- Download our Moving to Canada Guide (PDF)
Occupying a vast northern corner of the Earth, Canada is simply massive and replete with natural beauty, from glistening lakes and lush forests to soaring mountains and icy tundras. It is the second-largest country in the world and has the world's longest coastline spanning three oceans.
Living in Canada as an expat
The visa application process can often seem quite daunting, but there are plenty of resources to assist expats. With a relatively small population, a large portion of which are soon-retiring baby boomers, Canada needs to fill an assortment of jobs to ensure continued economic growth. Canada has an abundance of natural resources, including off-shore natural gas reserves and on-shore oil sands, and many positions are available in its energy sector, as well as in its major cities where financial services, real estate and communications industries are thriving.
Most expats find that their quality of life improves in Canada, with excellent infrastructure, great service delivery, a safe environment and friendly people, all set against a backdrop of rugged and spectacular scenery.
Cost of living in Canada
Expats should pay careful attention when they negotiate their salaries. While the cost of living in Canada is certainly reasonable compared to many of the Asian superpowers and European metros, tax rates are very high. Yet such deductions also give expats access to some of the country's fantastic public services, namely universal health insurance that grants near-comprehensive healthcare coverage and free education at public schools, many of which are reputable.
Climate in Canada
One factor that can be a drawback is the fierce Canadian winters. Expats moving to the coastal and southern regions of Canada won’t suffer as much, but those heading for Calgary, Edmonton or elsewhere in the interior provinces will need to prime themselves for severe cold. Snow can cover the ground for nearly six months of the year in these areas. That said, Canada’s buildings are well equipped to withstand freezing temperatures, and in some cases, cities have even created heated underground pathways between malls, offices and apartment buildings.
Expat families and children in Canada
Canada is a wonderful and safe country in which to raise a family. Public education is generally excellent in Canada and is free for permanent residents and work visa holders, and there are plenty of private and international schooling options, too.
When it comes to being out and about with the family, there are myriad summer and winter outdoor pursuits to keep the little ones engaged. Park and beach days, hikes and mountain biking are just a few of the many activities expats can look forward to.
There's much to consider with a move to Canada, and those planning on relocating will need to take the time to research their intended city, but overall, it is fair to expect a calm, peaceful and well-adjusted life in Canada.
Population: 38.7 million
Capital city: Ottawa
Neighbouring countries: Canada shares a border with the United States of America to the south, as well as the US state of Alaska to the northwest.
Geography: The land is a vast wilderness populated by large modern cities, often against the rustic backdrop of beautiful natural surroundings. It boasts vast mountain ranges and prairies, massive lakes, lush forests and rugged coastlines.
Political system: Federal parliamentary constitutional democracy
Major religions: Christianity
Main languages: English and French
Money: The Canadian Dollar (CAD), divided into 100 cents.
Tipping: 5 to 20 percent depending on the type of service.
Time: There are six time zones in Canada, ranging from GMT-8 in the west to GMT-3.5 in the east, or GMT-7 and GMT-2.5 from November to March.
Electricity: 110V, 60Hz. Standard plugs are flat two-pins, or plugs with a third round grounding pin.
Internet domain: .ca
International dialling code: +1
Emergency contacts: 911
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. The rail system connects most major cities and smaller communities while buses are modern, safe and clean. Cycling is encouraged, while metered taxis are regulated.
►To learn more about day-to-day life here, check out Culture Shock in Canada
Expat Interviews"I really enjoy having access to all the amenities of a big city, without the stress, noise and pollution that usually comes with big-city living." Read the rest of the interview with Emmanuelle, a French expat in Canada.
"Expats, like everywhere else, tend to stay together at the beginning, but if you practice activities in Vancouver, you will quickly broaden your circle of friends." Learn more about Francois's expat experience in the full interview.
"Newer housing is fabulous with double sinks in bathrooms, en suites off all master bedrooms, modern kitchen appliances, and my favourite, laundry upstairs with the bedrooms!” Find out more about Claire’s experiences as a British expat in Canada.
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.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global Health Insurance
With Cigna, you won't have to rely on foreign public health care systems, which may not meet your needs. Cigna allows you to speak to a doctor on demand, for consultations or instant advice, wherever you are in the world. They also offer full cancer care across all levels of cover, and settle the cost of treatments directly with the provider. Cigna is currently offering a 10% discount for seniors (over 60) on their Silver package.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.