts many Asian cultures. Where America prides itself on its integration of cultures, Canada encourages co-existence in an 'ice cream swirl' or, as it is commonly referred to, a cultural mosaic. Nearly a quarter of Canada's population originate from a different country.
While various cultures are encouraged to maintain their traditions and flourish, the mainstream culture is very similar to that of the US – which will be familiar to most expats owing to America's far-reaching film and television industry.
Geographical distances in Canada
What may come as a surprise to expats is more geographical than cultural. The incredible size of Canada makes driving even just to the next town quite a journey. Driving across Canada, from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, is almost equivalent to the distance between the UK and Pakistan.
Weather in Canada
One of the biggest challenges expats will encounter is the weather in Canada. Many newcomers, especially those from warmer climates, will have to get used to long and often harsh winters. The northern territories are at the receiving end of the most extreme levels, but provinces and cities closer to the United States border typically enjoy more temperate weather. That said, summer is usually lovely and warm, with both the west and east coasts basking in milder conditions.
►Are you an expat moving to Canada with kids? Then Education and Schools in Canada is essential reading.
►See Cost of Living in Canada to get an idea of how much to expect to pay for basic goods and services.
"We haven’t experienced any major culture shock, but there are still some days where we may have said or done something that a Canadian didn’t understand and vice versa, and it made for an awkward moment. But overall, we have adjusted quite easily to the way of life here." Read more about Catherine's experience in Canada in our interview.
Are you an expat living in Canada?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Canada. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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