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Canadian culture derives from an amalgamation of various immigrant groups, and expats arriving from many countries may be surprised to find remnants of their own culture reflected in the different Canadian characteristics. While culture shock in Canada is not a problem that most expats are likely to have to deal with, there are still a few things worth knowing.
Language barrier in Canada
Unless moving to the province of Quebec, expats won't experience an issue when it comes to communication. Everyone speaks English. Quebec is distinctly different culturally from the rest of the country and expats moving to its capital, Montreal, will benefit significantly if they can speak French.
Cultural differences in Canada
The large cities, especially Toronto and Victoria, reflect a strong British heritage. Montreal is proudly French and Vancouver mixes Indian and Asian cultures. Where America prides itself on integration of cultures, Canada encourages coexistence in an 'ice cream swirl' or, as it is commonly referred to, a cultural mosaic.
While various cultures are encouraged to flourish, by and large, mainstream culture is very similar to that of the US – which will be largely familiar to expats as a result of the globalisation of the film and television industry. The exception is Quebec, functioning as a French lingual and cultural centre.
Attitude towards foreigners in Canada
A bit of self-deprecating humour with a friendly "how ya doin'" cheerfulness is the norm and, despite – or because of – the cold, the people are generally warm and welcoming to strangers. Canada is a popular destination among immigrants and is largely unaffected by the resentment towards ethnic groups that immigration can bring in the US and Europe.
Geographical distances in Canada
What may come as a surprise to expats is more geographical than cultural. The incredible size of Canada makes driving to the next town easily as far as driving from one coast of England to the other. Driving across Canada itself is almost equivalent to the distance between the UK and Saudi Arabia. Most of the north isn't driven to at all. Even within towns it is difficult to get around without a vehicle, although larger cities have public transport similar to Europe.
Weather in Canada
One of the biggest challenges that expats will encounter is the weather in Canada. Many newcomers, especially those from warmer climates, will discover long and often harsh winters. The northern territories are at the receiving end of the most extreme levels but those provinces and cities closer to the United States border typically enjoy more temperate weather. Summer, however, can be lovely and warm, with both the west and east coast basking in milder conditions.
Are you an expat living in Canada?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Canada. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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