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Occupying a vast northern corner of the Earth, Canada is simply massive in scope 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 major oceans: the Pacific, the Arctic and the Atlantic.
Influences from all over the globe can be seen across Canada. The country’s British and French origins feature in the European architecture; the American cultural influences through fanatic sports leagues and entertainment; Inuit traditions are realised through their contribution to the country’s rich ancient history; and, more recently, Asian immigrants have made their mark on vibrant neighbourhoods throughout the country.
This progressive, diverse and well-developed country is, unsurprisingly, a highly sought-after expat destination that attracts immigrants from every part of the globe. Canada was built by foreigners and is a place that hasn’t turned its back on those from abroad. In fact, it claims one of the highest per-capita immigration rates in the world.
The visa application process can, however, often seem quite daunting. But with a relatively small population, a large portion of which is soon-retiring baby boomers, it does mean that Canada will need to fill an assortment of jobs to ensure the gears of its economy continue to grind forward.
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 the communications industries are thriving.
Expats should pay careful attention when they negotiate their salaries. While the cost of living in Canada is certainly reasonable when compared to the likes of many of the Asian superpowers and European metropolises, tax rates are high, so a lucrative salary can be reduced significantly. Yet such deductions also give expats access to some of the country's fantastic infrastructural assets, namely universal health insurance that grants near-comprehensive coverage, a high-standard healthcare system, and free education at public schools, many of which are well reputed.
One drawback that can be a source of worry are 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 or Prairie provinces will need to prime themselves for the severe winter cold. Snow can cover the ground for nearly six months of the year in these areas and temperatures can drop to well below freezing during the peak of the bad weather.
Typical of a well-developed, wealthy Western country, however, 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.
Apart from the cold, most expats find that their quality of life improves in Canada, with most centres in the country offering a multicultural societal blend set against a backdrop of rugged and spectacular scenery.
There's much to consider with a move to Canada, and those planning on relocating will need to take the time to learn the particulars of their intended city, but overall, it is fair to expect a calm, peaceful and well-adjusted life in Canada.
Population: 38 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. The second-largest country on the planet, 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.
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