Worst Mistakes Immigrants Make in Canada

When in Canada, behave like a Canadian.
When in Canada, behave like a Canadian.
Written By
MTC Media inc
Published on
February 11, 2024

Being aware of Canadian cultural and societal norms is guaranteed to make the newcomer's life in Canada better.

Don’t forget about taxes in Canada

All the numbers you see in Canada - either prices in stores or salaries on job search sites - it’s always before tax. If you’re looking at the prices - don’t forget to add sales tax to it when you’re budgeting - it will be an extra 7 to 20 percent, depending on the province you’re in. 

When you’re negotiating your salary, don’t forget to subtract income tax - depending on which province you’re in and how much your salary is, you will have to subtract anywhere between 11 to 53% to get the actual cash you will receive on hand as salary. The easiest way to do quick calculations would be to use one of the tax calculators, where you can input your salary, choose your province and get an idea of how much you will actually get after all of the deductions.

When it comes to income tax, you should certainly not forget to file your own income taxes - everyone must do it on their own each year.

Pro Tip: since the more money you’re making - the more tax you pay, having two jobs in Canada for the purpose of making more money sometimes can bite you in the ass too. Make sure you consult with an accountant before you do that!

Don’t be a Smartass

That’s the reality - nobody likes a know-it-all, especially Canadians. Canadian society is raised on collectivism and teamwork. Competition and outstanding behaviour are not always appreciated.

Being knowledgeable, while helpful, supportive and collaborative, is a lot more important than being the smartest person in the room and shoving it into everybody’s face. 

Being able to communicate tasks, brainstorm and discuss ways to solve issues is more important than being an arrogant know-it-all and trying to do everything yourself just because you know better.

Don’t Compare Canadians to Americans.

Canadians are not Americans - big shocker, right? 

These are two very different nations, with different cultures and history. It’s not the same thing, the same way as Russia and Ukraine are not the same thing, or China and Taiwan.

Both countries have a very close relationship and have their economies interconnected. In fact, a solid chunk of the Canadian economy depends on the US import/export and vice versa. Nevertheless, when it comes to culture and society, Canadians and Americans differ a lot. They have a different political system, different history, and speak different languages, not to mention the climate!

Don’t be Rude

Canadians are some of the nicest people, they’re utterly welcoming, friendly and polite. They will never say anything controversial - so topics like religion, politics and race should be avoided in discussions (unless you have a close relationship with the person, of course). 

You probably heard already how much Canadians love to apologize - even if it’s not their fault, they will always begin with “sorry”. When in Canada, get used to saying sorry a lot more. 

If you don’t smile or don’t say hello, you can also be considered rude. Because people here are used to smiling and positive facial expressions by default. 

When in the work environment, asking your colleague to do something for you before even asking them how they’re doing or if they have time can also be considered rude. Collaboration and mutual support are very important.

Last but not least, if you are ever in line for any service, be it in a bank or to get your driving licence or hospital, never be rude to people working there. Being impatient, rude and demanding won’t make anything better, you’ll just disrupt people’s workflow and may end up being escorted out by a security guard.

Don’t Get Personal Too Soon

Personal business is everyone’s personal business. Thus, if you’re curious whether someone is single, how old someone is or what habits they have - slow down. 

Canadians don’t open up quickly and it’s generally not normal to talk about personal matters with someone you’ve just met. That is one of the reasons why immigrants who have different cultures and upbringings sometimes find it hard to make new friends in Canada.

A general rule of thumb here is to let the other person bring some personal subjects up and then you can follow up with a question if you’re so curious. If you feel like you are ready to start discussing more personal topics - make sure to ask “May I ask you something personal?” or maybe ”I have something I’d like to share with you”. Then pay attention to the person’s reaction and body language. It’s all about communication and soft skills, remember? 

Reading between the lines is also important. Canadians are often indirect because being direct is considered rude and they don’t like hurting people’s feelings. They try to give you a hint here and there, hoping you understand. 

Canadians will never say - “Look, you suck at soccer, so stop asking me about the next game, the team doesn’t want you on the team because you’re not good enough”. Instead, they would say something like:

“I can ask the team about our next game and get back to you, in the meantime, what do you think about practicing more?”.

The same goes for keeping a social distance when talking to someone - in some cultures, it’s normal to stand rather close to someone and even touch them as you talk. In Canada, on the other hand, things like that will not be appreciated.

Don’t underestimate travel times

Canada is huge, so distances are enormous as well. If you come from overpopulated areas of the world, well, actually, any other area of the world, you will be shocked at how far apart everything is - cities are far from each other, they are very spread out and occupy a lot of space. 

Moreover, if you live in the 3 largest cities in Canada, traffic can be a real downer too. For example, driving from one end of Toronto to the other may take up to 3 hours. And if you decide to opt-in for public transit, it breaks down or gets delayed from time to time. Never-ending road construction, rain and winter continuously impact travel times in Canada. Yes, in a cold country like Canada people still don’t know how to cope with sudden snowfall and it can block public transport.

Getting from Toronto to Montreal will take a 1-hour flight or 6-hour drive or train trip! Whereas getting from Toronto to Vancouver is a whole 5-hour flight! A separate note should be made about international travel, since Canada is so up north, travelling anywhere nice will take hours if not days. 

Don’t Underestimate Canadian Winter

It is notoriously cold, icy, snowy and windy. Even one of the warmest winter cities like Vancouver will meet you with chilly, humid and rainy weather in winter. Weather in Canada is unpredictable and harsh, so when you leave home in the morning, always make sure to check the weather forecast - looking outside the window will not be enough. 

Your utility bill will be significantly higher during winter times, and your apartment’s poor insulation might make it even worse - so watch out for poorly insulated old apartments.

Don’t Disregard Cyclists

Cycling is widely popular in Canada - it's not uncommon to encounter people cycling in winter. There are plenty of biking trails all around the city, and cyclists are a force to be reckoned with. 

According to Canadian road rules, cyclists have to follow the same traffic rules as drivers and therefore can oftentimes behave like a car as well.

Nevertheless, cyclists can be unpredictable sometimes for both drivers and pedestrians. While cyclists must follow driver road rules, they often choose the rules of convenience. Sometimes they choose to behave like a car, and sometimes like a pedestrian - and the worst part is that you never know!

If you’re a pedestrian in Canada - watch out for cyclists, and if you’re a driver - always check your blind spots before turning or opening the car door, otherwise something bad can happen, someone might be hurt and in the worst case scenario - some lawsuits can be filed.

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Worst Mistakes Immigrants Make in Canada

Make That Change is made by immigrants for immigrants.
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