Moving from the UK to Canada? You’re not alone, but be prepared for some pretty big differences.
Today, almost everyone seems to want to live in Canada; they’ve got a charismatic president, a good standard of living and are famous for being the friendly versions of their neighbours to the South. Why wouldn’t you want to live there? While there are plenty of good things about living in Canada you should be prepared for some very clear differences.
The most obvious thing is the weather. Canadian winters are cold – very cold with extreme temperatures and deep snow, but their summers are quite warm with temperatures regularly hitting 30°C and more. Canada is also a huge country so at any one time, the temperature varies wildly. Remember, this is a country which stretches into the Arctic Circle.
Coming from the UK with one of the densest populations in the world, Brits are almost always struck by how much space there is. Britain is smaller than British Columbia but has roughly twice the number of people living there – and if you’re coming from London the difference will be even greater. In Canada, even the tube regularly has empty carriages and what Canadians think of as busy, us Brits think of as quiet and relaxed.
Distance is relative
Because Canada is such a big country their concept of near and far is very different. Cities merge into the countryside rather than being rigidly marked out. Travelling 100 miles is thought of as nothing – if a Canadian says he’s popping down the road, he could mean the next town or even province. When a Brit says it, he probably means the next street.
They love the outdoors
Here in Britain we might say we love the countryside but we don’t really mean it – not in the way the Canadians do. They love nature and spend as much time in it as possible. Getting away from the city and into the Great outdoors is a regular ritual and one thing most Canadians could never do without.
People are friendly
Canada is often thought of as a friendly country and with good reason. As in the States, people will regularly tell you to ‘have a nice day’, but they really mean it. Violent crime is low and even the cities feel safe. In comparison, Britain will feel stressful, cynical and miserable.
Don’t call them Americans
Cultural misconceptions are inevitable. Canadians often think of Britain as a mix between Downton Abbey, Midsomer Murders and Pride & Prejudice. In the UK, meanwhile, we still struggle to tell the difference between Canadians and Americans. That’s obviously not the case and many Canadians will be offended at the suggestion. The language is subtly different both from the US and the UK. You’ll need to make adjustments to your written and spoken English in order to fit in. For example, don’t use the word trousers unless you want to provoke sniggers. Of course, in Quebec they speak French but most people will be able to understand English.
There are many differences between the UK – particularly the space and number of people. In general, though, it’s relatively easy to settle in. There’s no language barrier, the people are friendly and will welcome you with open arms.