Moving to a different country with unfamiliar places and faces can feel overwhelming no matter where you’re moving. As friendly and inviting as Canadian culture is, the country itself is no exception.
Starting a new life in Canada comes with several unique hardships that feel daunting when you first arrive. However, you will quickly adapt to the culture and make yourself at home if you know where to start.
This guide will examine a few critical steps every new Canadian should take to grow accustomed to the lifestyle. Canadian life has several short-term perks and long-term life benefits; you just need to know how to take advantage of them.
So you’ve immigrated to the most beautiful, friendly and peaceful country on the planet - Welcome! Canada is well known for its breathtaking and untouched environment, robust economy, bustling cities and countless opportunities for education and growth. The choice to live in Canada is a sound one for the future of your children, your career and most of all your health and well being.
Starting a new life in Canada, just like starting anything from scratch, requires thought, planning and organization. Thankfully, there are guides like this one that provide an excellent starting point, acting as a sort of a snapshot of the steps you need to take to get settled. Let’s explore that now.
Newcomers to Canada - The Essentials
The country stands apart from the rest of the world in ways that might not be what you’re used to. This is actually meant to be positive. Canada is very organized. That being said, the Canadian Government has made the process of transitioning into our system a very seamless one. Every resource, form, contact center and information hub can be found online or in person, and in most cases, in your language of preference. Let’s start here…
There’s no question that the first place a newcomer should start is with your local Newcomer Services. The folks at these offices will help with the basics such as:
- Learning about community services
- Registering for language classes
- Taking a language assessment
- Signing your children up for school
- Looking for a job
By visiting this site, and entering your postal code, finding the nearest Newcomers Services office in your area is simple.
They even offer services specific to women, youth, seniors, mentorships and help with your citizenship test.
Newcomer Services is a great resource in the very beginning of your new life in Canada. But let’s talk about the true meaning of acclimating in the Great White North. On the topic of acclimating, let’s talk about the weather…
Canadian weather is all over the map. The summers get exceptionally hot, while the winters can drop as low as -25º Celsius. Let’s be realistic, in some regions it can drop to -40. Most of Canada’s upper region only sees two full seasons, a short and hot summer, and a long and cold winter. Springs and falls are slowly becoming more obsolete as a result of climate change. However when spring has sprung and fall is upon us, there’s no missing the re-growth of our trees and flowers, or the fiery colours in autumn. If you’re not used to exceeding warmth or cold, that can be a little daunting but the great news is that there are a wide range of outdoor activities available throughout the year, both indoor and outdoor. And finding clothing for our weather patterns isn’t a problem as all cities and (many) towns have everything from high end Hollywood style stores, right down to your local thrift shop. As you’re strolling through the streets of Canada, take notice of the similarities from your birth land, and the uniqueness of how Canadian culture blends one into the other.
Another element of the Canadian lifestyle is diversity. The government embraces multiculturalism, and you’ll see that across the country. Of course, many people know that Canada is an English- and French-speaking country depending on the province. Still, you’ll come across people of all cultures and religions who speak many different languages here. The diversification of Canada began centuries ago, and was due to immigration, much like it is today. Originally, colonisation and settlement were due to the British, French and Indigenous and other races. In the present day, Canada is the most culturally diverse country in the world. We achieved that honourable title based on the following factors:
- Amount of personal freedom an individual has
- The amount of different ethnic backgrounds in the country
- The amount of immigrants
- The amount of political parties
- Languages spoken
- Religious freedoms
- LGBTQ freedoms
Now that we’ve discussed the overall ‘what-to-knows’ about Canada in general, let’s dive into a more serious explanation of what to expect when you’re getting your family settled.
Jobs in Canada - What to Expect When Looking for One
Lengthy job hunts aren’t abnormal in other parts of the world, but they can be particularly time-consuming in Canada. It’s not uncommon for Canadian citizens to spend months searching for employment, and that timeline will balloon when you first move in and attempt to build connections.
Keeping your head above water while spending months on the job market can be challenging, so it’s essential to prepare for one of these three actions before moving:
- Ensure that you have your SIN (Social Insurance Number) affairs in order. Insurdinary has published an article on the SIN application process. You can visit it here.
- Prepare to work a temporary job outside your career field to pay bills while looking for something permanent
- Arrive with a living budget to support yourself for two to three months while unemployed
- Only move when you’ve lined up a job and a concrete start date. Understand how the Canadian job market works, how to prepare and conduct yourself in an interview. Continue reading about this here.
Cost of Living - Know What You Can Afford
The cost of living in Canada varies greatly depending on where you live, and it’s rising across the nation. Therefore, it’s essential to set a budget and research average housing, transportation, and food costs before bringing everything you own across the Canadian border. If you have children, don’t forget to factor in the cost of raising a child.
Montreal is a great city if you’re looking for a big-town environment on a low budget. But while Montreal’s houses and rent prices are more affordable, its average salary is significantly lower than that of other Canadian cities.
