A UK expats’ guide to living in Canada
Canada has all the makings of a dream expat location for British workers looking to relocate abroad. It’s currently enjoying a strong economy and a thriving jobs market, making it a great option for those looking to balance excellent career prospects with a high quality of living.
The large country is one of contrasts, with snowy mountains galore – a winter sport enthusiast’s dream – and warmer sun in the more southerly regions. Stretching from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Atlantic Ocean in the east, Canada offers some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes and natural wonders, including the Rocky Mountains and Niagara Falls.
It’s not just its geography that makes it such an attractive location. It also has an exceptional healthcare system, good transportation and road networks, high-quality education and childcare, and modern cities. Find out more about moving to Canada here.
Where to live
As the country is so large – it spans six time zones – the biggest decision is deciding where to live. This may already be determined by a job role, but most expats are drawn to the large cities for work. Getting a working visa can be difficult, which is why the majority of expats move with employment in place.
One popular option is the cosmopolitan city of Toronto, which is packed with arts and culture, surrounded by the famous Great Lakes, and has a strong focus on healthy living. It’s also the business capital of Canada and is close to the border with the USA. Being in the east of the country also means that it is that bit closer to the UK for making essential trips back and forth to catch up with family and friends.
Calgary in Alberta is over in the west and is perfect for those looking to live close to the Rocky Mountains, among rolling foothills and wide open spaces. It has a really high quality of life and a good work/life balance, making it attractive to families in particular. It’s further inland and residents spend a good portion of their time outside, despite the cold winters.
Other common expat locations in Canada include Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver, which all have their own particular perks.
Living the life
The biggest adjustment for many British expats to Canada is coping with the weather. It can get very cold, and dealing with the effects of snow and ice is just standard daily fare for locals. All services and facilities are well equipped to cope with the low temperatures, so it doesn’t disrupt infrastructure in the same way it does in the UK. The further south and closer to the border with the USA, the milder the winters, which is worth bearing in mind when picking a location.
The cost of living in cities can be high and so are the taxes, therefore it’s important to negotiate salaries to accommodate. However, there are some costs that are significantly lower than in other expat locations. For example, for those with a residence permit, children can attend a public school for free, and with a good standard of education it’s a popular option for long-term relocation. Most expats do use the public system, but there are private options and international schools if preferred, though the fees are very high.
The healthcare system is one of the biggest draws of the country. Standards are very high and some expats might be eligible for the country’s Medicare program, a government-funded national insurance scheme for basic services. Private medical insurance is also available, and while this costs a lot, it does ensure that the whole family can access the excellent healthcare facilities.
Overall, Canada offers safe and high-quality living. It ranks third in the HSBC Expat Explorer 2016 for its overall experience for expats, so it’s certainly worthy of consideration
Information correct at the time of publication.