Moving to a new country is never easy, and often, such a move has both pros and cons. Whether you’re just considering the option of moving to Canada or are days away from arriving here, there are likely more than a few things about Canada that you find appealing. There may also be some advantages to living in Canada that you don’t know about yet, that could potentially alleviate some of your concerns.
From its diverse landscapes to its friendly, welcoming people, there’s a lot that Canada has to offer. The country’s immigration programs complement the growing needs of the job market, and after an initial settling-in period, there’s no shortage of work opportunities for skilled newcomers. With all of these positive aspects, it’s no surprise that Canada ranked #13 on the World Happiness Index 2023. In this article, we explore some compelling reasons why Canada is a great place to live as a newcomer, as well as some of the disadvantages that come with settling in Canada.
In this article:
What makes Canada a great place to live as a newcomer
As a newcomer, your motivations for moving to Canada may be different from those of other people. Whether you’re attracted to Canada’s diversity, safety, job market, or natural beauty, the country offers many advantages to newcomers.
Some reasons why Canada is a great place to live include:
High quality of life
One of the most common reasons newcomers move to Canada is to improve their overall standard of living. As per the U.S. News Best Countries rankings, Canada ranks #3 in terms of quality of life, behind Sweden and Denmark, and well ahead of the U.S.. The quality of life ranking is based on factors such as economic stability, income equality, the job market, safety, political stability, as well as the education and public health system.
Canada also ranks at the third position in the best countries overall ranking, after Switzerland and Germany. Canada undoubtedly offers the safety, stability, amenities, and comforts newcomers look for in their new country.
Sufficient employment opportunities
Between December 2022 and April 2023, Canada’s unemployment rate remained stable at five per cent, which is fairly low. Employment opportunities are available across industries in Canada, and some sectors, such as healthcare, education, engineering, construction, and agriculture face severe labour shortages.
That said, many employers prefer to hire candidates with some Canadian experience, which makes it harder for newcomers to find jobs quickly. However, volunteer experience, freelance projects, and relevant survival jobs can also count as Canadian experience. Some in-demand occupations, such as medicine, nursing, and engineering, are regulated in Canada, and newcomers in these fields must get licensed before they can start practicing their profession.
Publicly funded healthcare
In Canada, healthcare is governed at the province or territory level. Each province/territory offers its citizens and permanent residents a publicly funded healthcare plan. In some provinces, temporary residents, such as work permit holders and international students, are also covered by the provincial healthcare plan.
Residents don’t need to pay out-of-pocket for regular check-ups, medically necessary tests and treatments. However, you may still have to pay for non-essential or cosmetic procedures, medication, vision and dental care. Most Canadians purchase private insurance for add-on coverage or are covered under their employers’ group insurance plans.
When you avail of medical services that are covered by your provincial plan, the healthcare provider bills the government directly, and the cost of your treatment is covered by the taxes paid by residents of the province or territory.
Free public schooling and subsidized higher education for PR and citizens
Canada’s education system is known to be world-class. Public schools are free for children aged five to eighteen (the age of admission varies by province) and offer a quality education. Your children can also receive free education at Francophone public schools or, in some provinces, at public Catholic schools.
The country is home to several of the world’s top universities offering various post-secondary study programs. Permanent residents and citizens are eligible for lower tuition fees in Canadian universities and colleges (compared to international students) for degree, diploma, and certificate programs.
Diversity and multiculturalism
As a newcomer, Canada’s diversity and multiculturalism can go a long way toward making you feel at home. Depending on where you live in Canada, you may find yourself surrounded by a mix of cultures, languages, ethnicities and religious beliefs. Canada welcomes newcomers from across the world, and according to the 2021 census, immigrants comprise 23 per cent of the country’s population.
Moreover, all people are considered equal and worthy of respect regardless of their country of origin, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and age. The laws in Canada promote equal rights, and the legalization of same-sex marriages in 2005 (Canada was the fourth country in the world to do so) is only one example of the country’s definition of freedom.
Safety and peacefulness
Many immigrants move to Canada to find a safer environment for their families. According to the U.S. News Best Countries survey, Canada is the seventh safest country in the world. Although crime still exists in Canada, the incidence of violent crime is low.
The country ranked #12 on the Global Peace Index 2022. Canada welcomes refugees who’ve been forced to leave their home country and offers them a peaceful haven.
Social services and benefits
As a newcomer, your well-being and social security are likely top-of-mind at all times. Canada has a robust social services system with generous financial benefits for people in need. The Employment Insurance (EI) program provides a temporary income to individuals who’ve lost their jobs or are unable to work for certain reasons, such as pregnancy or illness. To be eligible, you must have worked in an insurable occupation for a minimum number of hours and paid EI premiums (if you’re employed, these will be deducted directly from your salary by your employer).
The Canada Pension Plan (CPP, or Quebec Pension Plan in Quebec) provides a financial safety net for workers after they retire (though most Canadians also save for retirement through the Registered Retirement Savings Plan). Financial assistance is also available to eligible families with children under the age of 18 (Canada Child Benefit) and seniors with a low retirement income (Old Age Security).
Canada also has a generous parental leave policy, where one or both parents can take time off from work to take care of a newborn or adopted child.
Easy to get Canadian citizenship
If you’re moving to Canada as a permanent resident (PR), the path to citizenship is fairly straightforward. Unlike some countries that have prohibitively complicated citizenship processes or prolonged waiting periods, Canada aims to retain people who’ve chosen to make the country their home.
