10 Things I wish I knew before moving to Canada

It is always a good idea to hope for the best but prepare for the worst when immigrating to another country. 
It is always a good idea to hope for the best but prepare for the worst when immigrating to another country. 
Written By
MTC Media inc
Published on
January 28, 2024

Making friends is hard

Making friends in Canada is not that easy, and some cultures struggle more than others. Canadians are like peaches - they are soft and easy-going outside, but once you want to get closer - you’ll face the hard impenetrable core inside.

That’s what many immigrants struggle with - forming meaningful connections that are deeper than superficial small talk.

Moving to Canada with a family or a loved one is definitely a big advantage - at least you have each other when you’re in the new country without friends. When you’re moving to a new country alone, as an adult, with formed views and habits, it is difficult to find like-minded people and be a newbie in an already well-formed community, especially if you’re naturally shy and introverted.

When you move to a new country, there are also a lot of things you need to learn and get done - from learning how to open a bank account to finding a job. All that leaves little time for yourself and looking for friends. Building new relationships with people is a very time-consuming task.

Our suggestion here would be to stay positive and active. Once you settle down, try reaching out to newcomer communities in your city. 

Do you have hobbies? That would be one of the best ways to find new friends, with whom you share common interests.

We also have dozens of newcomers joining our Facebook Community - make sure to join in and say hi!

Public transit sucks

If you’re coming from Europe or Asia you will feel this huge change. Get ready to get a car or be prepared to wait for a bus for 30 minutes or more. Sure, you can check the schedule, but the schedule is not always followed, especially during bad weather. 

That happens everywhere, and big cities like Toronto are not an exception. If there’s a snowstorm or heavy rainfall, public transport will pretty much come to a halt.

Our tip here would be - depending on where you’re moving to - learn what the public transit system is like. Where’s the nearest bus stop or subway station? What’s the schedule like? What apps do locals use?

Not all small towns even have buses, rather small shuttle buses running at one-hour intervals.

Some small towns in Canada don’t even have Uber - so make sure you budget for a car or at least a bicycle. Make sure to budget all expenses that having a car will entail, like gas prices, car insurance, yearly service, winter tires and so on - it adds up fast.

Furthermore, if you decide to walk to your work - make sure you dress warmly during winter months.  

Don’t bring too much stuff

You will want to bring as much as possible with you - because your cash will be tight. Packing will get stressful as you hopelessly try to prioritize what to bring. 

Well, no need to stress too much! Many clothes can be bought here in Canada and they are not expensive. Do not bring electronics, because voltage and the plugs are different here - plus it’s bloody heavy to transport. Make sure your cellphone works in Canada - use this website to check it out.

What’s more important is your documents, medications, and other items that are necessary for your lifestyle.

If you’re moving to Canada during the winter season - obviously you should prioritize warm clothes over tank tops and shorts.

Keep in mind that before you settle down in Canada, you might spend some time moving between apartments, or maybe even cities, until you find a job and rent long-term accommodation. The less stuff you have, the better.

Technology is behind

It’s a well-known fact that internet and cellphone connection quality and cost are behind Europe and Asia, but you only really feel how outdated Canadian technology is once you’re in Canada.

Want fast and cheap internet? It doesn’t exist here. The data of 8 GB for your phone plan will cost you on average C$55 a month. Don’t forget to add the federal and provincial tax to all prices you see, which comes to C$62.15 in Ontario. Oh, and that’s 4G LTE if you haven’t noticed - Canada is still slowly upgrading to 5G. 

Many apps or various features come to Canada significantly later than in Europe and Asia. Here in Canada you oftentimes need to make a phone call and talk to a person to get things done.

In Asia or in Europe it just takes you a few clicks online. In Canada, you need to call, wait on the line, select multiple options before you are actually connected to an operator, then spend 10 minutes explaining why you’re calling, or be forced to leave a message for a callback.

What can you do in this situation? Shop around. Compare prices. Negotiate. Once you choose a provider - stick to them, sometimes you get rewarded with exclusive deals for being a loyal customer. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is actually to switch your provider, because they are offering a first-time customer deal! 

Monopolistic Behaviours

One of the reasons why cell phone plans are so expensive is that the Canadian market is dominated by five main internet providers: Bell, Rogers, Telus, Shaw, and Videotron. Due to the lack of competition and ability to shop around, these 5 companies pretty much have free reign and can price-fix the cost of internet service in Canada.

The same goes for many other industries in Canada. Want cheap flight tickets? WestJet and AirCanada share the stage here and they dictate the ticket prices. In some cases, it’s cheaper if you drive to the US and fly from there.

Doing groceries? You pretty much have 2 options: Loblaws (they also own Shoppers Drug Mart or Pharmaprix), Sobeys/Safeway and Metro.

