Expats' choice

Expats’ choice: Pros and cons of relocation to Canada 

Canada is one of the top relocation destinations for Americans and people from developing countries. Nearly 300,000 immigrants come to Canada each year and there is a reason for that – lots of advantages for expats. Because Canada’s economy is the 10th largest economy in the world, there is a strong employment market for skilled and experienced individuals. If you are among them, and one of the lucky ones to receive a relocation invitation, this article is for you. We’ll disclose many of the ups and downsides for those who are interested in an international relocation to the Great White North.

There are pros and cons to every country, and as well relocation itself is not an easy process regardless of the destination. As at Clearmove we’ve already discussed common causes of failed assignments, this article focuses on the specific benefits and negatives of moving to Canada. Overall, we have many good things to say, but some matters may give you pause before you buy a pair of snowshoes.

Public healthcare system

This is definitely a pro. Canada strongly believes that every person has a right to equal and exceptional healthcare, that’s why its free universal healthcare system called Medicare is an example for much of the world. Certainly, it’s not entirely free as it’s funded by taxes and costs about C$4,000 ($3200) a year for a single person. Still, the county allocates a big portion of its annual GDP on healthcare compared to other countries.

However, newcomers to Canada must be aware that there is a 3-month waiting period before you can apply for a public health insurance card. Thus, it makes sense to get private health insurance for this interim. Another thing you need to know is that not everything is covered by the national healthcare – dentist, braces, or prescription glasses should be paid out of your pocket or by insurance that covers Medicare’s gaps.

A welcoming and diverse melting pot

An absolute pro. The Great White North is generally progressive and multicultural. In Toronto, for example, more than 140 languages are spoken. Canada has been so welcoming to immigrants that nowadays over 20% of the country’s population are those who were born abroad.

A side benefit to Canada is that English is the official and predominant language, although  French is the primary language in the Quebec area. So if you can speak a reasonable degree of English, settling in most of Canada is relatively easy, compared to nations that may require you to learn a second or third language to truly integrate.

If you are relocating to Canada you can expect to find multicultural communities, and this can make a big difference in becoming comfortable in your new environment. Communicating with people in a similar situation, or with a similar background, makes the burden of relocating easier. By the way, Clearmove has researched this topic and published a guide on how to socialize in another country.

A great social system

Here are several points to cover:

  1. Canada’s public school system has a prominent reputation and it’s free up to high school graduation
  2. Canada experiences one of the lowest crime rates in the world
  3. Paid maternity leave in Canada is 12-18 months

While on the subject, Clearmove has recently published a list of countries with the best parental leave policies.

The decent social system factor is a major draw for many, particularly those who want to start a family or have children. Family needs are a major factor to consider whenever relocating, and Canada does offer a lot to make it a bit easier for you.

The great outdoors and travel opportunities

From mountains and lakes to urban life, Canada is known for its abundance of nature. And who hasn’t heard about its wildlife – bison, black bears, wolves, bobcats, humpback whales, sea otters. Oh, did you know that nearly two-thirds of the world’s polar bears population live in Canada? Well, now you do.

The Great White North boasts some of the most beautiful and scenic landscapes. And there are so many activities you can do from hiking and biking to skiing and fishing, kayaking and sailing.

The Weather

Pro and con at the same time. Canada’s weather patterns are extremely unpredictable. It can easily switch from sunny 24-degrees Celsius to a freezing 4-degree throughout the day. You’ll frequently need to layer clothes and take an umbrella with you just in case.

Probably the most annoying is wintertime as it can be bone-chilling with a temperature of -20 degrees in some areas. In summer, the temperatures are an average of 20-30 degrees but some areas might feel very humid, like Ontario.

It is difficult to adapt to Canada’s extreme weather for immigrants from countries with tropical climates or those who love warm and sunny weather. But if snow is nearly a myth in your country and you always wanted to experience a white Christmas, then relocating to Canada may turn into a winter wonderland where you can take part in skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, skating on frozen lakes, dog-sledding, and building a snowman. Those activities will definitely keep you warm in the winter months.

Cost of living and taxes

According to Numbeo, the average annual cost of living in Toronto (without rent) for a single person is $1,010, and for a family $3,650. Québec is a bit lower – $878 and $3222. Still, these numbers are quite high compared to many countries. Moreover, some of the things you took for granted in your home country, such as renting a house, hiring a cleaner, or eating out, may become luxuries in Canada.

Because the government’s amazing social programs and free healthcare are paid by taxes, you will be taking just a little more than half your salary home on average. Also, whatever you buy can have provincial taxes, which adds up to quite a big amount of money in total.

Initially, relocation to Canada makes sense if you are already offered a position with a solid net salary, better even with covered housing costs. Otherwise, just coming to the country and looking for luck might be not the best option, especially if the cost of living in your current country is lower than in Canada.

Expats’ experience

We’ve questioned several people who have moved to Canada about their thoughts on relocation.

Anastasia, moved to Vancouver from New Zealand 1 year ago

“In NZ most people prefer to live in private detached houses. Therefore cities look like huge villages and everything is far away. In comparison, Vancouver is only 30km away from the USA border. It takes around 24 hours to get to Europe from NZ but just a 9h direct flight from Vancouver to London or Amsterdam. 

Electricity bills in the winter are way smaller than back in Auckland, even though the climate is similar. I really like that lots of cars are electric and there are charging spots everywhere you go. Moreover, the government subsidizes buying an electric car for $8000 and a hybrid for $4000. While both countries have beautiful nature, Canada clearly has a focus on winter sports whereas NZ’s focus is on beach entertainment. In addition, people in Canada love camping and outdoor activities in the summer months.

There are downsides, however, particularly about costs of living: a one-bedroom apartment costs nearly $500,000 to buy, so compared to other countries accommodation is not affordable and people can rent apartments for almost the whole of their lives.“

Alexandra, moved to British Columbia after living in the USA, Russia, and China

“There are multiple pros to Canada. The people first of all are very polite, friendly, pleasant, and smiley. They are humble, disciplined, and sensitive (so they may be offended a bit easier than other nationalities, particularly younger people). They are very tolerant nonetheless, generally happy for people to do as they wish, as long as they don’t hurt others. There is a lot of support for the disabled, allowing them to live full lives with jobs and families. Canadians also love nature, animals and do a lot to protect them. A related bonus is they love their organic food, and the organic shops are really easy to find. 

There are cons, however. Taxes are high compared to other countries, including for small businesses (though there are tax deductions for small businesses – editor). In addition, general costs are high: going out to eat can cost around $50 plus taxes and tips, taxis and domestic flights are quite expensive, clothes shopping is more affordable in the USA. A lot of the ambitious business owners often leave for the USA as well, where the taxes are lower, and the culture is more business-oriented than Canadian.”

Conclusion

Canada is a great choice for relocation if you are offered a job with a good take-home salary, and don’t mind living in a cold climate. Canada is a tough country to beat in many regards with its social services, strong economy, geographical location, progressive attitude, diverse population, languages, and nature.

Because settlement in another country isn’t easy per se, it’s a nice touch when companies offer assignees proper support and relocation package to make it a little bit less challenging. This is where Clearmove comes into hand — an HR software that makes the relocation process way simpler and well thought of. If you are an assignee considering relocation or an HR dealing with international assignments, Clearmove would be very helpful in this matter. Contact us if you want to know how our software can make your life easier.

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