Canada at a Glance
Living in Canada
The high quality of life in Canada is almost proverbial. Ever since the United Nations established their Human Development Index, the country has ranked among the top ten. Moreover, Canadian life reflects the country’s relatively immigrant-friendly policies. Every 5th person living in Canada today was born abroad.
Besides, there are other definite advantages. As opposed to its southern neighbor, for example, the government provides free basic healthcare to most citizens and permanent residents.
Population and Geography
Most expats in Canada work in one of the big cities or metropolitan areas. In fact, 81% of the population has settled in urban centers, while the rest of the country is less densely populated. Only 34 million people are currently living in Canada with its nearly 10 million km2. 90% of them live in the south, within 160 km from the US border.
Landscapes range from maritime regions over the Great Lakes, the Prairies and the Rocky Mountains up to the Arctic in the far north. Some of the natural highlights include the National Parks Banff and Jasper, the Bay of Fundy, and the Niagara Falls.
Cars and Driving
Right after settling in Canada, you will soon notice that cars are very popular among Canadians and expats alike. Statistically speaking, nearly 8 out of 10 people own a car. After a while, you’ll find out why: in Canada’s rural areas, your “next-door neighbor” is most likely to live several miles away.
Even if you live in a large city, a lot of tourist attractions or recreational areas are only accessible by car. Consequently, expats often choose to buy a car if they have not imported one from home. Car prices are relatively cheap. It may well be your cheapest option to buy a new or used car once you have arrived.
Nevertheless, if you opt for one of Canada’s larger cities, getting around by public transport is manageable. While Toronto and Montreal remain the only Canadian cities with a subway, most bigger cities have a comprehensive bus system.
Cities in other provinces are best reached by plane. Business trips by plane are a common part of business life in Canada. The country has about 500 airports. The larger passenger airports include Toronto Pearson International, Vancouver International, and Montréal-Trudeau.
You can also benefit from a relatively extensive railway network. However, many use it for the occasional scenic trans-Canada trip rather than as a regular means of transport.
Many expats choose to rent rather than buy a place in Canada. Outside the downtown areas of the large cities, only few Canadians live in apartments. Small houses are the norm.Whether you are renting a house or an apartment, either will be at least partly furnished. Many homes, especially in southern Canada, are equipped with air-conditioning. While prices for renting a home vary considerably, an apartment in downtown Toronto or the booming town of Fort McMurray (Alberta) is probably the most expensive option you could be looking at.
Homes in smaller towns, also in those surrounding larger cities, are not all that expensive. Utilities are normally not included in the rent. Costs for heating in the winter and air-conditioning in the summer are particularly high, which is why expats living in Canada spend around 35 to 50% of their budget on rent and utilities.
As there are no or only few restrictions on foreigners buying property in Canada, buying a home remains a feasible option. To guard yourself against possible fraud, however, you are strongly advised to contact a consultant accredited by the Appraisal Institute of Canada. Make sure to have a lawyer review all contracts before buying property in Canada.