Food quality is bad

Talking about food, let’s talk about quality and getting fat.

Canada is a Nordic country, so it purchases much of the fresh produce from warmer countries.

To make sure it doesn’t rot or go bad in transit, they are always shipped green to Canada - you often have to wait for a few days after buying for it to become ripe.

If you miss your home country cuisine and want to cook something homey, depending on where you’re from - you will have to go to a special grocery store - some products won’t be cheap or easy to find.

North America in general is built on fast food and corn syrup. Sugar is added everywhere, so unless you are careful with what you eat, many immigrants end up gaining weight after moving. Processed food is cheap and much more accessible than healthy organic food here.

Be careful and look after your diet and health after moving to Canada. 


If you’re spoiled by good, affordable and easily available healthcare in your home country - brace yourself. The Canadian healthcare system is not perfect - there’s difficulty finding a family doctor, humongous waiting lines for various procedures, tests and surgeries, expensive dental care and sometimes questionable expertise of some healthcare professionals.

Our advice - do all your medical checks before you come to Canada. Take care of your teeth. Stock up on the medication you need. Take care of yourself and maintain your good physical and mental health. 

You can also educate yourself on how our bodies work, how they react to viruses and bacteria, and how common meds help - this will help you ask your doctor’s questions better, because, sadly, in Canada, your health is in your own hands. Be careful not to self-diagnose though, just educate yourself, so at least you know the difference between Ibuprofen and Tylenol.

Banks rip you off

Canadian banks often add service charges to debit transactions as a further force to use credit cards. Be careful when using your credit card, since as a newcomer you will most likely have a low introductory credit card limit. It is horribly easy for newcomers to spend beyond their means and fall into debt right after moving to Canada.

Our main advice here would be to educate yourself on the banking system in Canada, learn how credit cards work and always pay off your credit card statement on time.

When you feel more confident using a credit card, you can see that credit cards actually have many perks. Some allow you to collect air miles to exchange for flights, some give you good cash back.

Our recommendation for newcomers would be to look into Neo Financial - you can open an account with them in just 5 minutes, their credit card policies are newcomer friendly and most importantly - they charge zero fees! 

Homeless and mentally ill people in big cities

If you’re moving to a big city, you should learn about its neighbourhoods. Some areas are cheap for a reason. Some of those areas can be right downtown. Parks, streets, and alleys can be filled with encampments full of homeless people.

Each intersection close to a hospital, addiction treatment centre or shelter will be surrounded by drug addicts or mentally ill people. It causes mixed emotions. It’s very sad, but at the same time, it’s scary. Especially if you are new to the city and don’t know what to expect from people around you.

Our suggestion would be to stay away from sketchy areas at night and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

When looking for a place to rent, do your research or work with a real estate agent who can recommend a better place according to your budget. Real estate agents are free to use - they make money off landlords, so getting one to help you find a home is very helpful if you’re a newcomer.

Smaller cities usually don’t have this problem, so many people prefer to live further from the core downtown or move to towns.

Laws and Freedoms Aren’t Always on our side

What should you do if you are suddenly attacked by a stranger?

Your first reaction could be to fight back to protect your health and life. Maybe you can carry a pepper spray to protect yourself? The answer is no.

According to Canadian laws, you are only allowed to defend yourselves using a proportionate force to the threat that’s being given against you.

Sprays, even dog spray or bear spray, are not allowed to be carried. No electric stun guns and certainly no firearms.

That means if you’re attacked, you should call for police, explain to them what’s happened, wait for it to arrive, and while you wait, you can try to make some small talk with your offender, who knows maybe he’ll change his mind.

Have you heard about the Freedom Convoy in Canada? Some people opposed mandatory vaccinations in Canada and went on to protest vaccinations. It was a nasty long scandalous story. Some say that protesters were disruptive and should have done something more useful with their lives, and some fiercely supported them as a symbol of the freedom movement. As a result, protesters were forcefully removed, and some had their bank accounts frozen.

Anyways, the main advice here is to learn about Canadian rules and laws, you might not think this is important, and you might not even have the slightest idea that some restrictions exist, but you can easily get fined if you don’t shovel the snow in front of your house or if you have an open bottle of liquor in your car.

If after these 10 points, you feel doubtful about moving to Canada - don’t! This article is not intended to scare you. There are many more advantages than disadvantages. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide where your priorities lie.

Are newer technologies more important to you than amazing nature and clean air? Did you get scared by the fact that it’s difficult to find friends? Don’t be scared! In fact, every 4th person in Canada is an immigrant. So, hypothetically, every 4th person in Canada had to deal with finding new friends in the new country and they can help you too.

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10 Things I wish I knew before moving to Canada

Make That Change is made by immigrants for immigrants.
We create content about career, life, adaptation and education in Canada.