Living in Canada

I have to admit that living in Canada for most of my life makes living their fairly easy for me but, having said that, perhaps the following information may assist you in living in Canada.


Canada is a wonderfully diverse country with an, essentially, immigrant culture contrasted with the large, even still, native population. It is a country struggling with it's identity and yet happy enough to continue on as it has for more than 100 years. There are many big cities but travelling short distances out and you are in relative wilderness. Distances are large but people are warm and inviting.


As with most other countries, you will need a work permit or VISA before you can live in Canada. See your local Canadian Embassy or Consolate for more information. Often these visas are hard to get with the government requiring that you either:

  • Are a refugee (and can prove it)
  • Sponsored by a Canadian family
  • Are an entrepeneur (showing proof of $250,000 and plans to start a business)

The following might assist a bit in answering some of your questions:

  • Do I Need to Know French? - Unless you are living in some of the more rural places of Quebec this is not required. Canada is officially bilingual though most signs outside of Quebec are in English. Most road signs tend to be either non-lingual (that is, symbolic) or english. Essentially everyone outside of Quebec speak English.
  • Where Should I Live? - Wherever you want. In general the east and west tend to be a bit cheaper (with the notable exception of Vancouver and Calgary) than central Canada (Ontario/Quebec). The number of jobs in the various regions of Canada tends to be relatively constant and unemployment is low (around 8%). If you have a reasonable amount of education or job experience a job should not be a problem. Cost of living is generally inexpensive.
  • How Developed is Canada? - Contrary to popular opinion, Canada is a modern country with all the trappings of any other western country (read: US) including massive cities, polution and technology. Most of the population of Canada is concentrated within about 100 miles of the border so much of the land is unpopulated (and not terribly accessible). Be aware that distances tend to be very large between settled areas especially in the west. When travelling north it is not unusual to travel by AIR for 3 or 4 hours without seeing any settlement.
  • What is the Weather Like? - Polar bears are ONLY seen in the extreme north of the country. Most of the country experiences winter though some of the more southerly parts rarely get snow (southern Ontario, and Vancouver). The prairies tend to have extreme winters with temperatures dipping periodically below -30 celcius though averages tend to be around -15 or -20, this is contrasted with about 30 celcius in the summer (and often even more than that). In the east temperatures are much more moderate with ranges of about -8 in the winter to 32 in the summer (and humidity). Mosquitos are not really a problem in the cities though tend to plague the praries in the spring.
  • How do I get a Job? - There are many sources of information about employment the obvious being the Internet and newspapers. There are Employment offices located in most cities that are run by the government that post local job opportunities though these jobs tend to be towards the blue collar, professionals should consult newspapers or companies directly. There is a minimum wage that all employers must adhere to. Employment is not GENERALLY a problem though, since the cost of living is so reasonable, salaries are not very large. The resession has hit this country as well so if you are looking for a job be prepared for a long wait and perhaps not quite the work you were looking for…There is a big unemployment problem in this country.


The Telephone System

The telephone system is operated by a number of provincial (originally) crown corporations (operated by the government in the past) which are becoming private organizations who are in competition with a number of other private carriers. Currently these corporations are the only ones that provide local telephone call support (that is, calls to numbers within your area code, in most situations), however, this is set to change in the future.

The cost of using a telephone is paid for by monthly 'line rental' which covers unlimited telephone calls within your area code (with the exception of a few areas such as Manitoba and Alberta where you can only call certain numbers within your area code since many numbers are located outside of your immediate area – details are given in any telephone book). Long distance calls are charged on a minute-by-minute basis (with the exception of a few private carriers who provide 'flat rate' service).

Certain numbers can be called free of charge, those with an area code of 800 or (now) 888. Note that some of these phone numbers are area limited, that is, they can only be called by individuals within a certain area code.

The emergency phone number is 911. This phone number can be called FREE of charge from any telephone (pay or private).


Any television can receive a basic number of channels (in most areas). Typically these will include a CBC (English) and a CBC (French) channel. There are also (typically) local television channels that can be received however, this is area specific.

Most people use a Cable company which tends to dramatically increase both the quality of the television reception and the quantity of channels available. Most operators have a series of packages that they offer which tends to be a) basic, b) enhanced or c) pay per view/pay television. Channels offered vary depending on the area you are located in the country. There are two major cable companies: Rogers (largely in the east) and Shaw (largely in the west).

Satellite television is available in addition to the personal satellite services (though this is severely regulated and must be obtained through a CANADIAN satellite company).

Most of what is shown on television is regulated by the CRTC which determines levels of Canadian content viewed on television though it's influence is generally diminishing.

Internet Access

Internet access is now available in most areas. Choices of carriers include telephone and cable companies. Many cable operators are now offering cable modem access for a flat monthly fee. Cable modems are simply routers connected to your cable television connection (cable) and a network cable connected to a network card in your computer. Access rates are generally very good (though this depends on the number of people using your local cable network 'node' for cable modem access). Originally it was suggested that this access would be download only, using a modem to transmit to the cable company however, these connections are now bi-directional.

There is NO television license fee (other than any fees you may pay a cable or satellite operator).

In most areas there are also a number of private Internet providers that seem to mostly charge a flat monthly rate for access.

Internet across Canada is largely over the CA*Net backbone network though some providers connect through the US to provide quicker access. The CA*Net backbone is continuously being upgraded (especially since the increase in demand for Internet access in recent years).

There are a number of FreeNets/Community Networks in Canada. Many of these offer completely free Internet access and others offer a nominal charge for access.


Most banks will allow individuals to open an account with a reasonable amount of identification and a modest quantity of cash though some branches require a larger minimum initial deposit. Most banks are open on Saturdays until about 5 PM, otherwise, they are open only during Mondays to Fridays. Interac is a banking network that most bank cards can access to pay for purchases directly from their bank accounts (direct debit), there IS a fee for this service. Banks offer a range of accounts that determine what service fees (if any) are paid per transaction (for example, per cheque, per deposit, etc).

Public Holidays

The following are public holidays in Canada:

Name Date
New Years Day January 1st
Good Friday
Easter Monday
Queen's Birthday May 24th
Canada Day July 1st
Civic Holiday First Monday in August
Labour Day First Monday in September
Thanksgiving Second Monday in October
Remembrance Day November 11th
Christmas Day December 25th
Boxing Day December 26th

Further Information

For further information, please see:

Note: Some of the information found on this page has been provided courtesy of Kindred.