To apply for Canadian citizenship, you must meet a minimum residency requirement (three years in the last five years) as a permanent resident, prove your language skills (in English or French), file income tax in Canada, and pass a citizenship test (if you’re aged 18 to 55).
The country also makes it easier for individuals moving to Canada as international students or temporary foreign workers to qualify for PR (and subsequently, citizenship).
Scenic beauty and cleanliness
Canada is a land of unparalleled scenic beauty. With the majestic Rocky Mountains in the west and three oceans surrounding the country, Canada offers a vast and diverse array of landscapes. The country is blessed with an abundance of natural wonders, from the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes, and the breathtaking Niagara Falls, to the fjords in Quebec and the magnificent display of Northern Lights in Yukon.
Canada is home to 37 national parks, including the Banff National Park, Kootenay National Park, and Bruce Peninsula National Park, and close to 100 provincial parks spread across the country.
Another advantage of living in a country where 72 per cent of urban land is classified as “green” is clean, unpolluted air. Even in the middle of a bustling city like Toronto, you’ll be able to find ample forested areas and scenic walking trails close to home.
Seven disadvantages of living in Canada as a newcomer
For most newcomers, settling into life in Canada doesn’t happen overnight. This is because, despite the country’s many advantages, there are certain aspects that surprise or disappoint newcomers. Some cons of living in Canada include:
Canada has a high cost of living
The cost of living in Canada can be quite high. Although your average monthly expenses will vary depending on the city you live in, the size of your family, and your lifestyle, the cost of living in Canada may be much higher than that in your home country.
For a single person, an annual income of $27,514 or less is considered to be below Canada’s low-income threshold, and will likely not be sufficient to cover your expenses. If you’re living in a larger city, such as Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal, you may need significantly more money to make ends meet. You can use Arrive’s cost of living in Canada calculator to get an estimate of the monthly living costs in various cities.
Canadians pay high taxes
In Canada, income tax is collected both at the federal and provincial levels. The federal tax rates range from 15 per cent to 33 per cent, and the provincial tax rates for residents in the highest income brackets may be as high as 25.75 per cent. The higher your income, the more tax you’ll have to pay.
For instance, if you live in Ontario and have a pre-tax income of $85,000 per year, your estimated tax liability for 2023 will be $17,400 (20.4 per cent). Once you settle into life in Canada, you can begin contributing to registered savings plans such as Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and First Home Savings Account (FHSA) to reduce your tax owing.
Rental and property prices can be high in major cities
The cost of housing, whether it’s rented or owned, can be quite high in Canada. Most Canadians spend between 30 and 50 per cent of their monthly income on accommodation-related expenses. In Toronto, for example, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment may be as high as $2,500, while a two-bedroom apartment will cost around $3,300 (as of April 2023).
As a newcomer, you can reduce your housing costs by living in a smaller city or suburb or by looking for accommodation outside the city centre (usually the downtown area). Many newcomers also opt for cheaper renting options such as basement apartments or shared homes for their first few months or years in Canada.
Services are expensive in Canada
Whether you’re getting groceries or food delivered, visiting a salon, or taking a cab, be prepared to pay high service costs plus tips in Canada. Service fees are generally high, keeping in mind the minimum wage requirements for service providers.
In Canada, not tipping for services is considered rude, and in many industries, servers and service providers rely on tips to make a liveable wage. You may be expected to tip between 10 and 25 per cent for services, depending on the industry.
As a newcomer, some of the comforts and conveniences you may be used to back home, such as home cooks, cleaners, nannies, or handyman services, may be very expensive in Canada.
Canada faces extreme weather conditions
Often referred to as the “great white north”, Canada is known for its harsh, snowy winters. Winter temperatures below zero degrees Celsius are common in most parts of the country, and in many cities, temperatures of -20 degrees are not unheard of. However, you’ll be shielded from the cold while indoors, as buildings are constructed to retain heat, and access to indoor heating is considered a human right in Canada (you may have to pay for it). For the outdoors, you’ll need to dress appropriately in layers. As British author, Alfred Wainwright once said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”
That said, Canadians also get to enjoy warm spring weather and, in many parts, hot summers. In southern cities, like Toronto and Vancouver, temperatures can climb upwards of 30 degrees Celsius during summer months.
Intercity connectivity is limited
Most large cities in Canada have well-developed public transit systems, but intercity connectivity may be harder due to sheer distance. Canada is the second largest country in the world, covering an area of 9,984,670 km2. At its widest, Canada spans 5,514 km from east to west and 4,634 km from north to south.
The VIA Rail, Canada’s largest intercity rail service, connects eight provinces through 500 trains per week, but last-mile connectivity is limited.
Even in suburban areas, residents may require a car to access essential amenities and services. Although regional public transit systems exist in some parts of the country, less-populated areas may not always be easily accessible by bus, train, or other modes of public transport.
Limited support network
Moving away from your home country also means being far from your family and support network. As a newcomer, you may be leaving your loved ones behind and, if you’re raising a family, you may have to do so without intergenerational support. You’ll be fully responsible for your own well-being, and won’t always have a ready support system to see you through tough times. It can take time to overcome feelings of loneliness and homesickness, but in most Canadian cities, it won’t be difficult to find other people from your community as well as things from your native culture (food, groceries, clothes, etc.) that make you feel at home.
Canada is a great place for immigrants to settle and build a new life. It offers a higher quality of life than most other countries, and even though the cost of living may be higher than what you’re used to, higher salaries and plentiful jobs make up for it. That said, adjusting to a new environment can take time, and you may need to make certain lifestyle changes to make the most of your new country.