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Moving to Canada

Your guide to expat life in Canada. A warm welcome in a cold climate

Want to move to Canada?


Canada is one of the top destinations for those seeking a better quality of life. Expats fall in love with the spectacular scenery, diverse culture and friendly locals, making it hard for many to leave at all.

Canada is the perfect home for those looking to settle down with their family in a new country. With almost a third of Canada's students coming from abroad, the education system is well prepared for the unique challenges expat children face. Parents say their children quickly settle into their new surroundings, easily developing new friendships and growing in confidence as a result.

Despite being the second largest country in the world, expats don't feel lonely in Canada. The majority of the population live near the US border, and a better work-life balance means trips to Niagara Falls are definitely on the agenda. Those opting for city life in Toronto or Montreal find themselves integrated into diverse and multicultural communities where parents and children alike form bonds that convince them to stay in Canada long term.

Basic info about Canada

  • Population: About 38 million
  • Capital city: Ottawa
  • Largest city: Toronto
  • Main languages: English and French
  • Main religion: Christianity. Other religions include Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Judaism.
  • Political system: Federal parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
  • Time: Canada spans six time zones. Newfoundland Standard Time is GMT-3.30, Atlantic Standard Time is GMT-4, Eastern Standard Time is GMT-5, Central Standard Time is GMT-6, Mountain Standard Time is GMT-7 and Pacific Standard Time is GMT-8. In most parts of the country, clocks move forward an hour in March and back an hour in November
  • Electricity: 110V, 60Hz. Plugs have two flat blades or two flat blades and a round pin
  • Currency: Canadian dollar (CAD)
  • International dialling code: +1
  • Internet domain: .ca
  • Emergency numbers: 911
  • Road traffic: Drives on the right

Weather in Canada

Spanning the North American continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Canada’s climate is incredibly varied. As a general rule, the closer you are to the USA border in the south, the more temperate the weather. Coastal areas are also mild, while central regions are known for their dramatic seasonal changes and extremes of temperature. Winters across the country are long and bitterly cold, and summers are short but warm.

Key phrases in French

  • Hello Bonjour
  • Good evening Bonsoir
  • Goodbye Au revoir
  • How are you? Ça va?
  • Thank you Merci
  • Yes Oui
  • No Non
  • Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais?
  • Can you help me? Pouvez-vous m'aider?
  • I'm sorry Je suis désolé

Shipping to Canada

Shipping goods to Canada is pricey. Sea freight is cheaper than air, but it's often more cost effective to buy new furniture and other household items when you arrive.


Navigating Canadian customs can be tricky, so it’s best to hire a reputable removals company that can handle the paperwork. Only used goods are allowed in duty free, and it's recommended you keep all paperwork pertaining to the imported goods for at least six years.

Banned and restricted items

There are restrictions on the amount of alcohol and tobacco you can take into Canada – these depend on the province or territory you’re moving to. Banned items include firearms and ammunition, certain types of food, plants and animal products, and even some antiques.


You’re allowed to enter the country with a three-month supply of any prescription medicine, but it’s best to clear this with the Canadian embassy in your home country before you move.

Top tips for Canada

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in Canada.

Everyday living involves covering a lot more in terms of distance, whether using public or private transport, so activities can take longer to accomplish.
Canada is a culturally diverse country. Be open, accepting and tolerant of others but retain your individuality. Also, learn to manage your own taxes.
Research the climatic conditions of areas throughout Canada, the cost of housing and different provincial taxes. Talk to as many people as you can in Canada before you make a decision to look for employment.
It's not what you know, it's who you know. Meet with people personally (face-to-face rather than by email or phone) and work to build relationships. Canada runs on networking and you need to get integrated as soon as possible.
Make sure to get a letter from your insurance company (car insurance, home insurance etc.) stating the amount of years without a claim. If you don't have this letter, you'll start from zero and pay higher rates.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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Read our 10-step guide to moving abroad to make sure you've got everything covered.

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