On the flip side, Vancouver offers high salary benefits with the drawback of a high price tag on all essential living expenses.
Of course, culture and lifestyle play a significant role in where you move. The decision should primarily come down to your financial goals and realistic budget expectations regarding how much living expenses fluctuate across Canada.
What To Do When You First Move
Now that you’ve narrowed down the province and city where you want to start your life in Canada and prepared for a possibly tedious job search, you can take a few small yet crucial steps to establish yourself within the country.
Expect to deal with applications for various government licences and insurances during your first week. While not the most exciting parts of life in Canada, your Social Insurance Number, medical insurance, and new driver’s licence are essential.
Enroll in Provincial Health Insurance
Canada offers public, universal healthcare for all its citizens. And while the country’s provided medical insurance won’t cover things like dentist visits and some prescription medications, it will financially protect you during a severe health scare.
The last thing you want is to deal with your medical insurance applications after a health crisis, so it’s vital to take care of this early should anything happen during your move. The application is generally quick, and when you’ve finished, you’ll receive a government-issued health card. Regardless of which province or territory you are settling in, there is a simple way to apply for your provincial healthcare plan by referring to this article.
It’s vital to know that you won’t be immediately eligible for public insurance depending on where you move. If you are in a province with an insurance waiting period, expect that to be around three months. It’s wise to look into super visa or a visitor visa product in the interim.
As mentioned before, while the Canadian healthcare system is robust, it doesn’t offer much by way of preventative care. It is important to secure a private insurance policy to take advantage of those services.
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Apply for a Driver’s Licence
Out-of-country driver’s licences are invalid in Canada or, at the very least, require an arduous paperwork process to convert.
The extra hoops are primarily due to Canada not having a federally standardized licencing process. Instead, each Canadian province sets its own rules and requires different driving tests before licencing its citizens.
So, not only will you likely need to reapply for a driver’s licence in Canada, but you’ll also need to study for a province-specific test depending on where you move. Though tedious, you’ll want to take care of your licence approval early to ease the rest of your living adjustment. As well, be sure to do some research on the rules of the road in Canada. Canadian roads are well organized and maintained and there’s hefty penalties for breaking the rules.
What To Do After a Few Weeks
After taking the basic steps to adjust to life in Canada, you’ll want to tackle some bigger-picture projects. Your primary goals should be securing a permanent residence, an income source, and more expansive medical coverage.
Canadian Housing Market - Explore Your Options
If you don’t have a place to live when you first arrive in Canada, you can stay in a hotel or with a local relative like many other Canadian newcomers. But after you get your licences, store your money in a savings account, and can drive in your province, you’ll want to find a place of your own.
The Covid 19 pandemic saw a dramatic dip in the housing market. However, over the last year it has made a strong comeback - unfortunately not without a cost. Of Canada’s 11 major cities, 10 of them saw rising housing costs. You’ll find housing listings in all provinces and cities through real estate agencies and newspapers. But there’s still plenty you’ll need to adjust to in Canada, so you might have more luck finding an apartment than committing to an early house purchase. If renting is the better option, take some time to familiarize yourself with both tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities.
Look For a Job
As we mentioned earlier, job hunting in Canada is a time-consuming task for many people. However, the country does have several resources and online services that make the search more straightforward.
Newcomers can turn to the Canadian Job Bank website, which lists relevant job openings in your city and province. You can also seek an employment counsellor for a more traditional approach to the job search. They will advise you on navigating the demanding Canadian job market and lead you to career opportunities whenever possible.
Sign Up With a Care Provider
Now that you have your Canadian health card and a job to provide other health benefits, you’ll need to search for nearby primary care doctors and general dentists. It might take a while before you find an available family doctor or a dentist who fits your needs and employee insurance, but not because of a supply shortage. There are plenty of medical professionals across Canada, but many are in high demand, so you’ll likely need to call your candidates a few times before getting an appointment. All Canadian provinces and territories have easy-to-use and understand online resources for finding a family doctor, and you can find them all right here.
Before you jump into the big moving projects like house shopping and extensive job searching, you’ll need to establish a small presence through paperwork and research.
Make sure you have a rough idea of where you want to live and ensure that the province is within your realistic budget before starting your life in Canada. You might even want to brush up on your language skills before arriving, as you’re bound to bump into someone from a different culture and who speaks a different language early in your Canadian journey.
Make sure that you finish your paperwork early after officially moving. SINs and quality healthcare are essential for Canadian life, as are driver’s licences for most newcomers. Applying for all three within your first week in Canada can give you the qualifications needed to take care of your big moving goals. Some of the final steps of your move will be to find a job and a place to live. Unfortunately, Canada’s booming popularity and competitive job market might make those goals difficult. Still, if you handle your less significant responsibilities before searching, you’ll take care of those demanding goals within a couple of months.
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