Culture Shock - Canada


Fraser Clarke

‘Culture Shock’ can be a major factor in preventing expats from getting the most out of their new life overseas. Defined as: “The feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes”, it’s something that will have been experienced in some degree by anyone who has previously taken their career to a foreign environment.
In order to try and help you and your family work through the symptoms, we’ve taken a look at the most common factors likely to affect you in each country we work with, and how to combat them. After all, preparation can be the key.
In the latest article in our exclusive ‘Culture Shock Cures’ series we’ll take a look at the issues that you might face in Canada - a country considered by many to be the friendlies in the world.

The Weather

One of the first things that many expats will notice about Canada is just how extreme the weather can be. In summer temperatures can reach 30°C, whilst in the winter they can drop to -25°C in the same location. This can take a lot of getting used to, and also means that you have to be prepared for both situations.

Houses are commonly built to keep the heat in, and this means that they can get especially warm during the summer months. As a result you’ll probably want to make sure that your home has strong air-conditioning, and heating!

Top Tip: It is easier to settle into your new surroundings during the summer, so try and schedule your move between March and October to avoid a serious shock. Make sure that your house is appropriately built to keep the heat in during winter, and remains cool during summer...and bring two completely different wardrobes of clothing! Few countries on earth allow you to wear shorts and T-Shirts almost throughout summer, and layer upon layer of thermal jackets during winter.


Two languages are widely spoken in Canada, English and French. Being fluent in one of these is essential if you’re making a move, however being strong in both can play a major role in removing one of the most common areas of culture shock experienced by expats.

French is the number one language in Quebec, Eastern Ontario and New Brunswick and, whilst most people are bi-lingual, a knowledge of the language will help things feel far less alien to you.

Top Tip: Brush up on some basic French before you apply, especially if you are moving to a predominantly French speaking area. Not only will this help you feel more at home, it will also be looked upon very favourably by employers.


The way taxation works in Canada is slightly different to most other countries, and this is especially noticeable when you’re doing your grocery shopping. Very few shops will include VAT on the price tickets, and this can leave you with a larger than expected bill when it comes to payment. This can be extremely frustrating, especially early on, and can leave expats in the country feeling out of pocket.

Tax rates in the country are similar to those in the UK, but far higher than in the Middle East, so few people move to the country solely for financial reasons..

Top Tip: Do your sums prior to a move to work out if you’ll be better (or worse) off in the country. That way you’ll avoid any nasty surprises when you receive your first paycheque!

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